Treasures Unveiled: Donation of Abdus Salam’s Original Documents to ICTP

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Photo by ICTP
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by InTrieste

In a profound gesture of preserving scientific history, Aamna Saleem, a Pakistani scientist, has embarked on a mission to donate a trove of original documents belonging to the esteemed physicist Abdus Salam to the archives of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP).

Abdus Salam’s Nobel Prize Ceremony’s Entrance Card

Among the treasures she is contributing are a handwritten letter penned by Abdus Salam himself, an artifact not directly related to physics but offering a glimpse into the personal side of the renowned scientist. Additionally, Saleem is parting with the original invitation and entrance card to the illustrious 1979 Nobel Ceremony where Salam was honored, alongside the menu from the accompanying banquet.

In an exclusive interview with The New York Times, Saleem shared her motivations for this act of generosity. “I am donating these so that people from all over the world can see them,” she stated. “If they stayed with me, only people I personally know could see them. ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,'” she added, echoing the sentiment of Spock from Star Trek.

Abdus Salam’s Nobel Prize Ceremony’s Menu

Saleem’s decision to make this donation now, rather than earlier, stems from the ongoing controversy surrounding Abdus Salam’s legacy in Pakistan. Despite his groundbreaking contributions to physics, Salam, who belonged to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, continues to face ostracism in his homeland. Saleem highlighted a recent incident where a science festival in Islamabad, named after Salam, was abruptly shut down simply for utilizing his name. “I feel like I can hold on to these items, but that would be selfish,” Saleem remarked. “I would rather they go somewhere Abdus Salam is celebrated and would have a better reach.”

When asked about her connection to Trieste, where the ICTP is located, Saleem revealed that she is an alumna of the ICTP Diploma program in Quantum Life Sciences, graduating in the batch of 2020-2021. Her ties to the institution further cement her commitment to ensuring Salam’s legacy endures in a place where his contributions are recognized and celebrated.

Abdus Salam’s Nobel Prize Ceremony’s Programme

Despite her significant donation, Saleem remains rooted in her scientific pursuits. “Yes, I am a scientist,” she affirmed. “I am an astronomer who aspires to become a neuroscientist. Currently, I am completing my certification to become a psychotherapist from CPCAB, UK.”

Reflecting on the background story of the items she is donating, Saleem explained that they were gifted to her by a mentor whose father was a close friend of Abdus Salam. The invitation, entrance card, and personal letter bear her mentor’s name, adding a personal touch to the historical artifacts. “I have cherished these items,” Saleem said, “but I feel like they can make a bigger impact at the ICTP library.”

Saleem’s act of philanthropy serves as a beacon of hope for preserving the legacies of influential figures in science and ensuring their contributions continue to inspire future generations.

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