Last week’s discovery of the Higgs boson was the result of an international collaboration involving thousands of scientists, but it seems two nations feel their contribution has been overlooked.
An article published in Pakistan’s Express Tribune last Friday detailed how Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, with Americans Steven Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow, developed the electroweak theory that unifies two of the four fundamental forces. Their work helped complete the standard model, of which the Higgs is the final part to be observed, and won the trio the 1979 Nobel prize for physics.
Despite his success, Salam was forced to leave Pakistan in the 1970s because he was a member of the Ahmadi movement, an offshoot of mainstream Islam that was outlawed by the Pakistani government.
Meanwhile, the day after CERN’s announcement of a new particle, the Indian Press Information Bureau put out a press release entitled “Satyendranath Bose: Higgs-Boson’s Forgotten Hero”. Bose was an Indian physicist who worked with Einstein to understand the behaviour of subatomic particles that were later dubbed bosons.
Some physicists think the link between either researcher and the Higgs discovery is tenuous. “Bose is one of the great physicists who missed a Nobel,” says Frank Close at the University of Oxford. However, his work only indirectly underpins last week’s discovery. Salam, meanwhile, “has no claim on the Higgs boson”, Close says.
Higgs and his colleagues did their work in 1964. It was one of those colleagues – Tom Kibble – who used the information as the basis of our modern picture of subatomic particles, and later influenced Salam, says Close. “If anyone deserves recognition beyond Higgs, it is in my opinion Kibble, who incidentally was born in India.”
Nevertheless, “among physicists both [Salam and Bose] are regarded as giants”, says Jim Al-Khalili, a physicist at the University of Surrey, UK. “Science transcends such petty distinctions as race, nationality or religion. If only the wider world did too.”