Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy (Urdu: پرویز ہودبھائی; born 11 July 1950) is a Pakistani nuclear physicist and activist who serves as Zohra and ZZ Ahmed Foundation distinguished professor at the Forman Christian College and previously taught physics at the Quaid-e-Azam University. Hoodbhoy is also a prominent activist in particular concerned with promotion of freedom of speech, secularism and education in Pakistan.
Born and raised in Karachi, Hoodbhoy studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for nine years, where he received degrees in electrical engineering, mathematics and solid-state physics, eventually leading to a PhD in nuclear physics. In 1981, Hoodbhoy went on to conduct post-doctoral research at the University of Washington, before leaving to serve as a visiting professor at the Carnegie Mellon University in 1985. While still a professor at the Quaid-e-Azam University, Hoodbhoy worked as a guest scientist at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics between 1986 until 1994. He remained with the Quaid-e-Azam University until 2010, throughout which he held visiting professorships at MIT, University of Maryland and Stanford Linear Collider.
In 2011, Hoodbhoy joined LUMS while simultaneously working as a researcher with the Princeton University and a columnist with the Express Tribune. His contract with LUMS was terminated in 2013 which resulted in a controversy. He is a sponsor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and a member of the monitoring panel on terrorism of the World Federation of Scientists. Hoodbhoy has won several awards including the Abdus Salam Prize for Mathematics (1984); the Kalinga Prize for the popularization of science (2003); the Burton Award (2010) from the American Physical Society. In 2011, he was included in the list of 100 most influential global thinkers by Foreign Policy. In 2013, he was made a member of the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board on Disarmament.
Hoodbhoy remains one of Pakistan's most prominent academics. He is the author of Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality He is the head of Mashal Books in Lahore, which claims to make "a major translation effort to produce books in Urdu that promote modern thought, human rights, and emancipation of women". Hoodbhoy has written for Project Syndicate, DAWN, The New York Times and The Express Tribune. Hoodbhoy is generally considered one of the most vocal, progressive and liberal member of the Pakistani intelligentsia.
|Born|| 11 July 1950
Karachi, Sindh Province, West Pakistan
|Alma mater||Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)|
|Known for||Parton distribution functions, Field Theory, Phenomenology, supersymmetry and Abstract algebra|
|Awards||UNESCO Kalinga Prize (2003)
Fulbright Award (1998)
Faiz Ahmed Faiz Award (1990)
Abdus Salam Award (1984)
National Center for Physics
FC College University
Virtual University of Pakistan
|Influences||Abdus Salam, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell|
Born and raised in Karachi, Sindh, Hoodbhoy passed the competitive O-Level and A-Level exams after attending the famed Karachi Grammar School. After earning a scholarship, Hoodbhoy went to the United States to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While attending the MIT in Massachusetts, Hoodbhoy worked for a local Pakistani restaurant based in Massachusetts to support his studies and showed a great interest in electronics and mathematics.
At MIT, Hoodbhoy graduated with double BSc in Electrical Engineering and mathematics in 1971, followed by MS in physics with a concentration in solid-state physics in 1973. After graduation, Hoodbhoy joined the Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) as a researcher and renewed his scholarship to resume his studies in the United States.
Hoodbhoy continued his research in doctoral studies in physics at the MIT, and was awarded PhD in nuclear physics in 1978. In the United States, his collaboration took place with the scientists who participated in well known Manhattan Project in the 1940s, who subsequently influenced in his philosophy. Hoodbhoy remained a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Washington, for a short time. In 1973, Hoodbhoy joined the Institute of Physics of the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore.
Hoodbhoy focused his research career extensively on Quantum field theory, particle phenomenology, and supersymmetry in the area of Particle physics. After receiving PhD from MIT, Hoodbhoy met Riazuddin and Abdus Salam– the prominent Pakistani physicists who were visiting the MIT to give lectures on particle physics. Subsequently, he joined the group of Pakistani physicists at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. At ICTP, Hoodbhoy collaborated with Pakistan's leading theoretical physicists who worked under Abdus Salam in the 1970s.
After ICTP work, Hoodbhoy returned to Pakistan to join Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) where he began teaching and lecturing on physics. Eventually, he became chairman of Institute of Theoretical Physics (now department of physics). After spending more than 30 years at Qau, Hoodbhoy moved to Lahore where he joined the Lahore University of Management Sciences as a visiting professor, while remains a visiting scientist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Controversy over his contract in LUMS sparked an academic debate when it was reported in the news media that Hoodbhoy's email to Vice-Chancellor of LUMS was made public. Eventually, Hoodbhoy moved to Forman Christian College University permanently and joined the senior staff to instructed courses on physics.
Prior to his return to Pakistan in 1976, the secretive development program on nuclear deterrence was near completion and Hoodbhoy was aware of the program. Hoodbhoy maintains his close ties with Pakistan's vibrant nuclear society, and had collaborated with many of country's leading theoretical physicists throughout his career, mainly with Ishfaq Ahmad. On several occasions, Hoodbhoy staunchly countered Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan's "father-of" claims, and roundly criticized his academic research on nuclear physics. In the 1980s, he famously debated with Bashiruddin Mahmood on the topics of sunspots, life-after-death, and philosophy.
In 1999, Hoodbhoy with Ishfaq Ahmad and Riazuddin, played a major and influential role in the establishment of National Center for Physics (NCP), becaming one of the earliest academic scientists who joined the NCP at its inception.
Hoodbhoy has roundly criticized the development on nuclear weapons, especially its extension to South Asia, mainly by India and Pakistan. In 2011, Hoodbhoy held India responsible for Pakistan's symmetric nuclear weapons programme as part of Pakistan's self-credible deterrence. According to Hoodbhoy, India's nuclear tests forced Pakistan to jump into the nuclear arena in 1974, and again in 1998, after war-threatening statements were made by Indian government to Pakistan; Pakistan equalised this magnitude over the nuclear edge that same month. While believing that Pakistan's nuclear deterrence has protected the country from any foreign aggression and preventing from numerous war threatening situations with India, Hoodbhoy on the other hand has raised concerns about the security of nuclear arsenals on the possibility of radicals gaining control.
Apart from his specialist field of research, Hoodbhoy extensively writes and speaks on topics ranging from science in Islam to education and arms disarmament issues around the world. He is author of Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality, that has been translated into five languages. In this book, Hoodbhoy outlines the history of Pakistan, implications of theocracy and martial law in Pakistan, and the textbook revival in education system of Pakistan. His articles on various issues related to science and social issues are often published in international media. His publications are repeatedly published in both technical and non-technical papers.
Hoodbhoy widely writes about the role and modernisation of Pakistan military, particularly the defence budget spending by the Pakistan government on the military. In an interview on secularism, he mentioned that obsession with scientific-religious Apophenia may have caused lack of scientific advancement among Muslims in recent years. In 2003 he was one the signers of the Humanist Manifesto.
Hoodbhoy has criticized the Pakistan Higher Education Commission (HEC) for pursuing "a drive to achieve numbers rather than quality". He believes that because of "policies that reward authors of research articles and PhD supervisors with cash and promotions", universities in Pakistan have "turned into factories producing junk papers and PhDs." He has been a harsh critic on the performance of HEC since 2003 when it was led by Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman, and the issue has led to heated debates in Pakistan's news media.
In 2009 Hoodbhoy came into conflict with Atta-ur-Rahman, an organic chemist, over the Higher Education Commission (HEC). In the United States, the journal Nature published an article on the successes and failures of the HEC. Hoodbhoy wrote to complain about, among other things, the article's failure to mention (what Hoodbhoy called) "the billions wasted on mindless prestige mega-projects". In the debate on HEC Adil Najam, Abdul Qadeer Khan, and Atta-ur-Rehman defended the HEC while agreeing with some of Hoodbhoy's criticism.
Administrative competency of HEC was called into question by Hoodbhoy who describe the HEC's achievement "dismal". Hoodbhoy supported his arguments against HEC's productivity, that in the case of UESTP-France convention in Karachi, out of an expected faculty strength of between 450 and 600, no French faculty or administrative staff actually arrived. At the television debate, Hoodbhoy questioned the statistics used to support the positive appraisal of HEC's activities in a series of communications between Hoodbhoy and HEC chairman Atta-Ur-Rehman. It was claimed by the latter that in mathematics, Pakistani authors received 20% more citations than the worldwide average. Hoodbhoy questioned this on several grounds including the number of self-citations these publications received and said that this was a crucial aspect that the HEC left out of its interpretation. Criticism was leveled by Hoodbhoy at the practice of hiring those foreign academics in local universities who were said to have difficulty in communicating and teaching, although they contributed to boosting the number of research publications originating from Pakistani universities.
Hoodbhoy has made important contributions in physics, particularly in particle physics. Many of Hoodbhoy's recorded lectures on physics are available online. At National Center for Physics, Hoodbhoy conducted research on different aspects of particle physics, and pioneered studies in modern physics and its extension to mathematical and nuclear physics. In 2006, Hoodbhoy published a brief mathematical description of Generalized Parton Distributions. In 2007, Hoodbhoy re-published the work of Jens Lyng Peterson the Maldacena conjecture (a conjectured equivalence between a string theory and gravity defined on one space, and a quantum field theory without gravity defined by one or less dimension) where he contributed mathematically to the theory. In the same year, he re-published the work of Edward Witten on Anti-de Sitter space and its extension to the field of Holography. While the paper was published experimentally in 1998 by Witten, Hoodbhoy provided the brief mathematical proofs and description to understand, logically, the subject of Sitter space— a scalar curvature in general theory of relativity.
On 14 April 2001, it was announced that Dr. Hoodbhoy would be receiving Sitara-i-Imtiaz from the former President, General (retired) Pervez Musharraf which he refused to accept. His refusal prompted the Friday Times to interview him.
I am reasonably [satisfied] with my (scientific) work... I do not think it is earth-shaking or... that it deserves any kind of [award]. On the other hand, receiving an [award] – even if it is a high national award – would give me absolutely no sense of achievement or satisfaction... because it carries no credibility or prestige in professional circles. Such things do not indicate that you have done good work in your field. Therefore I decided to refuse the award— Pervez Hoodbhoy, issued the statement on The Friday Times, 2001, 
He produced a 13-part documentary series in Urdu for Pakistan Television on critical issues in education, and two series aimed at popularising science. In 2004, he made a documentary film 'Crossing the Lines: Kashmir, Pakistan, India' along with Dr. Zia Mian. These documentaries carry heavy emphasis on the issues of education, public health and scientific revolution in Pakistan.
In his documentaries, Dr. Hoodbhoy has heavily criticised Pakistan and India's nuclear weapons program. He also pointed out the seriousness of the Talibanization in Pakistan and its immediate effects on South Asia. His documentaries also point out that American and NATO forces in Afghanistan didn't help the Afghan people's life and there was no reform in Afghanistan's social and public sector and, instead, the insurgency and corruption grew, which also destabilised Pakistan's western front.
Pervez: "I started reading the plays of Bernard Shaw and later on, the works of Bertrand Russell. That had such an impact on me that it bowled me over and by the time I was 15, I was lost, lost to "all good things"."