Prof. Dr. Atta ur Rahman

Atta-ur-Rahman, FRS, D.Phil., TI, SI HI, NI, is a leading scientist and scholar in the field of organic chemistry from Pakistan, especially renowned for his research in the various areas relating to natural product chemistry. With over 947 publications in the field of his expertise including 135 books largely published by leading publishers in Europe and USA and 35 patents, he is also credited for reviving the higher education and research practices in Pakistan[1]


Atta ur Rahman was born in Sept 1942 in Delhi. His grandfather was Sir Abdur Rahman who had been Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi (from 1934–38) and later a judge at the Madras High Court. He also represented India in the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, before moving to Pakistan in 1947 and becoming a Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.[2]Atta-ur-Rahman has had a prominent record in Cambridge Overseas School Certificate in 1958, and ‘A’ Levels in 1960 from the Karachi Grammar School. In 1963, he received B.Sc (Hons.) in Chemistry, followed by M.Sc in Organic Chemistry from Karachi University. He received Commonwealth Scholarship in 1965 to study for Ph.D in Organic Chemistry under supervision of Dr. J. Harley Mason and received Ph.D at King’s College, Cambridge in 1968.
With more than 970 international publications, including 151 books and 37 international patents, he has the distinction of being the only scientist to be elected Fellow of Royal Society (London) in 2006 in recognition of research contributions carried out within a country in the Islamic world. He is also the only scientist from the Muslim world to have been awarded the UNESCO Science Prize (1999). He was awarded an Honorary Life Fellowship by King’s College, University of Cambridge in 2007, an honorary Doctorate of Science by University of Cambridge in 1987, a Doctorate of Education by Coventry University in 2007,[3] a Doctorate of Science by Bradford University in 2010, a Doctor of Philosophy by Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand in 2010 and honorary Doctor of Scıence by University of Technology MARA. Malaysıa.[4] A number of other universities have also granted honorary doctorate degrees to Atta-ur-Rahman including University of Karachi, Sir Syed University and Gomal University. He was given the International Cooperation Award, the highest award of the Chinese Academy of Sciences for Institution Building, on January 10, 2014.[5] Prof. Rahman was also conferred the highest national award of china, the “Friendship Award, at a special ceremony held on 29 September 2014 in Beijing, in recognition for his developing a large number of collaborative programs with China.[6]

Academic career

Atta ur Rahman started his career in 1964 as a Lecturer at University of Karachi. He remained Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge between 1969 to 1973, and is presently Honorary Life Fellow at King’s College, University of Cambridge, UK. In 1977, he became Co-Director of Hussain Ebrahim Jamal Research Institute of Chemistry at University of Karachi to become Director in 1990. He has over 935 international publications in several fields of organic chemistry including 730 research publications, 35 patents, 125 books and 65 chapters in books published by major U.S. and European presses. Eighty students have completed their Ph.D. degrees under his supervision.

HAARP Research

In 2010 Atta ur-Rahman, published his views that the United States government had financed a science research project in Alaska which could affect weather.[7][8] This sparked off a debate when Pervez Hoodbhoy lamented the decline of academic standards in Pakistan.[8][9] The views of Pervez Hoodbhoy have been strongly refuted by neutral international authorities, Fred Hayward (US consultant to USAID),[10] Wolfgang Voelter (Tübingen University)[11] and Michael Rode (Innsbruck University, Chairman of UN Commission on Science, Technology & Development)[12] who have praised the remarkable transformation of the higher education sector in Pakistan under the leadership of Atta-ur-Rahman.[13] A number of major international prizes and awards have also been won by Atta-ur-Rahman in recognition of these contributions[13] Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman has subsequently clarified that he did not state that HAARP could cause earthquakes but he did refer to the European Union resolution that condemned the US funded research on HAARP which could potentially alter weather patterns and on which 12 US patents had been obtained[7]

Positions held

Prizes, honours and awards

Prof Rahman is the most decorated scientist of Pakistan having won four civil awards by successive governments including the highest national Civil Award of Nishan-i-Imtiaz.Prof. Rahman was elected as Fellow of Royal Society (London) in July 2006 thereby becoming one of the 4 scientists from the Muslim world to have ever won this honor in the last 350 years when the Royal Society was established, and the only scıentıst to be so recognısed for researches carrıed out wıthın a Islamıc country. He is also the only scientist from the Muslim world to have been conferred the UNESCO Science Prize in 1999.[14] 
He has been conferred honorary doctorate degrees by many universities including the degree of Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) by the Cambridge University (UK) (1987) and an Honorary degree of Doctor of Education by Coventry University UK in November 2007. He was elected Honorary Life Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge University, UK in 2007. Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman was conferred the TWAS Prize for Institution Building in Durban, South Africa in October 2009 in recognition of his contributions for bringing about revolutionary changes in the higher education sector in Pakistan.He was awarded the Engro Excellence Award in Science & Technology 2011 with a prize of Rs. 5 million (US $59,000) for meritorious contributions. He then proceeded to use the money in addition to funds from his private finances to establish a research center on Genomics in Karachi University named after his father Jamil-ur-Rahman, and to start a TWAS Prize in Chemistry for deserving young researchers from developing countries that has been instituted by TWAS, The World Academy of Sciences, Trieste, Italy.[15]
He is President of Network of Academies of Sciences of Islamic Countries (NASIC) and the Vice-President (Central & South Asia) of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) Council, and Foreign Fellow of Korean Academy of Sciences. Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman was the President of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences (2003–06), and was again elected President of Pakistan Academy of Sciences in January 2011. He was the Federal Minister for Science and Technology (14 March 2000 – 20 November 2002), Federal Minister of Education (2002) and Chairman of the Higher Education Commission with the status of a Federal Minister from 2002-2008. The Austrian government also honoured him with its highest civil award (“Das Große Goldene Ehrenzeichen am Bande”, 2007) in recognition of his eminent contributions.
Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman was the Coordinator General of COMSTECH, an OIC Ministerial Committee comprising the 57 Ministers of Science & Technology from 57 OIC member countries during 1996-2012. He is also the Patron of International Centre of Chemical and Biological Sciences (which comprises a number of institutes, including the Hussain Ebrahim Jamal Research Institute of Chemistry and the Dr. Panjwani Center of Molecular Medicine and Drug Development) at Karachi University.[16]
In recognition of the eminent contributions of Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman, a number of institutions have been named after him within and outside Pakistan. These include a natural product chemistry institute (Atta-ur-Rahman Research Institute of Natural Product Discovery, RiND) at the University of Technology Mara in Malaysia,[17] Atta-ur-Rahman School of Applied Biosciences at National University of Science & Technology in Islamabad,[18] and Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman Building at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences, University of Karachi[19] The Academy of Sciences in the Developing World (TWAS) based in Trieste, Italy has introduced a Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman Prize in Chemistry to a scientist from the developing world each year. The Prize carries a cash award of $5,000 and a Certificate.[15]

National awards

In recognition of his eminent contributions in the field of Organic Chemistry, he has been conferred with four civil awards, including:
  • Nishan-e-Imtiaz (2002) (highest national civil award)
  • Hilal-e-Imtiaz (1998)
  • Sitara-e-Imtiaz (1991)
  • Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (1983)
  • Babai Urdu Award (1994)
  • First Pakistan Academy of Sciences-INFAQ Foundation Prize, Gold Medal (1996)
  • Salimuzzaman Siddiqui Gold Medal (1995)
  • Scientist of the Year Award (for 1985)/Prize Rs. 2 lacs (1987)
  • FPCCI Prize for Technological Innovation (1985)
  • Open Gold Medal of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences (1984)
  • Gold Medal of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences (Under 40) (1977)
  • Best Book Prize Pakistan National Book Council, Government of Pakistan
  • Engro Excellence Award (2010)
  • HEC National Distinguished Professor (2011)
  • Professor Emeritus University of Karachi (2011)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award by UMT (2012)

International awards



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