A. Rahman

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Professor A. Rahman


By Dr. Adnan Rahman & Ishaq Tonki

Professor A. Rahman passed away on 5 November 2009 in Delhi.

Professor A. Rahman was born on 19 February 1923 in a temple in the Indian city of Jaipur to a mother fleeing the British from their home in the princely state of Tonk in Rajasthan, India.


Professor Rahman received his early schooling at Jamia Milia Islamia and Minto Cirlcle in Aligarh. He then received a BSc from the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). As a young student, he was actively involved in the Indian politics. He was known as one that would organize and speak on matters against British occupation. He then went to get a MSc. in biochemistry from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. On completion of his MSc. from Bangalore, he proceeded to the University of Sheffield to study biochemistry. While at Sheffield, however, he attended a lecture given by Professor J. B. S. Haldane on the development of science and technology in India. During this lecture, Professor Haldane made some remarks about the contribution of Muslims to the development of India, which Professor Rahman knew from his childhood to be fractal incorrect. This lecture was to become a turning point in the career of Professor Rahman who turned to the study of History of Science in the Indian sub-continent. Subsequently, he stopped his studies in biochemistry and proceeded to Trinity College in Cambridge to read History of Science. He, however, returned to India without completing his studies.

On his return to India, Professor Rahman was immediately arrested and jailed by the Indian Government for his association with the leftist movement of India. He was freed from jail after the intervention of the several well-known English scientists and the personal intervention of the TATA family that had also financed his studies in England.

After his release from jail, Professor Rahman joined the Regional Research Laboratory in Hyderabad at the behest of Dr. Hussain Zaheer.. This was followed by a stint at the Central Building Research Institute in Roorkee, and then at the Central Food Technology Research Institute in Mysore. Professor Rahman was then asked by Dr. Hussain Zaheer to come to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in Delhi as Chief, Planning. While he was Chief Planning at the CSIR, Professor Rahman created the National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS). In 1983, the Government approved the creation of NISTADS as an autonomous institute and Professor Rahman was made Director of NISTADS. Professor Rahman retired from NISTADS in 1985.

In addition to the various positions held by Professor Rahman in the Indian Government, he held a number of honorary positions both in and outside India. Professor Rahman was Editorial Fellow of the History of Indian Science Philosophy and Culture Project, an elected Member of the International Academy of History of Science (Paris), a Fellow of the Operational Research Society of India, Fellow of the International Science Policy Foundation, Honorary Professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Fellow of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Fellow of the German Academy of Sciences, President of the Research and Development Planning and Management Society of India, Vice President of the Research Committee on Science and Politics of the International Political Science Association, and President of the International Council for Science Policy Studies.

Professor Rahman advised numerous Governments on the development of their Science and Technology Policy, including the Governments of Iraq, Poland, Brazil, China, Japan and the former Soviet Union. He regularly advised UNESCO, ESCAP and UNCTAD.

Professor Rahman guided the thesis of several PhD. students.

Professor Rahman wrote and edited several books including, Jehangir The Naturalist; Shirazi; ; Anatomy of Science; Intellectual Colonisation; Trimurti: Science, Science and Technology in Indian Culture; Science and Technology in India; History of Indian Science, Technology and Culture; Science, Technology and Development; Social Goals and Planning of Science. His work, Science and Technology in Medieval India: A Bibliography of Source Materials in Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit gained national recognition when Mrs. Indira Gandhi wrote: "Rahman, thank you for this gift to the nation." He published well over a thousand articles on a wide range of subject ranging from planning of science to religion and philosophy. He also produced a series of films for Doordarshan to promote the popularisation of science and scientific temper in India. He was a regular guest on All India Radio and Doordarshan (Indian television). His writings have been translated into French, Russian, German, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian, Japanese and Chinese.

Professor Rahman was a connosieur of Indian music, a patron of the arts, drama and Indian poetry. He was himself a prolific poet. The Indian Government awarded Professor Rahman the Padma Shri in 1982 for his contribution to the development of the scientific infrastructure in India. Professor Rahman is survived by his wife and two sons.

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