Atta-ur-Rahman (chemist)

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Atta-Ur-Rahman (cropped).jpg
Born (1942-09-22) September 22, 1942 (age 78)
Citizenship Pakistan
Alma materUniversity of Karachi
University of Cambridge
Known forNatural product chemistry
AwardsNishan-e-Imtiaz(Civilian) 1957-86 Pakistan.svg Nishan-e-Imtiaz (2002)
Nishan-e-Imtiaz(Civilian) 1957-86 Pakistan.svg Hilal-e-Imtiaz (1998)
Nishan-e-Imtiaz(Civilian) 1957-86 Pakistan.svg Sitara-e-Imtiaz (1991)
Nishan-e-Imtiaz(Civilian) 1957-86 Pakistan.svg Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (1983)
UNESCO Prize (1999)
AUT Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria - Life Saving Medal BAR.png Austria Order of Merit
Scientific career
FieldsOrganic chemistry
InstitutionsHigher Education Commission
University of Tübingen
University of Karachi
University of Cambridge
ThesisSynthetic Studies in the Indole Alkaloid Field (1968)
Doctoral advisorJ. Harley Mason
Other academic advisorsIan Fleming

Atta-ur-Rahman (Urdu: عطاالرحمان; b. 22 September 1942), PhD, Sc.D, NI, FRS, FPAS, is a Pakistani organic chemist who is currently serving chief scientific adviser in the administration of Prime Minister Imran Khan.[1] At this capacity, he is currently overseeing acquisition and development of Covid-19 vaccines as a response of COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan.[1]

After studying chemistry at the University of Karachi, Atta-ur-Rahman travelled to Cambridge where he received PhD and later Sc.D. in organic chemistry. He also has received honorary doctorates from University of Bradford and Asian Institute of Technology, with research focused on Bio-organic chemistry, Synthetic chemistry and Natural product chemistry.[2] He started teaching as an associate professor in 1974 at the University of Karachi and worked as postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tübingen as part of the German Academic Exchange. He serves as the patron of Ebrahim Jamal Research Institute of Chemistry and professor emeritus of Chemistry at the Karachi University.[3]

Atta-ur-Rahman is an expert in the field of natural product chemistry in South Asia, with over 1142 publications in several fields of organic chemistry including 775 research publications, 43 international patents, 70 chapters in books and 254 books published largely by major U.S. and European presses (h index 55).[4] He serves as the Editor in Chief of several peer reviewed journals including the Current Medicinal Chemistry and Current Organic Chemistry. He has been a Fellow of the Royal Society since July 2006 and has served as the President of Pakistan Academy of Sciences. In recognition of his contributions in the field of organic chemistry, he has been conferred with four Government of Pakistan civil awards including Nishan-e-Imtiaz (2002), Hilal-i-Imtiaz (1998), Sitara-i-Imtiaz (1991) and Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (1983).[2][5] He has also been conferred the high Civil Award of the Government of Austria "Grosse Goldene Ehrenzeichen am Bande" (2007) in recognition of his eminent contributions to uplift higher education in Pakistan and the close linkages developed with Austria[6] He was the first recipient of the Khwarizmi International Award and the first Muslim to receive the UNESCO Science Prize (1999).[7] He was conferred the highest national award for foreigners, the Friendship Award, by the Government of China[8] As of 28 March 2016, he co-chairs the United Nations Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation for the UNESCAP.[9][10] In a recent national ranking, the Pakistan Council for Science and Technology ranked him as the top among chemistry professional of Pakistan[11][12]


Atta-ur-Rahman was born on 22 September 1942 in Delhi, British India (today's Republic of India) into an Urdu-speaking academic family.[13] His grandfather, Sir Abdur Rahman, was a vice-chancellor of the University of Delhi (1934–38) who briefly served as a judge at the Madras High Court.[14]

In 1946, Sir Abdur Rahman was appointed as vice-chancellor of the Punjab University in Lahore, eventually relocating his family there, a year before the Partition of India took place.[14] Sir Abdur Rahman eventually ascended as a Senior Justice at the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1949.[14] His father, Jamil-ur-Rahman, was a lawyer who established a textile industry in Karachi, Sindh.[14] Atta-ur-Rahman was a bright student at school.[14] After settling in Karachi in 1952, he excelled in passing the competitive O-Level and A-Level from the Karachi Grammar School and joined Karachi University.[14]

Attending Karachi University in 1960, Rahman graduated with a bachelor's degree (with honors) in chemistry in 1964, with degree concentration in natural products.[14][15] He obtained a Master of Science (MSc) in organic chemistry in 1965, and earned a Commonwealth Scholarship for doctoral studies in the United Kingdom.[14] He joined King's College of the Cambridge University and resumed research in natural products under John Harley-Mason.[15] In 1968, Rahman received his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Organic chemistry; his doctoral thesis contained fundamental work on natural products and organic materials.[14] In 1987, Cambridge University also conferred him with the Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) for his contribution for the advancement of the chemical sciences.[15] In 2007, Coventry University bestowed him with the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in recognition of his services to help improve science education in Pakistan.[15]

In addition, Rahman has been conferred with the honoris causa by various institutions including the Bradford University (in 2010); the Asian Institute of Technology (in 2010); and the Universiti Teknologi MARA (in 2011).[16]

Academic career[edit]

In 1964, Rahman joined the Karachi University as a lecturer in undergraduate chemistry.[16] He remained associated with the Cambridge University between 1969–73, and is presently honorary Life Fellow at the King's College of the Cambridge University.[16] In 1977, he became the deputy director of the Hussain Ebrahim Jamal Research Institute of Chemistry at University of Karachi; eventually he was ascended as the Director in 1990.[16] In 1979, Rahman did the post-doctoral research at the University of Tübingen. Upon returning to Pakistan, he joined Karachi University where he lectures and taught chemistry.[16] He was appointed Professor Emeritus at University of Karachi for life.[18]

In 2008, Rahman was appointed as Patron-in-Chief of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS). In 2011, Rahman was made emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Karachi.[16] With more than 1,122 international publications, including 245 books, 764 research publications, 70 chapters in books and 45 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 CambridgeUniversity 1987, a Doctorate of Education by Coventry University in 2007,[19] 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.[20] A number of other universities have also granted honorary doctorate degrees to Atta-ur-Rahman including Coventry University, Bradford University, 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 10 January 2014.[21] Atta-ur-Rahman was elected as an "Academician" (Foreign member) of Chinese Academy of Sciences, thereby becoming the first scientist from the Muslim World to be so honoured.[22]

International Praise[edit]

Since the HEC's reforms have been carried out in 2002, HEC has received praise from the international higher education observers. Atta-ur-Rahman, founding Chairman of HEC, has received number of prestigious international awards for the remarkable transformation of the higher education sector under his leadership.[23] German academic, Wolfgang Voelter of University of Tübingen in Germany over viewed the performance of HEC under the leadership of Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman and described the reforms in HEC as "A miracle happened." After teaching and visiting in 15 universities of Pakistan, Voelter wrote that the "scenario of education, science and technology in Pakistan has changed dramatically, as never before in the history of the country.[23] The chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Education recently announced the first 6 years of HEC under Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman as "Pakistan's golden period in higher education".[24] Recently ThomsonReuters in an independent assessment of Pakistan's progress in international publications has acknowledged that in the last decade there has been a fourfold increase in international publications and a tenfold growth in highly cited papers, statistics that were better than the BRIC countries[25]

American academic Fred M. F. Hayward has also praised the reform process undertaken by Pakistan, admitting that "since 2002, a number of extraordinary changes have taken place."[26] Hayward pointed our that "over the last six years almost 4,000 scholars have participated in PhD programs in Pakistan in which more than 600 students have studied in foreign PhD programs."[26] The HEC instituted major upgrades for scientific laboratories, rehabilitating existing educational facilities, expanding the research support, and overseeing the development of one of the best digital libraries in the region.[26] "Seeking to meeting the international standard, a quality assurance and accreditation process was also established, of which, ≈95% of students sent abroad for training returned, an unusually high result for a developing country in response to improved salaries and working conditions at universities as well as bonding and strict follow-up by the commission, Fulbright, and others."[27]

The HEC's reforms brought about by Rahman were also applauded by the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD) which reported that the "progress made was breath-taking and has put Pakistan ahead of comparable countries in numerous aspects."[28] In limited time, the HEC established and provided free access to scientific literature by high-speed Internet for all universities, the upgrade of research equipment accessible across the country, and the programme of establishing new universities of science and technology, including science parks attracted the foreign investors, prove the efficiency and the long-term benefits for the country enabled.[28] The UNCSTD has closely monitored the development in Pakistan in the past years, coming to the unanimous conclusion that HEC's program initiated under the leadership of Rahman is a "best-practice" example for developing countries aiming at building their human resources and establishing an innovative, technology-based economy.".[29] A number of institutions have been named after Rahman including the "Atta-ur-Rahman Institute of Natural Product Discovery" (RIND) at Malaysia's largest university, Universiti Teknologi Mara[30] and the Atta-ur-Rahman School of Applied Biosciences at National University of Science & Technology in Islamabad.[31]

Rahman has won four international awards for the revolutionary changes in the higher education sector brought in the HEC. The Austrian government conferred its highest civil award ("Grosse Goldene Ehrenzeischen am Bande") in recognition of his eminent contributions.[6] Nature, a leading science journal, has also written a number of editorials and articles about the transformation brought about in Pakistan in the higher education sector under the HEC. In an article entitled "Pakistan Threat to Indian Science" published in the leading daily newspaper Hindustan Times, India, it has been reported that C. N. R. Rao, Chairman of the Indian Prime Minister's Scientific Advisory Council made a presentation to the Indian Prime Minister at the rapid progress made by Pakistan in the higher education sector under the leadership of Rahman, Chairman, Higher Education Commission. It was reported that as result of the reforms brought about in Pakistan " Pakistan may soon join China in giving India serious competition in science". "Science is a lucrative profession in Pakistan. It has tripled the salaries of its scientists in the last few years.".[32] Rahman was conferred the highest national Award of the Republic of China in September 2014 for his contributions to develop strong linkages between Pakistan and China in various fields of higher education, science and technology.[33] In 2016 he was elected as Academiciann (Foreign Member) of Chinese Academy of Sciences, thereby becoming the first scientist from the Islamic world to be bestowed this honour.[22] The President of China Xi Jinping conferred the highest scientific award of China to Atta-ur-Rahman in the Great Peoples Hall in Beijing on 10 January 2020. He became the first scientist of the Muslim world to receive this award.[34]

HAARP Research[edit]

In 2010, Atta ur-Rahman published his views that the United States government had financed a science research project, the HAARP program, in Alaska that could affect the weather.[35][36][37] Since 2003, Rahman quoted the European Union resolution condemning USA for research on altering weather patterns through HAARP as well as the 12 international patents obtained in the field by the US supported HAARP initiative in Alaska[38] Rahman has been in conflict with Pervez Hoodbhoy, a nuclear physicist, who has criticised Rahman on his tenure as Chairman of the Higher Education Commission.[35]

This sparked off a debate when Pervez Hoodbhoy lamented decline of academic standards in Pakistan.[37][39] The views of Hoodbhoy have been criticised and rejected by some others, including by some international observers, such as Fred Hayward (US consultant to USAID),[40] Wolfgang Voelter (University of Tübingen)[41] and Michael Rode (Innsbruck University, Chairman of UN Commission on Science, Technology & Development)[42] who have praised the reforms of the higher education sector in Pakistan under the leadership of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan by Atta-ur-Rahman. A number of major international prizes and awards have also been won by Atta-ur-Rahman in recognition of these contributions. 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[36][43][44]

Positions held[edit]

Government work and political advocacy[edit]

After securing the fellowship of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences, Rahman had been affiliated with the Pakistan government regarding education and science affairs.[16] From 1996 till 2012, Rahman served in the board of directors of the Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, representing Pakistan's delegation.[16] In 1997, Rahman served as the Coordinator General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) that comprised 57 Ministers of Science and Technology from 57 OIC member countries.[58]

In 1999, he joined the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoSci) as its minister, assisting in drafting the official science policy of the country. In 2002, he was appointed as minister of the Ministry of Education (MoEd) as well as becoming the chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) until resigning in 2008.[59] Rahman served as the president of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences for two non-consecutive terms; first from 2003 until 2006, and from 2010 until 2015 for a second term.[16] In 2012, Rahman used this position on providing guidance on science and technology affairs to the Pakistan government on multiple occasions. Rahman bitterly criticized the alleged hydrogen powered vehicle invented by Agha Waqar Ahmad.[60] In a nationwide televised debate with Abdul Qadeer Khan, Samar Mubarakmand, and Pervez Hoodbhoy, he notable argued against it and proved that such invention was in a violation of the second law of thermodynamics as well as law of conservation energy.[61] In 2016 Prof. Rahman was appointed as Co-Chairman of a United Nations Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation covering the member countries of UNESCAP.[9] Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman has been appointed as the Chairman of two steerin Committees formed to establish the Pakistan Austrian Engineering University (Fachhochschule) in Haripur, Hazara, and the Pakistan Italian Engineering University in Lahore.[62] Prof. Rahman is also the Chairman of the Search Committee for appointment of Vice Chancellors in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan and some 20 Vice Chancellors have been appointed by the Search Committee under his Chairmanship.[63]

Rahman is also the former vice-president of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), which he secured in 2010.[16] The Austrian government also honoured him with its highest civil award ("Das Große Goldene Ehrenzeichen am Bande", 2007) in recognition of his eminent contributions.[64]

In recognition of the contributions of 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,[65] Atta-ur-Rahman School of Applied Biosciences at National University of Science & Technology in Islamabad,[66] and Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman Building at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences, University of Karachi[67] 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.[68] Rahman has established a research center for Genomics research at the University of Karachi named after his father Jamil-ur-Rahman from a personal donation. The Center has been named as the "Jamil-ur-Rahman Center for Genomics Research" and has the state of the art facilities for gene sequencing, the only such facility in Pakistan[69]

Honours and awards[edit]

Rahman is the most decorated scientist of Pakistan having won four civil awards from successive governments including the highest national Civil Award of Nishan-i-Imtiaz. 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 an Islamıc country. His citation on election to the Royal Society reads "Atta-ur-Rahman has discovered a large number of natural products, many of which have exhibited exciting biological activities. He has developed biomimetic synthetic approaches to the anti-cancer alkaloids of Catharanthus roseus. He has also developed new methods for determination of absolute configurations of several classes of organic compounds by circular dichroism studies. These contributions are embodied in 800 research papers in leading international journal,37 international patents and 59 chapters in books. He has also written/edited 221 books published by major international companies. Atta-ur-Rahman has played a pivotal role in the establishment of a world-class Centre of natural product chemistry, a challenging task in a developing country. As Federal Minister for Science & Technology for the last 4 years, he has brought about revolutionary changes in the science & technology and higher education sectors in Pakistan, acknowledged in an editorial in "Nature". As head of a Committee of 57 Ministers of Science (COMSTECH), he has contributed to the uplifting of science in a large number of countries in Africa, Middle East and Central & South Asia."[70] He is also the only scientist from the Muslim world to have been conferred the UNESCO Science Prize in 1999.[71] 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. Rahman was conferred the TWAS Prize for Institution Building in Durban, South Africa in October 2009 in recognition of his contributions bringing about revolutionary changes in the higher education sector in Pakistan.[72] He was awarded the Engro Excellence Award in Science & Technology 2011 with a prize of Rs. 5 million (US$59,000) for meritorious contributions.[73] He 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,[74] 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.[68] He received the highest national award for foreigners, the "Friendship Award" by the government of China in 2014[8]

He is President of Network of Academies of Sciences of Islamic Countries (NASIC) and the former Vice-President (Central & South Asia) of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) Council, and Foreign Fellow of Korean Academy of Sciences. 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 has been appointed as Co-Chairman of Science, Technology and Innovation Committee of United Nations Economic Social Commission for Asia and Pacific.[9] Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman was inducted as Academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences on 28 May 2018, a unique honour for a scientist from the Muslim world.[75]

National awards[edit]

In recognition of his eminent contributions in the field of organic chemistry, he has been conferred with many civil awards, including:

International awards[edit]


Research activities[edit]

  • Editor-in-Chief/Executive Editor of following international journals:[citation needed]
    • Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry (Netherlands)
    • Current Medicinal Chemistry (Netherlands)
    • Current Pharmaceutical Design (Netherlands)(Founding Editor)
    • Current Organic Chemistry (Netherlands)
    • Combinatorial Chemistry and High Throughput Screening (Netherlands)
    • Current Organic Synthesis (Netherlands)
    • Current Nanoscience
    • Letters in Organic Chemistry (Netherlands)
    • Medicinal Chemistry
    • Nanoscience and Nanotechnology-Asia
    • Current Organic Chemistry
    • Natural Product Research (Founding Editor, UK)
    • Current Pharmaceutical Analysis
    • Current Analytical Chemistry
  • Editor of an encyclopedic series of books on natural product chemistry, Studies in Natural Product Chemistry, 52 volumes of which have been published by Elsevier Science Publishers under his Editorship since 1990.
  • Co-Editor of book series, Frontiers in Medicinal Chemistry
  • Director of H.E.J. Research Institute of Chemistry, University of Karachi
  • Patron-in-Chief of the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences, University of Karachi

See also[edit]


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  85. ^ 关于公布2015年中国科学院院士增选当选院士名单的公告

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Abdul Qadeer Khan
Science Advisor to the Prime Minister
31 January 2004 – 28 March 2008
Succeeded by
Ishfaq Ahmad