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Ather Siddiqi: Journey as a Zoologist, Scholar, and Urdu Literary Maestro

Professor Ather H. Siddiqi was born on December 29, 1931, in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. He attained his early education at the Govt. High School, Saharanpur and obtained the degrees of B.Sc. (1950) and M.Sc. (1953) from A.M.U. Topping the university in Science and Zoology, he received two gold medals. He did his PhD in 1956 under the supervision of Professor Babar Mirza from Aligarh Muslim University.

Ather Siddiqi joined the Department of Zoology as a lecturer in 1953. After three years, he joined Purdue University, USA and completed another doctorate in 1958. He became a reader in 1961 and was appointed as a professor in 1977. Prof. Siddiqi also taught at universities in Nigeria and Libya and returned to India in 1980. He served as the Chairman of the Department of Zoology (1985-88) and as the President of the Indian Society for Parasitology. He also served as the Dean of the Faculty of Life Science in 1988-89, finally retiring from his services in 1994.


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His scientific work on helminth taxonomy was published by the New York Academy of Sciences in the form of an exhaustive monograph. Despite that, he received his basic training in classical zoology in the early sixties. Later on, he switched to experimental work in parasitology. Ather Siddiqi was a researcher of eminence in his field and his research is nationally and internationally recognised in the scientific world.

Siddiqi’s Immersion in Urdu Writing

Apart from research articles, his popular writing in Urdu started in the 1980s. His first article in Urdu appeared on the life and scientific contribution of his mentor Professor Babar Mirza in the Quarterly “Fikr-o-Nazar” (January 1987). He published two articles in the early years of “Tehzib-ul-Akhlaq”, Aligarh: ‘Ilm-ul-Hayatiat ke Isatiza se Khitab’ (December 1987), ‘Mohammad Babar Mirza-Apnay Chaman ka Aik Deedawar’ (August 1989).

After his retirement in 1994, he devoted himself completely to Urdu writing. His lengthy article, ‘Mashriq say bezar na Maghrib say Hazar Kar’ narrateing the scientific and cultural activities of European countries was serialised in January 2005-June 2006 issues of “Tehzib-ul-Akhlaq”. Similarly, his Urdu travelogue ‘Saat Haftay Inglistan Main’ (Seven Weeks in England) was published in the June and July 2006 issues of “Tehzib-ul-Akhlaq”. It carried interesting information regarding the scientific and cultural development of England. His article based on his visit to Spain ‘Undlus Ka Shandaar Mazi’ (The Bright Past of Spain) discussed the scientific and cultural development of medieval Spain.

Ather Siddiqi's Book

Ather Siddiqi along with Syed Zillur Rahman, contributed a chapter, ‘Aligarh Muslim University: Development and Progress of Science Teaching and Research, 1877-1947’ in Science and Modern India: An Institutional History, c. 1784-1947 (ed. Uma Das Gupta), Centre for Studies in Civilisation published in 1999.


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A Glimpse into his Published Works

He is regularly contributing a literary column ‘Hairat Sarai Ke Kahania’ to “Tehzib-ul-Akhlaq” which consists of the translation of interesting short stories taken from the internet. Recently, his popular science articles ‘Parasitism: Aik Dilchasp Tareeq Zindagi’ (Parasitism is an Interesting Way of Life) and ‘Yek khuliya Tufailiati Beenariyan’ (Unicell parasitic diseases) appeared in the February 2022 and February 2023 issue, respectively, of the Urdu monthly ‘Aajkal’, Delhi.

After retirement, Ather Siddiqi devoted himself to Urdu writing and authored, translated and edited dozens of books. The names of some of his books are: ‘Kiya aur meri Hayat Kiya’, ‘Lizzat Aabla Pai’, ‘Nishat Aabla Pai’, ‘Hairat Sarai ke Kahaniyan’ (Vol. 1, 2, 3, 4). In 2022, he published “Rah wa Rasam Aashnai”, his last book. He also rendered Retd IAS officer Musa Raza’s book, “Land of Regrets: Kashmir”, in Urdu as “Kashmir Sarzamin Pashemani”.


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Ather Siddiqi was one of the best teachers, an internationally acclaimed Zoologist, and a passionate Urdu writer. And above all, he was a wonderful human being. He passed away on 8th November, 2023, in Delhi at the age of 92 years due to old age illness.

References:

 Tehzib-ul-Akhlaq, Aligarh (various issues)
 Science and Modern India: An Institutional History, c. 1784-1947 (ed. Uma Das Gupta), Centre for Studies in Civilisation, New Delhi, 1999.


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