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CV Raman’s Tribute to the Legacy of Sir Shah Sulaiman

Sir Shah Sulaiman was a man of many hats. A distinguished physicist, a respected jurist, and a pillar of Indian education, Sulaiman certainly left a mark on his country in the early 20th century. His life was a fascinating tapestry of public service, scientific inquiry, and a unique perspective on the field of physics.

Nobel laureate CV Raman wrote the obituary of Sir Shah Sulaiman, former Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, the first Indian Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court & a distinguished physicist, in the September issue of Nature.

Sulaiman proposed an alternative theory to Einstein’s theory of relativity.

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Sir Shah Mohammad Sulaiman

As chief justice of the High Court at Allahabad for several years and as vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University over a considerable period, Sir Shah Sulaiman was a well-known public figure in India. During the last few years of his life, he held the distinguished position of one of the three judges of the newly established Federal Court at Delhi.

The news of his death early this year at the age of fifty-five came as an unpleasant surprise to his many friends and admirers, and elicited numerous well-merited tributes to his personality and career.

Sir Shah Sulaiman studied mathematics and physics at Cambridge, taking Part II of the Mathematics Tripos in 1909. During his subsequent career as a practising barrister and as a judge at Allahabad, he continued to retain a general interest in the progress of physical science. Later in life, the stimulus of contact with the University staff at Allahabad and Aligarh led him to undertake the study of theoretical physics as a subsidiary pursuit.

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Sir Shah’s high position in public life secured for his writings and lectures on scientific topics the widest publicity in India, as also  a sympathetic, though critical, reception from his academic friends and colleagues. His published papers indicate a marked reluctance to accept the ideas of the newer physics as expounded by the leading authorities on the subject. They largely consist of attempts to explain the facts of the newer physics on the basis of classical or semi-classical ideas aided by special hypotheses. It could scarcely be hoped that work on such lines would find general acceptance.

Sir Shah Sulaiman was the recipient of honorary doctorates from the Universities of Allahabad and Aligarh in recognition of his eminent public services and his deep interest in the cause of education and science.


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