April 13, 2008
Outstanding Egyptian Figures: Ali Mustafa Musharrafa
“I can not believe that Musharrafa is dead, he is alive through his researches. We are in need of his talents, it is a great loss; he was a genius. I used to follow up his researches in atomic energy; definitely he is one of the best scientists in physics.”
Ali Mustafa Musharrafa Pasha (1898-1950), who wrote a complete novel in colloquial Arabic in the twenties, was an outstanding Egyptian scientist who added a lot to the scientific researches in the fields of physics, atoms, radiations, space invasion, quantum theories, applied mathematics, and nuclear physics.
Originally born in Damietta northern to Cairo the capital of Egypt, Musharrafa was the first Egyptian to have completed a doctorate in mathematics by receiving his Ph.D. and D.Sc. from the University of London in 1923 and 1924 respectively. He was also the first Egyptian to involve into space researches. In addition, he effectively contributed to the development of the Relativity Theory, enriched it with his studies and was one of the distinguished few who were in close contact with the great scientist Einstein.
Returning to Egypt in 1925 after receiving his degrees, he was then assigned as an ‘Associate Professor’ of applied mathematics at the Faculty of Science at Cairo University, promoted in the following year to the rank of ‘Professor’ when he was only 28 years old, and then finally appointed to be its first Egyptian dean in 1936.
He published a book on the Theory of Relativity, which was translated into English, French and German, and was reprinted in the USA, other than around 15 scientific books about relativity and mathematics.
In 1939 he published a study on the Egyptian Music, and in 1942, Mustafa Musharrafa took part in founding the Egyptian Society of Music Amateurs (ESMA), which aimed to promote music education in Egypt and the whole Arab world, along with Yousif Greise, Louis Greise, and Hassan Rashid.
On the institutional level, Musharrafa had a great effect beside the fact that he attained his position as the dean of the Faculty of Science for years, as he acted for the establishment of the “Egyptian society of mathematics and physics” in 1936 and the “Egyptian Academy of Sciences” in 1945. Musharrafa also worked for the creation of a research council, which foreshadowed the foundation of the “National Center for Research” later in 1956.
In 1945, Musharrafa was invited by Einstein for a one year visit to Germany to contribute in an atomic research as a visiting Professor, but he refused saying “There are a whole generation in my country that needs me”
In an article titled “The university and scientific research”, Musharrafa warned against considering the university a collection of institutes of higher learning that aim to produce young technicians such as doctors, engineers and the like. Instead, he argued, that university should bring life to true scientific spirit, particularly as “among Egyptians today are not a few who have undertaken scientific research in Western universities”.
Musharrafa had also stood for the idea that in order for the scientific life in Egypt to develop, scientific books written by Arabs and translated by the Europeans must be published and taught, such as books of al’Khwarizmi in algebra and many others, because by acknowledging our former scholars and researchers, this will be an incentive for us to emulate and to follow their steps. Moreover, Musharrafa believed that “Arabization” of science is a prerequisite to modernization, and he even proposed a strategy with that sense in a short article on “the Arabic language as a scientific instrument”.
Poisoned and dead, his body was mysteriously found in January 1950, placing a big question mark on the reasons he was assassinated for, and leaving the international scientific circles deeply moved at the death of the Egyptian genius.
On a personal note, I believe that Ali Mustafa Musharrafa, who is well known as (أينشتاين العرب), is an exceptional Egyptian figure who had a great role in the development of scientific researches as well as the foundation of various scientific institutions in Egypt, and I wonder how come that one can hardly ever find resources and references about such an outstanding character on the cyber space, and even more, how come his studies and researches are not highlighted and included in our educational systems.
All the best,
– Al-Ahram Weekly, Issue No. 477, 13 – 19 April 2000, and Issue No. 773, 15 – 21 December 2005
– Roshdi Rashed, “Recherche scientifi que et modernisation en Egypte: l’exemple de Ali Mustafa Musharafa (1898-1950). Etude d’un type idéal”