Thursday 18th Dec 2014
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Space Scientist’s Tryst with Qur’ān and Islamic History

Personality

By M.A. SIRAJ

Rank Nazeer Ahmed, the US-based space scientist from Tumkur in Karnataka owns 14 patents in the US and funds studies of poor kids from the proceeds.

Dr. Nazeer Ahmed combines several traits in his composite persona. Academic excellence that he won during the 1960s won him the sobriquet ‘Rank Nazeer’. Any enquiry pertaining to his whereabouts in the small town of Tumkur in Karnataka would find several guides leading one to his residence next to the Old Bar Lane. The man who has 14 patents in the United States in as complex sciences as Advanced Composites and Rocketry, possesses two doctorates from renowned universities in America. For many among the younger generation he is just another ‘Nazeer Sab’ of Karnataka, for his ‘Rank Nazeer Sahib Charities’ has funded nearly 10,000 students belonging to all communities. (His another namesake Nazeersab, a minister under ministry headed by Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde earned his name for laying an elaborate system of water supply in rural areas in Karnataka.)

Utter his name in Bangalore’s political circles, old-timers would ask if the reference is to ‘Rank Nazeer Ahmed’ who won Assembly election from Tumkur constituency in 1978. And there is yet another section who remembers him for dedicating to the city of Tumkur an Eidgah and graveyard that sprawls over several acres in the outskirts.  But that is not all. ‘Rank Nazeer’ is now testing his skills in the field of spirituality and is translating the Holy Qur’ān into English. His Sufi inclinations have taken him to shrines of several Turkish Sufis over the years. His translation of the meaning of the Qur’ān titled ‘The Holy Qur’ān: A Translation’ is likely to hit the bookstands within a month in Bangalore.

Nazeer Ahmed topped every exam that he faced in his ascent to the top. Strings of successes simply led people to call him ‘Rank Nazeer’. A BE degree from Mysore University in 1961 ushered him into California Institute of Technology, popularly known as Caltech where he earned his MS followed by doctorate in Space Sciences and Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in 1963. Yet another Ph.D. came his way in 1967 from Cornell University. By this time he had gone on to complete AEE from Caltech too. An MBA from the New York University in Trenton, New Jersey, provided a finishing touch in 1975.

Son of a farmer Abdul Azeem, whom he remembers as a hardworking, straightforward and Sufi-oriented man, Nazeer Ahmed vividly remembers his Government Primary School in Bar Lane where he studied squatting on the mud floor in a dilapidated building.

But once he was through his first doctorate, successes came his way in a shower. He says, ‘It was the golden age of space science in the US. My first appointment was as a space scientist to work on solid propellant rocket’. Later, he moved on to work on Apollo series of space voyages and became the man who conceived the Lunar Landrover for the Apollo Missions.

Further on, Advanced Composites became his special area of research work at West Electrical Research Lab at Princeton in New Jersey between 1967 and 1977. Ahmed says: ‘In aeronautics and rocketry, toughness and lightness of the material for the space ships, rockets and shuttles hold the key. And it is where I registered 12 of the 14 patents in the US’. The patents brought him fame as well as wealth.

By 1977 he had almost wound up his research projects in the US and was back in Tumkur. It was then that he threw his hat into the political ring and was given a ticket by the then Congress (I) to fight the Assembly election from Tumkur constituency in February 1978.  It was a thumping victory with 36,000 votes falling into his kitty while his Janata Party rival had to be content with merely 22,000 votes.  But he soon got disenchanted with unethical practices and ‘unpredictablities’ of politics here, resigned after a year and flew back to the US. The return saw him working on Hubble Telescope as chief engineer at Perkins Elmer Corp., at Danbury in Connecticut. ‘It was here that I was instrumental in building Hubble Telescope, the most precise instrument to be built in the 20th century to explore the universe in the visible spectrum and look at the very edge of the known universe,’ Ahmed reminisces.

Nazeer Ahmed is now 71 and frequents between Tumkur and California, almost every two months. He oversees the progress of every individual student receiving stipends from his ‘Rank Nazeer Sahib Charities’. Guiding the children to excellence is his pet and passionate pursuit. ‘I owe my success to this soil, and it is the only way I can do my bit to serve the people whom I loved,’ says the man whose telescope still roams somewhere in the space after its operability came to an end in 2004.

Dr. Nazeer has also compiled Islamic history spread over almost 9,000 pages.  Huge cost of printing has kept him from going for its publication. It can be accessed at www.historyofislam.com and the website also opens under www.encyclopediaofislamichistory.com.



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