More on Ali Moustafa Mosharrafa

We give below details about Ali Moustafa Mosharrafa from two different sources.


1. Donald Malcolm Reid writes in Cairo University and the Making of Modern Egypt (Cambridge University Press, 2002):

The case of Ali Mosharrafa, dean of the Faculty of Science from 1936 to 1950, highlights the issues. Born in Damietta in 1898, Mosharrafa was an excellent student despite the loss of his father just before his primary and his mother just before his secondary examination. He took the scientific track through the Higher Teachers School, and a state scholarship to the University of Liverpool saved him from the usually inevitable secondary teaching job. He went on for a University of London bachelor's degree, took his PhD from King's College (London) at age 23, added a DSc, and became a fellow of the Royal Society. Both doctoral degrees were firsts for Egyptians in Britain.

In 1921 - the year Einstein won the Nobel Prize - Mosharrafa was working at the edge of quantum physics, exploring mathematically the ramifications of the Zeeman and Stark effects. (Zeeman had noted that a magnetic field split each of the spectral lines of light into several lines, and Stark had observed the similar effect of a strong electric field on the spectral lines emitted by radiating atoms). J W Nicholson and Owen W Richardson of King's College helped Mosharrafa publish in Philosophical Magazine (one of whose editors was J J Thomson of the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge), Nature, and the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Zeeman, Stark, Richardson, and Thomson were Nobel prize winners all; Mosharrafa had his eye on the prize as well.

Mosharrafa published a dozen items in these journals in the next decade, but only three or four more in the eighteen years that followed. Administration and popularizing science took up much of his time, and most of what research he did he published in Egypt. The pattern was frequent among foreign-educated Egyptian scientists who did not emigrate.

Mosharrafa knew that national scientific societies and journals are indispensible to a scientific community and did his best to foster them. When the Faculty of Science opened in 1925, the local scientific periodical press (aside from medicine and other applied sciences) consisted of little more than the Bulletins of the Royal Geographical Society and the Institut d'Egypte - neither was dedicated mainly to natural science - and the occasional publications of the Entomological Society and the Helwan Observatory. Mosharrafa encouraged the journal (founded in 1934) of his faculty, helped found the Mathematical and Physical Society of Egypt in 1936 (most of his later publications were in its Proceedings), and backed the Egyptian Academy of Sciences (1944) and its Proceedings. Irregular and long-delayed publication cut into the value of these and other scientific journals, and they circulated little outside of Egypt. Even in recent years, only India among developing countries has achieved some visibility in international scientific indexes.

2. We give a version of the obituary Dr Ali Mostafa Mosharrafa Pasha 1898-1950, Egyptian Academy of Sciences 6 (1950), 102-103:

The death of Dr Ali Mostafa Mosharrafa Pasha on January 16th, removed from the Egyptian Academy of Sciences another of its enthusiastic founders and robbed the scientific movement in Egypt of one of its distinguished pioneers. Soon after graduating from the Higher Training School in 1917, Mosharrafa Pasha was sent on a scientific mission to England, where he distinguished himself in the University of London as a brilliant mathematician. On obtaining the D. Sc. degree in 1923, he returned to Egypt to join the staff of his former school.' When the Egyptian University was founded in 1925 he was appointed Assistant Professor of Mathematics in the Faculty of Science, and in 1926 was nominated to the Chair of Applied Mathematics. In 1936 he was elected Dean of the Faculty, a post which he retained next to his professorship until his untimely death in January 1950. His earlier works (1922-1925), published in the Philosophical Magazine and in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, dealt with the Quantum Theory. The publication in 1929 of his views on the relation between matter and radiation caused a stir in the scientific world, and was followed up by a number of other outstanding contributions, which appeared in journals abroad and in Egypt. In 1937 Dr Mosharrafa founded the Mathematical and Physical Society of Egypt, the "Proceedings" of which often were the medium in which his later works appeared. In his later years, he was occupied with the generalization of Einstein's equations, particularly with the study of the path of an electrically charged particle, a study which was published in 1948. His last work which dealt with the mass defect in the nucleus, appeared in 'Nature' in October 1949. Mosharrafa Pasha was a prominent University figure. His constant aim was the maintenance of a high academic standard and the establishment of rational traditions. For the achievement of this aim he was tireless in his efforts and fearless in his conduct. Not only was Mosharrafa Pasha active within the Sphere of University, but he devoted himself also to the creation of a scientific milieu in Egypt. His name stands foremost in most of the scientific societies, a number of which he helped to create. An ambition which was nearest to his heart, was the moulding of the Arabic language into a medium of expression of modern scientific thought. From the early days he advocated the encouragement of translating the classics of science into Arabic as well as that of re-editing the old Arab scientific writings, he set the example, and his name is to be found on books of both kinds. He was a firm believer in science, and an enthusiastic exponent of its role in human affairs. Aided by an outstanding ability of clear expression and a rare mastery of the Arabic language, Mosharrafa Pasha leaves behind a rich harvest of popular writings on scientific topics, a harvest which does great credit to the versatile and scholarly mind that produced it. The members of the Egyptian Academy of Sciences mourn the loss of a brilliant colleague who devoted his life fully and truly to the cause of science.

JOC/EFR May 2019

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