As we work our way towards improving the COVID situation around the world, I thought that we should take a moment to take a deeper look at not only the scientists involved in developing the vaccine, but also the contributions of several other outstanding scientists (of course, there are many scientists who have contributed towards our knowledge, and I could go on and on and on!).
1) Dr. Ugur Sahin
Born to Turkish parents, Dr. Sahin is an immunologist and oncologist in Germany who founded the company BioNTech in 2008, with a special focus on immune-based therapies for patients. In 2020, he began working on a vaccine for COVID using mRNA technology with his wife and partner, Dr. Ozlem Tureci (who I’ll discuss next!). However, two years prior to developing the vaccine, Dr. Sahin had announced at a conference held in Berlin that his mRNA technology could be used to help develop a vaccine in the event of a global pandemic….which did hit (first recorded in Wuhan, China in 2019, and then declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020). This shows his creativity and foresight, even at that time.
2) Dr. Ozlem Tureci
Dr. Tureci, the Chief Medical Officer of BioNTech and wife of Dr. Sahin, also co-developed the mRNA technology needed to develop the vaccine. In 2020, BioNTech partnered with Pfizer to develop the vaccine and have it approved for use in citizens.
3) Dr. Abdus Salam
A Pakistani physicist, Dr. Salam had a talent for mathematics, which was clear from a young age. As a child, his parents encouraged him to pursue his interest and talent in mathematics, which he pursued and eventually received a scholarship to attend Cambridge University. After completing his PhD at Cambridge University, he returned to Lahore, Pakistan to teach as a professor while pursuing research in theoretical physics. He is credited with co-discovering the electroweak theory, two-component neutrino theory, and gravity theory, among many other discoveries. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 for his efforts.
4) Ibn Zuhr
Zuhr was the first physician to discover and describe cancerous formations in various parts of the body, including the esophagus. He also made important discoveries that laid the foundation for future discoveries, such as his experiment where he conducted a tracheotomy of a goat and proved that it was safe to conduct this procedure in humans as well. He also pushed for having a structured and rigorous program for aspiring surgeons, and emphasized maintaining good ethics as a physician.
5) Ibn al-Haytham
Ibn al-Haytham was a mathematician who is known for his work in optics and mathematics. Specifically, he was the first to discover that humans see objects through something entering the eye, instead of leaving it (as was believed by those scientists prior to al-Haytham). He also discovered that light travels in a straight line through a hole and projects onto a wall, during his experiments. In addition, he also discovered visual contrasts and how our perception of the color of an object depends on the color of the surroundings (this describes why we cannot see stars in the daytime with the naked eye).
6) Jabir Ibn Haiyan
Also known as the father of Arab chemistry, Haiyan contributed towards our understanding of chemistry and pharmacy as well. Haiyan discovered several key processes used in chemistry, such as: crystallization, distillation, and sublimation, among others. In addition, he also discovered how to make steel, prevent rust, and identify various types of greases and paints.
Al-Battani was an Arab mathematician and astronomer. He is credited with improving the values of the length of the year and different seasons, as well as the inclination of the path of the Sun (the ecliptic). Also, he improved the values of the movement of the equinoxes due to the Earth’s axis of rotation (precession of the equinoxes).
8) Omar Khayyam
Khayyam was a Persian astronomer and mathematician who is renowned for his achievements in the fields of astronomy and mathematics. He discovered the solution of cubic equations using conical sections, and proposed a theory of proportion. He also determined how to ascertain the nth root of a whole number known as n.
9) Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya’ al-Razi
Al-Razi was a Persian physician who is known for his influential work, especially for his treatise on smallpox and measles. His account of smallpox and measles is regarded to be nearly modern. He also published Kitab Al-Mansuri (“Comprehensive Book”) which contained Arabic, Indian, Greek, and Syrian medical knowledge along with his own experiences.
10) Ibn Al-Nafis
Al-Nafis was a Syrian surgeon, and is often known as the “father of circulatory physiology”. He is best known for his discovery of how blood circulates in the heart — from the right atrium all the way to when it exits the heart to recirculate into the body. This was important since prior to his discovery it was believed that the blood did not pass through the lungs.
As can be seen above, there are many different Muslim scientists who have contributed towards our understanding of the natural world, and laid the foundation upon which much progress has been made. As we progress in our understanding, hopefully more treatments can be found and utilized to improve the quality of life for patients.