27/11/2020More Blue Plaques for Scientists, says English Heritage
- Physicist and Champion of Science, Abdus Salam, awarded new plaque
- Approximately 15% of London blue plaques are to scientists
English Heritage is calling on the public to nominate more notable scientists from history for London blue plaques and to help the charity increase the number of scientists honoured across the capital with the iconic blue roundels.
The call comes as English Heritage unveils a blue plaque to the Nobel Laureate theoretical physicist, Abdus Salam, in Putney. The Pakistani scientist’s work on electroweak theory contributed to the discovery of the Higgs boson particle – the 'God particle' which gives everything mass. Salam was also very active in improving the status of science in developing countries in general.
Abdus Salam joins Charles Darwin, Rosalind Franklin and Alan Turing amongs the scientists with blue plaques but within the London Blue Plaques scheme, science is an underrepresented field with only around 15% of the 950 plus blue plaques across the capital dedicated to scientists. The scheme relies on nominations so if there is to be an increase in the number of blue plaques to scientists on the streets of the capital, English Heritage needs more suggestions from the public of figures who have London buildings in which they lived or worked still standing.
Rebekah Higgitt, English Heritage Blue Plaques Panel member and Principal Curator of Science at National Museums Scotland, said: "This year the importance of scientists and their work has become abundantly clear. And yet we have relatively few blue plaques to physicists, chemists, biologists and other scientific figures, reflecting the scheme’s historic bias towards celebrating the arts over the sciences. We want to see more blue plaques to such brilliant and inspiring figures as Abdus Salam but we need the public’s help. Please, send us your suggestions for scientific figures and their associated buildings, and help us mark their achievements and links to the city."
English Heritage’s blue plaque to Abdus Salam can be found on a red-brick Edwardian house in Putney, which served as the Nobel Laureate’s London base from 1957 until his death in 1996. The house, on a quiet residential street, included a study where amongst his books (including his favourite Wodehouse novels), incense stands and a record player, Salam would be inspired and write while listening to long-playing records of Quranic verses and an eclectic variety of music by composers ranging from Strauss to Gilbert and Sullivan.
Abdus Salam’s son, Ahmad Salam, said: "The fact that most of the plaque is taken up with the words 'champion of science in developing countries' would have made my father very happy. For him, above all else, that was the legacy he wanted to impart. To be honoured in this way would have been truly humbling to a man who believed 'scientific thought and its creation is the common and shared heritage of mankind.' This was a belief fully supported by the ideals, freedoms and values he found here in England. He loved the intellectual freedom, the religious freedom and the respect for people of education."
Blue Plaques for scientists – Key Statistics:
- The earliest scientist to be commemorated with a Blue Plaque is Sir Isaac Newton, born in 1642
- The earliest female scientist to have a Blue Plaque is Ada Lovelace, born in 1815
- The first plaque commemorating a scientist was erected in 1876, and honours Michael Faraday (b.1791)
- Of the London boroughs, the City of Westminster has the most blue plaques at 315. Only 24 of those celebrate scientists
How to get a London blue plaque
The London blue plaques scheme celebrates the link between significant figures of the past and the buildings in which they lived and worked. In order to receive a blue plaque, figures must be judged to have met a number of criteria, including the following:
- they should have made a great and lasting impact on society
- they should have been dead for more than 20 years
- the London building in which they lived or worked should still survive
To find out more, including how to nominate someone for a blue plaque, visit: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/
The English Heritage London Blue Plaques scheme is generously supported by David Pearl, Knight Frank and members of the public.