Professor Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman is a leading scientist and scholar in the field of organic chemistry, especially renowned for his research in the various areas relating to natural product chemistry. With over 840 publications in the fields of organic chemistry including 15 patents, 94 books and 59 chapters in books published by major US and European presses and 508 research publications in leading international journals, Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman is also credited for reviving the higher education and research practices in Pakistan.
Academically, he has been outstanding right from the early stage of his academia. He got 1st Position in O Levels in 1958 and again topped in his A Levels in 1960. After completing his Overseas Higher School Certificate from Cambridge with flying colors he did his BSc (Hons) in Chemistry in 1963. His appetite for knowledge and intellect always encouraged him to continue acquiring knowledge with a resolve so strong that he never gave in. He then did his MSc in Organic Chemistry from Karachi in 1964, in which he secured 1st Position.
Finally the holder of Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Sitara-e-Imtiaz and Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Dr Atta-ur-Rahman obtained his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1968 and was later honoured as a Doctor of Science (Sc.D.). He is the first scientist from the Muslim world to have won the prestigious UNESCO Science Prize 1999.
Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman was elected as Fellow of Royal Society (London) in July 2006 thereby becoming the one of the 4 scientists from the Muslim world to have ever won this honour. He has been conferred honorary doctorate degrees by many universities including the degree of Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) by the Cambridge University (UK) (1987) and an honorary degree of Doctor of Education by Coventry University UK in November 2007.
He was elected Honorary Life Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge University, UK in 2007. Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman was conferred the TWAS Prize for Institution Building in Durban, South Africa in October 2009 in recognition of his contributions for bringing about revolutionary changes in the higher education sector in Pakistan. He was awarded the Engro Excellence Award in Science & Technology 2011 with a prize of Rs. 5 million (US $ 59,000) for meritorious contributions. He then proceeded to use the money in addition to an equal amount from his private finances to start a scholarship for deserving students.
Dr Atta-ur-Rahman has secured numerous other national and international prizes and awards including the FPCCI Prize for Technological Innovation (1985), the Best Scientist of the Year Award from the Government of Pakistan (1986), the Islamic Organization Prize from the Government of Kuwait (1988), first prize at the 6th Khwrazmi Festival from the President of Iran (1993), the Prime Minister’s Gold Medal and Pakistan Academy of Sciences-INFAQ Foundation Prize in Science (1995), the Federation of Asian Chemical Societies Award (Hiroshima, Japan, 1997), the ECO Prize (2000) and the ISESCO Prize (2001).
He was the Federal Minister for Science and Technology (2000 – 2002), Federal Minister of Education (2002) and Chairman of the Higher Education Commission with the status of a Federal Minister from 2002-2008. The Austrian government also honoured him with its highest civil award (Das Große Goldene Ehrenzeichen am Bande, 2007) in recognition of his eminent contributions.
He is President of Network of Academies of Sciences of Islamic Countries (NASIC) and the Vice-President (Central & South Asia) of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) Council, and Foreign Fellow of Korean Academy of Sciences. Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman was the President of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences (2003–06), and was again elected President of Pakistan Academy of Sciences in January 2011.
Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman is presently the Coordinator General of COMSTECH, an OIC Ministerial Committee comprising the 57 Ministers of Science & Technology from 57 OIC member countries.
Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman aspires to make the educational institutions of Pakistan ‘Pockets of Excellence’ and has indeed come a long way in making ‘Higher Education Commission’ as a institutionalized set up. He is a down-to-earth and humble person who works day in and day out serving Pakistan with commitment and dedication.