Scientific Advances of Iranians

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Firouzeh Mirrazavi 

Iran has been a land of civilization, progress, industry, and technology and the first habitat of man on Earth. Since ancient times, it has raised valuable people who have brilliantly shone in the world history. The first monotheistic religion was brought about 4,000 years ago by Zoroaster to guide the world toward the right path. The first instances of medicine and astrology were introduced by Zoroaster and the country was also home to the earliest signs of industry, civilization and technology. The whole history of the Iranian nation is full of honors which have introduced the world to religion and spirituality.

The scientific breakthroughs after the advent of Islam also stemmed from philosophies of India and Greece as well as ancient, pre-Islamic philosophy of Iran. At the end of the 2nd century AH, one of the biggest mathematicians of ancient times, called Mohammad ibn Mousa Kharazmi, lived in Iran and his works had profound effects on the Islamic and Arabic culture. He first invented logarithm tables and promoted algebra. Other major scientists belonging to the Islamic period included Abu Reyhan Biruni, Khajeh Nassir-ed-din Tousi, Zakariya Razi (Rhazes), Jaber ibn Hayyan, and ibn Heitham. Biruni compiled an encyclopedia of astrology and, at his time, he discovered that the Earth orbited around the Sun.

Khajeh Nassir-ed-din Tousi studied evolution and inherited changes in species in 7th century AH according to which all living creatures can change and organs of living creatures are changeable and those changes were handed down from one generation to the next. Also, five centuries before Lavoisier (French scientist) and Mikhail Lomotov, he was the first scientist to know about the principle governing behavior of the matter.

Razi had many inventions in medicine like alcohol and sulfuric acid and founded applied physics. He compiled a comprehensive book on medicine in Persian. Jaber ibn Hayyan, the famous Iranian chemist whose name has been registered in Encyclopedia of the World, is known as father of innovations at his time and his inventions include the substance of dye which was used in dying fabrics, distilling the essence of herbs and flowers (as the main substance of perfume), therapeutic drugs and gunpowder.

Avicenna is known as father of medicine in Iran and the world, which has broken many grounds in this regard and his medical book, Qanoun, was used as reference by the Europeans for many years. Many scientists have succeeded him, but none of them have gained his fame.

A study of the history of science in Iran will prove that Iranians had made great advances in other scientific fields like botany, pharmaceutics, chemistry, zoology, and mineralogy. Even now, the Iranian scientists like ancient times, are making new advances in scientific fields. Iran, like other countries, has entered the scientific struggle and is availing of potentialities of its youth who have been pioneers in many scientific fields. In view of the contents of the Fourth Economic Development Plan and the 20-Year Perspective Plan, Iran should achieve a lofty scientific status in the region and the world. To achieve this goal, though it looks idealistic, we must have consolidated plans.

According to a report issued by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Iran ranks the 22nd in terms of “number of students” while ranking the 14th in terms of “technical students studying at universities”. According to the same report, Iran ranks the second in the Middle East after Egypt in terms of total students while surpassing it in technical terms. According to this report, the United States, China, India, Russia, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Brazil and Egypt are top countries in the world in terms of university students. Development of higher education after victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution has turned Iran into a top country in terms of the number of students studying at universities. Iran has achieved this in spite of being engaged in an imposed war for eight consecutive years (1980-88). If it were not for war, the scientific status of the country would have been much better.

Before the Islamic Revolution, Iran had a population of about 36 million of which 140,000 were studying at universities. However, the population now stands at 70 million with, at least, 2 million students. That is, the number of university students has increased by more than 15 percent compared to pre-revolution years and this is a major index of development. With regard to scientific productions, according to the existing statistics, during 2001-2003, Iran has produced various scientific papers and has increased its scientific production by up to 10 times. According to epistemological distribution and comparative studies, growth of science production in Iran becomes more statistically meaningful day after day and this growth allows for scientific productions to be computed in a scientific manner. At the same time, international scientific cooperation by Iran has greatly increased during the past decade and many countries consider Iran as a scientific partner.

Western countries, especially the United States, have discovered the scientific potential of the Iranian youth and have frequently admitted that Iranians account for one of the highest percentage of scientific achievements in the world. The highest number of non-local students in the American colleges is Iranian. The highest rate of graduates among immigrants to the United States belongs to Iranians. Some 84 percent of Iranians living in the United States have good command of English while 46 percent of them hold bachelor’s and higher degrees. About 43 percent of Iranians living in the United States hold very high posts and more than 500 Iranian professors teach at the best universities of the United States.

On the other hand, achievements of the Iranian youth in scientific Olympiads during the past few years has enhanced their self-reliance and they have accepted that Iranians have great capacity to learn science and gain advantages both individually and in groups. Existence of scientific Olympiads will boost individual and social expectations and prompt them to seek loftier goals through perseverance and use of their talents. Therefore, finding capable people and educating them is a very good factor for identifying elites in the society and, for this reason, a special organization for taking care of brilliant students and a club for young researchers has been established.

One of the achievements of Iran in this field was holding the 38th international physics Olympiad, which was held in the country for the first time in July 2007 attended by students from 75 countries in Isfahan. Iranian students won two gold and two silver medals as well as one bronze to rank 7th among competitors. They also took part in the 18th international biology Olympiad in Canada during the current year and won four silver medals. Another achievement of Iran with regard to Olympiads was ranking 10th at the 39th international chemistry Olympiad in 2007. It was held in Russia and attended by students from 68 countries. Scientific Olympiads for university students is another indicator of Iran’s advance in various scientific and research fields. Holding the 12th international scientific math Olympiad for students at Tehran University where Iranian students ranked the first, was another achievement for Iran in scientific fields.

Continued qualitative and quantitative growth of international scientific productions of Iran in parallel to valuable and sometimes unprecedented achievements by Iranian researchers in new technological fields such as peaceful nuclear technology, nanotechnology, biotechnology, medicine, and aerospace have delineated a promising scientific outlook for the country. Some of those achievements are as follows:

  • The birth of the first cloned animal in the Middle East at Rouyan Research Center which is affiliated with University Jihad Institute and official start of “cloning therapy” at the center;
  • Preparing the first protein map of stem cells obtained from human embryo and discovering surface indicators of mesenchymal cells;
  • Printing the first totally Iranian paper in the Nature magazine which reflected the result of studies carried out by Dr. Estaki and his colleagues in cognitive sciences;
  • Launching the first ever rocket carrying a consignment by Iranian aerospace researchers;
  • Iranian researchers’ access to “heavy water” production technology, launching the nuclear fuel cycle, and other achievements by Iranian researchers in the field of nuclear technology;
  • Production of anti-AIDS drug (IMOD) which enhances human immunity against HIV virus;
  • Treatment of spinal cord injuries using Schwann cell grafts;
  • Producing genetically modified animals (transgenic mice);
  • Production and supply of Synovex (human beta interferon) after many years that Ovonex was the sole medication for patients with multiple sclerosis;
  • Launching a big complex for production of recombinant drugs;
  • Various achievements in the fields of biotechnology, genetics, and nanotechnology including production of “carbon nanotubes” and exporting them as well as ranking the first in this regard among Islamic countries and enjoying a good position in the world;
  • Increased number of Iranian papers in creditable foreign journals (mostly medical journals) from 2,100 papers in 2005 to 3,000 papers in 2006;
  • Establishment of “biotechnology and health network for regional countries” by producing “biotechnology medicine, erythropoietin” and “hepatitis B vaccine” at Pasteur Institute;
  • Winning the first prize and gold medal of the 59th exhibition and competition on ideas, innovations and inventions in Germany (IENA 2007) in the field of nanotechnology by the Iranian student team for their invention, Core Cell;
  • Doing about 2,000 kidney transplant surgeries in the country and ranking the fourth in the world;
  • Naming Tehran University among the top 550 universities of the world (539th) according to ranking issued by the creditable “Time Higher Education” institute which is a major center for ranking world universities in London;
  • Registering Iranian anti-AIDS drug, IMOD, at World Intellectual Property Organization; mass production of the drug and ranking the second in biotechnology in East Mediterranean region;
  • Production of the most powerful tissue adhesive by the Iranian researchers to repair wounds and damaged tissues without sutures;
  • Successful production of engine oil additive by Iranian researchers of a nanotechnology company on the basis of “nano-diamond” (production of that additive was monopolized by the United States and Russia);
  • Manufacturing the second Iranian submarine in cooperation with industrial universities and launching it (this modern submarine is equipped with the most modern military equipment and electronic devices); and
  • Successful production of airplane glass by the Iranian researchers.

Scientific and research achievements of Iranians are not limited to the country and Iranian expatriates have been successful in various scientific, research, managerial and trade fields. According to a report issued by a research team at MIT University, the number of Iranians living in the United States surpasses 691,000. At least, one out of four Iranians holds master’s or doctorate degrees and this is the most remarkable record among 67 major ethnic groups currently living in the United States.

The report shows that more than 50 Iranians are occupying the highest managerial posts at major American companies and are playing a great role in that country’s economy. Iranians also stand out in scientific, research and other academic fields. Some of their scientific achievements follow:

  • Operating on brain tumors without general anesthesia by Dr. Gelareh Mohammad-Zadeh, the youngest brain surgeon in Britain, which widely reverberated in medical circles and was called among the most important surgical achievements of the year;
  • Successful research by Dr. Simin Nikbin Meidani, head of nutrition and immunology laboratory of US Department of Agriculture, on the relationship between sufficient amounts of zinc in blood and prevention of pneumonia in the aged;
  • Appointment of Professor Majid Samiei as head of the International Society of Neurological Surgeons and winning various prizes and honors for his medical services, including winning the top medical prize of China, which was awarded to him by the Chinese prime minister, and winning honorary neurology seat at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences;
  • Naming Dr. Pardis Sabeti, Iranian researcher of MIT University among the world’s top 100 genius (ranking 49th) due to changing human genome and presenting an applied method to immunize people against some lethal diseases like malaria. Dr. Ali Javan has also been put on the list of top 100 genius of the world (ranking 12th). Javan is the inventor and physicist of MIT who has invented gas laser (along with William Bennett);
  • Putting an end to consumption of artificial sugar by Dr. Fariba Asadi, Iranian researcher of Wisconsin University, by inventing an effective technique to use Brazzein (an indigenous plant of West Africa) through special treatment of the plant and mass production of the end product;
  • New discovery by Dr. Abdol-Mohammad Rostami, professor and head of Neurology Department of Jefferson Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Neuroscience Hospital of Philadelphia, of role of IL-27 (Interleukin 27) protein in preventing the breakout or recurrence of multiple sclerosis;
  • Treatment of heart diseases by installing smart valves (using engineering and mathematical sciences) only in 20 minutes by Arash Kheradvar, an Iranian professor at University of South Carolina;
  • Inventing a new method to stop internal bleeding without surgery using High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) by Dr. Shahram Vaezy from University of Washington;
  • Appointment of Dr. Afshin Dowlati (Iranian researcher from the Ireland Cancer Center of University Hospitals of Cleveland) as the first head of lung cancer department of University Hospitals of Cleveland; and
  • Naming Dr. Mohsen Mostafavi as dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning of Harvard University.

Let’s hope that scientific advances by Iranians will lead not only their fellow countrymen, but all human beings toward a happier, more spiritual life.

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