Dr. Mahmoud Hessabi
To write about great characters or people who have made their name heard and praised is indeed arduous. Sometimes we are dealing with tampered resources. Political pressures or other intentions could cloud our judgment and not allow us to think about that one character. There are times that even though you clear out the fuzz and face what you were looking for, still the image of what you see is unsatisfying. That is the curious case of Dr. Mahmoud Hessabi.
One hears many things about Dr. Mahmoud Hessabi, but the truth among them is not clear. So we have to go around and check the sources we trust and hope that the effort to find the truth is deep enough, regardless of our feelings for the founded results. The truth will out.
Abbas and Goharshad’s child, Dr. Mahmoud Hessabi tobe, was born in February 1903 in Tafresh, a small town in the Markazi Province of Iran. Due to national problems, the Hesabi family moved or, in other words, migrated to Beirut in Lebanon. That was not an easy way to live, and the young Mahmoud Hessabi had his share of hardship as a child. Yet, he managed to finish his elementary French School in Beirut. That is how he came to know French and Arabic other than Persian.
From those early times, Mahmoud Hessabi became so fond of Persian literature. He had a deep interest in masterpieces like Divan-e Hafez, Golestan, Bostan-e Saadi, Nizami, and Shahnameh. He read them as a meaningful study. Maybe later, the reason he chose to come back to his motherland and start working there after living nearly everywhere and teaching at the best universities in the world is rooted in this matter.
World War I prevented Mahmoud Hessabi from finishing high school. At those critical times, safety was an issue that he could not undermine. Therefore, all the schools closed, and young Mahmoud Hessabi homeschooled himself for two years until he could actually graduate in road engineering in 1922 from the American University of Beirut and subsequently worked for the road ministry there.
After making a living through this specialty, Mahmoud Hessabi moved to France but did not continue the same subject he studied before. At this time, Mahmoud Hessabi showed a great deal of interest in Physics, and so, he changed his subject from engineering and managed to get his physic PhD. from Sorbonne University in Paris. After gathering as much experience and working on different matters, Professor Mahmoud Hessabi was on his way home.
Even though he was a great professor and trained in various scientific subjects, he made his way into politics, and yet he never forgot his ground. For nearly a year, he was the education minister of the National Party of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh (1951-1952), while Mosaddegh was the prime minister of Iran.
In the fourth season of holding the Senate, Dr. Mahmoud Hessabi was also appointed as a Senator from Tehran by the hand of Mohammad Reza Shah. At that time, the king had the right to appoint half of the candidates of Tehran, and among his choices was Dr. Mahmoud Hessabi.
Prof. Mahmoud Hessabi involved in establishing several cultural projects in Iran throughout his years, and he is one of the pioneers who built the first major research institutes in Iran. The government elected Mahmoud Hessabi to map the Persian Gulf coastline in Bushehr. Then a senior scholar asked him to set up the Faculty of Science at the University of Tehran. After that, Dr. Mahmoud Hessabi accepted the supervision and teaching of the first group of students in the first major of engineering at the university and thus remained in this scientific collaboration.
WhenMahmoud Hessabi was young, he was interested in Persian literature, and he pursued this interest in his youth. He knew English, French, and Arabic perfectly well, and he even taught himself, German. All of these experiences led to where he suggested Persian equivalents of scientific terminology as a member of the Academy of Persian Language. We can see many of these equivalents in scientific schools and speeches today.
Mahmoud Hessabi has written an autobiography book. According to the book, at an annual Physic conference in 1947, he met Albert Einstein and chatted with him over their mutual subjects.
During his lifetime, Professor Mahmoud Hessabi has won many titles. Perhaps the most prominent of them was the Legion of Honour (Légion d’honneur) order from the French government. This order is only for the French who have served their country honorably, however, some with other nationalities have won this badge due to what they have done outside their national borders, and for France. This order has been given to Professor Hesabi from the French government twice. That shows how much he overcame in his specialty.
Among the ceremonies that were held in Mahmoud Hessabi’s honor, one was the annual Iranian Physics Conference in which he was awarded the title of Distinguished Professor at the University of Tehran. In that same year (1987), “Dr. Mahmoud Hessabi prize” was established. That was to show respect to his efforts in the scientific world and build up a motive for undergrad researches in their field.
Dr. Mahmoud Hessabi did not come from a well-known family, nor did he have the privileges of high-born wealthy children to improve his living conditions, or accelerating his success. He was a diligent, hard-working person with an innate talent and perseverance, who thought only of his goals and tried to change the lives of those around him, especially the students who studied with him support Dr. Mahmoud Hessabi died in Geneva at the age of 89 (1992) due to cardiac arrest and was buried in his ancestral homeland of Tafresh, according to his will.
One of the things that can be done to get to know this scientific-cultural figure better is to visit his house in Tehran, which has become a museum today. Dr. Mahmoud Hessabi’s Museum is a collection of documents by Mahmoud Hessabi himself, namely his letters, manuscripts of articles, and photographs, and that you can learn about his style and way of life.
In general, it is difficult to collect parts of a coherent whole from all aspects of a person’s life. But anyway, far more than making an idol out of a person, the one seeking the truth has to be committed to look hard and seek out the best information, and maybe once, we could just let a human be human and not a superhero with divined powers. Being realistic is not that bad.