Alinoush Torian: The first lady physics professor in Iran

AZG Armenian Daily #225, 06/12/2007

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ALINOUSH TORIAN: THE FIRST LADY PHYSICS PROFESSOR IN IRAN

Par’s Interview with Iran’s First Female Physics Professor at the Old
Age Home

"I declined the Sorbonne Chair to serve my nation!"

Fars News Agency: Iran’s First Lady Physics Professor is now resting
gracefully at an Old Age Home after founding Iran’s First Observatory
and Solar Telescope in Iran’s Astronomical History, and graduating
from Sorbonne University, and teaching for thirty years. Her only
honor is educating successful students – today’s professors.

Alinoush Torian was born in 1299 [Iranian Solar Calendar = 1920 A.D.]
to an Armenian family in Teheran. In June 1947 she graduated with a
Bachelor of Science in Physics from the Faculty of Sciences of the
Teheran University. In August of the same year she became an employee
of the Physics Laboratories of the College of Sciences, and a year
later was appointed as the Head Laboratory Technician of the same
College.

After unsuccessful attempts to have her professor, Dr. Hessabi [he
was Einstein’s student and one of Iran’s most famous Physics
Scientists in the World] sponsor her to be sent to Europe for further
studies with scholarship; she travelled at her own expense to France
and enrolled at the Atmospheric Physics of Paris University.

In 1956 she received her Doctorate of Philosophy Degree from the Paris
Sciences University, and declined a professorship position at the
Sorbonnes University and returned to Iran to serve her Nation as
Assistant Professor of Physics and Thermodynamics.

In 1958 the Government of the West German Federal Republic availed to
Teheran University a scholarship for graduate Post Doctoral Research
in Solar Physics Observatory. She was chosen and left Iran in
1959. She returned after nine months of Research.

In June 1964 she was appointed as Iran’s First Female Professor of
Physics [and I presume one of the First Female Professors of Iran
ever!]

In October 1965 she was elected to the Geo-physical Committee of the
Teheran University. And in 1968 she was appointed as the Head of Solar
Physics Research Group of Teheran University’s Institute of
Geo-physics; and started work in the Solar Physics Observatory – which
she herself was a primary founder of!

She was the First Person who started teaching the Physics of
Astronomy.

In 1978 she requested to retire and her wish was passed.

Ezzatollah Arzi, President of Physics Society of Iran who was once
Alinoush Torian’s student revealed to Fars News Agency that Professor
Torian had a very courteous and professional mannerism. She was very
kind indeed. And she was friends with us all. Her approach and her
demeanor were imbued with deep humility. She was instrumental in the
field of Solar Physics Sciences in Iran which eventually led to the
development of the field of astronomical physics and solar physics.

Alinoush Torian has given away her home to charity; and since she has
no children nor any relatives in Iran, she is living in Towhid Old Age
Home. For an interview with the First Lady Professor of Physics in
Iran, we went there in the company of one her long time friends. She
welcomed us with open arms and a serene and jolly demeanor, and
invited us to feel at home while smiling broadly.

When we asked her to reminisce from her teaching days at the
University, she smiled and responded all my teaching memories are
happy memories! I loved my students and as a result they loved me
back. Thus I never felt uneasy. I regarded my students as friends and
never felt the need to get pompous with them. A teacher must be kind
because she must teach serenity to the students – these are the future
of the nation! If professors are bad tempered, they may not be proper
role models.

* Best Memories: 30 years of teaching at the Teheran University and
the founding of the Solar Observatory in Iran.

* Main reason for success during her teaching career: Humility! One of
my colleagues enquired why do students visit you so frequently and
converse with you while none do the same with us! My response was
surely your approach has not been warm.

* Did you use a scholarship to study in France? I was always an
achiever in my class and attracted the attention of my teachers and
professors. When I finished my Bachelors Degree I asked my professor
for help to receive a scholarship to further my studies. However he
declined because I was a female and reminded me that I have already
overstepped my limits! My father offered to pay for my expenses
saying that scholarships are for needy students. I went to France and
obtained my Doctorate from Sorbonne. Despite having a position offered
to me there, I decided to return to Iran.

* What made you decline the Sorbonne offer? I wanted to return to my
nation, Iran. I had an offer to start work there even before
graduation. However I told my French professor that I have come here
only to study and return to Iran. Many chided me for my stupidity.
However I am happy to have taught to a whole generation of students.

* You are conversant in how many languages? My mother was Swiss
educated. My parents spoke French, Persian, and Armenian; and
oftentimes conversed in French with each other. My brother and I also
spoke Armenian and Persian. We also learned French. I can also
converse in English and in Turkish. Many scientific articles are in
English.

* Have you ever made a trip to Armenia? This was a dream of my Youth
Days! Before the Revolution, Armenian Borders were closed to
us. … After the Revolution I didn’t have the capability to make the
trip.

Translated by Nader Rastegar

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