In Memorandum: Dr. Haneef Akhtar Fatmi, 03 July 1933 – 04 April 1995

IFSR Newsletter 1995 Vol. 14 No. 3 (38) August
* 3rd July 1933, – 4th April 1995
Haneef Fatmi was a man of exceptional and wide-spread intellectual talents. Born at Berusia, a small town in Bhopal State in 1933, he obtained his first degree in Electrical Engineering in 1951 at Karachi University. He subsequently studied with two Nobel Laureates at Imperial College London: Professor Denis Gabor FRS, the discoverer of holography and Professor Abdul Salem FRS, the theoretical physicist and cosmologist. His doctorial thesis was concerned with the physics of ionised gases.
He was also a barrister being a member of both Lincoln’s Inn and the Inner Temple. His training as a lawyer and as a scientist endowed him with the necessary skills to succeed and bring enlightenment in novel and diverse areas peculiar to our present complex age. He often managed to do this with great wit and charm.
ln addition, Dr. Fatmi was a linguistic scholar and having obtained a B.A. degree in Arabic Studies in 1985, was able to produce a new English translation of the Holy Qoran which was published before he died.
However, it was during his sojourn at the former Chelsea College at the University of London, that he both founded the Cybernetics Society (London), a registered friendly society, and inaugurated the University of London Master of Science course in cybernetics. These were no mean feats, as cybernetics requires an understanding of the functions of both ‘information and control in the machine, animal, and human being’. This very ambitious undertaking did not fit conveniently into the faculty structure of any university.
The acceptance and subsequent success of the M.Sc. course was the result of his carefully prepared and defended proposals made to several expert committees in the University. His various post masters degree and post doctoral students have also achieved great influence both occupying chairs in academia and by pursuing, for example, the engineering of optical fiber telecommunication systems.
Dr. Fatmi’s wide interests in human culture, philosophy, and the structure of logic led to an intriguing series of letters to the journal Nature on the subject of intelligence in the intellectual sense rather than the security sense! He and his collaborator R.W. Young established a working definition of intelligence as “that faculty of mind by which order is perceived in a situation hitherto considered to be disordered”: a definition quoted in the Oxford Companion to the Mind.
Haneef took a great interest in understanding and developing the works of the Russian mathematician A. Kolmogorov. ln a most prophetic way he demonstrated aspects of Kolmogorov’s work which predated the mathematical form of the current and highly successful neural network analysis.
ln recent years he made a notable contribution within King’s College London on the Strand, by organizing meetings addressed by Nobel Laureates and Fellows of the Royal Society on a wide variety of subjects within the cybernetics domain.
His untimely and unexpected death, after a short illness is particularly ironic, when in this post specialist age the ideals of the professional cybernetician are more in demand than ever. Dr. Fatmi’s gift was a good sense of balance between justice, spiritual and philosophical knowledge and physical (scientific) knowledge.
Haneef is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons, daughter-in-law and grand children.
Brian Warburton

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