Professor Shamim Siddiqui

Ahmed Shamim Siddiqui, physicist: born Patna, India 20 October 1942; Lecturer, Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, Essex University 1983-2001, Professor 2001; married 1967 Elizabeth Noble (one daughter; marriage dissolved), 1977 Cora van Helfteren (two stepsons, one stepdaughter); died Colchester 22 August 2001.

Ahmed Shamim Siddiqui, physicist: born Patna, India 20 October 1942; Lecturer, Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, Essex University 1983-2001, Professor 2001; married 1967 Elizabeth Noble (one daughter; marriage dissolved), 1977 Cora van Helfteren (two stepsons, one stepdaughter); died Colchester 22 August 2001.

Shamim Siddiqui was a brilliant physicist whose original contributions to the fields of optical communications stimulated what was a paradigm of collaboration between academe and industry. His peculiar talent was to envisage novel applications of the physics of the infra-red to photonics.

He gained international recognition for his work in optical communication systems and particularly for his pioneering research on polarisation effects in fibre-optic transmissions. During the early 1990s his research focused on the fundamental polarisation properties of optical fibres. His work contributed greatly to the understanding of Polarisation Mode Dispersion (PMD).

This is an important limiting factor for transmitting high-speed and high-volume information through optical fibres over very long distances. He demonstrated the first two-channel optical transmission using polarisation division multiplexing. This work led to the invention of the first real-time optical polarimeter, which was granted a US patent in 1992. The understanding and management of PMD in fibre-optic links has been a major step for achieving today's global information society based on the huge capacity that only optical fibre can provide.

Siddiqui worked closely with Nortel (Northern Telecom), British Telecom, STC submarine systems and later Alcatel Submarine Networks searching for solutions for greater transmission capacities over their long-haul undersea fibre networks. Siddiqui's more recent pioneering achievements in the field include the development of the first fully polarisation-sensitive optical time domain reflectometer as well as the novel polarisation mode dispersion compensation techniques.

He had just been awarded a Professorship at Essex University and was looking forward to a year largely free of administration and teaching, in which he planned to develop new systems and to try out new ideas.

Shamim Siddiqui was born in India in 1942, the son of a Professor of Zoology at the University of Lucknow, and grew up in Pakistan. He came to Britain after taking a first degree in Karachi, and became a British citizen shortly after completing his education in Physics at Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh, in 1972. He then embarked on the uncertain life of a post-doctoral research assistant, which took him into the physics departments of Bristol, Essex and Queen Mary College, London, and eventually, in 1983, to a lectureship in the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering at Essex.

But Siddiqui was far from being only a photonic physicist. He had passions. There was cricket, there was wine, there were opera and music generally. And there was the philosophy of science, on which he would give the occasional seminar. Raconteur, bon viveur, wit – Siddiqui was a highly cultured man.

Brian Ridley

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