A multilayered personality
Qazi Motahar Hossain’s 38th death anniversary today
Qazi Motahar Hossain is a preeminent author, scientist, chess-master, statistician, mathematician and journalist of the country. He had intimate friendship with poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, Kazi Abdul Odud.
Qazi Motahar Hossain was born in his mother's village Lakshmipur in the district of Kushtia in 1897. His father was Qazi Gaohar Uddin Ahmed and mother was Tasirunnesa. He passed his childhood in his father's village Bagmara in Faridpur. He received his earliest education from his father and from the village primary school.
He entered Kushtia High School for Secondary studies. Among the teachers he specially recalled of Jyotindranath Roy and Jatindra Mohan Biswas. Hossain learnt algebra, geometry, conic section and mechanics from Mr. Jyotindranath Roy. Mr. Roy introduced the mechanics course in the school solely for Hossain as he was the only student of mechanics. In 1915 he passed Entrance from there.
After passing entrance Hossain admitted himself at the Presidency College, Calcutta for ISc course. There he was highly impressed by eminent teachers like Praphulla Chandra Ghosh (English), Mr. Sterling (English), Prafulla Chandra Roy(chemistry). But he transferred himself to Rajshahi College in the middle of academic year. Beside his studies Hossain showed considerable skill and interest in sports such as football, tennis etc. In 1917 he passed ISc from this college.
Hossain choose Dhaka College to take higher studies in mathematics and physics. In 1917 he arrived Dhaka and got admitted to Dhaka College. Here he found W A Jenkins (physics), Wrangler Bhupati Mohan Sen (Mathematics), Bankim Das Banerjee (Mathematics) and others as teachers. In 1919 he was awarded BA (honors)from this college.
In 1920, he married Sajeda Khatun. They had eleven children together - Qazi Anwar Hussain, Jobaida Mirza, Sanjida Khatun, Fahmida Khatun, Mahmuda Khatun etc.
He passed M A in physics in 1921 from Dhaka College under Calcutta University. Before his M A examination he got important help from Satyen Bose who came to Dhaka in 1921 as a student of physics of newly established Dhaka University.
With the encouragement and stimulation of Satyen Bose he went to Calcutta to study statistics. Statistician Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis had just established Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta to introduce the new subject to Indian students. Hossain was taught the subject by Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis. Qazi Motahar Husain received diploma in Statistics from the Indian Statistical Institute in 1938. Simultaneously, he obtained another MA degree in Mathematics from Calcutta University. He obtained PhD in Statistics on 'Design of Experiments' from Dhaka University in 1951. Doctoral thesis of Qazi Motahar Husain brought to light a new method known as 'Husain's Chain Rule'. Professor Husain was the first academic statistician of East Bengal, now called Bangladesh.
Qazi Motahar Hossain joined the newly established Dhaka University in 1921 as a demonstrator of physics while he was a student (1921) of the same department and became assistant lecturer in 1923.
On his own effort, Qazi Motahar Husain started MA course in Statistics in 1948 and joined this new department. He became Reader in Statistics in 1951 and Professor in 1954. Professor Husain retired from Dhaka University in 1961, but continued to work as a Supernumerary Professor of Statistics until 1964. On the establishment of the Institute of Statistical Research and Training, Professor Husain joined it as its first Director (1964-1969). He was appointed Professor Emeritus of Dhaka University in 1969 In 1975 after the liberation of Bangladesh he became the national professor of Bangladesh. Until his death in 1981 he decorated the position. He was a founder fellow of Bangladesh Academy of Sciences. Professor Husain was awarded the title of 'Sitara-i-Imtiaz' in 1960 by the then Pakistan Government in appreciation of his outstanding achievements. Qazi Motahar Husain founded 'Muslim Sahitya Samaj' (1926) with Qazi Abdul Odud, Syed Abul Hussain and Abul Fazl. The mouthpiece of this organisation was the short-lived periodical 'Shikha' which Qazi Motahar Husain edited for some time.
The magazine had an active role in popularising freedom of thought in the Muslim society. He was one of the architects of the Bengali Academy (now Bangla Academy). With his critical writings he supported the Language Movement and the War of Liberation. Beside his studies Motahar showed considerable skill and interest in sports such as football, tennis etc.
Motahar Hossain also showed unusual skill in the game of chess. For seven times he was the all India chess champion. He is also known as the chess-guru of the country as he popularised the game to his generation. Many of his pupils later flourished in the game. He took the lead organizing chess in Bangladesh. He founded the All Pakistan National Chess Federation in 1969. After independence he established Bangladesh Daba Sangha, which became the Bangladesh Chess Federation in 1974.
He died in Dhaka on 9 October 1981. A postage stamp was published by Bangladesh Postal Department to respect his contributions.
Qazi Motahar Husain wrote many articles and books on science, literature and culture including Sanchayan' [Collection] (1937), Nazrul Kabya Parichiti' [Introduction to Nazrul's poems] (1955), Sei Path Laksya Kare' [Following that Road] (1958), Symposium (1965), Ganit Shastrer Itihas' [History of Mathematics] (1970), Alok Vijnan' [The science of light] (1974) and Tatthya Ganit. His writings reflect his rational thinking and philosophy of life. He contributed to the implementation of logic, lucidity and simplicity of language and clarity in his writings. His first published book Shancharan was praised by Rabindranath Tagore. Bangla Academy has published his complete works in four volumes.
He had also given many speeches in many occasions and written many biographical notes. A collection of his eighteen biographical essays was published in 2004 under the title Smritikatha by Qazi Motahar Hossain Foundation. The foundation has also reprinted his Gonit Shastrer Itihas in the same year.
Qazi Motahar Husain received 'Bangla Academy Award' (1966) for his valuable contributions in Bengali literature and 'Swadhinata Award' (1979) for distinctive contributions in science and technology. Dhaka University also honoured him with honorary DSc degree for his great contribution to arts and sciences. Qazi Motahar Husain was an outstanding chess player and an organiser of chess. He died in Dhaka on 9 October 1981.
The writer is a freelance contributor.