Saiyid Nurul Hasan (1921-1993) was an Indian historian and an elder statesman in the Government of India. A member of the Rajya Sabha, he was the Union Minister of State (with Independent Charges) of Education, Social Welfare and Culture, Government of India (1971-1977) and the Governor of Bengal and Odisha (1986-1993)
Hasan was born in Lucknow, India. He belonged to a taluqdari (madad-i ma’ash) family of the United Provinces. He was the son of Saiyid Abdul Hasan and Nur Fatima Begum. His father was a District Settlement Officer and later President of the Court of Wards in the United Provinces. His maternal grandfather was Sir Syed Wazir Hasan, Chief Justice of the Court of Oudh and a well known President of the Muslim League, who had called for Hindu-Muslim unity in 1936. His maternal uncles were Syed Sajjad Zaheer, an eminent Marxist thinker and Syed Ali Zaheer, a minister and an ambassador. He was married to Nawabzadi Khurshid Laqa Begum Sahiba, the eldest daughter of Nawab Raza Ali Khan of Rampur, a 15 Gun Salute State in the former United Provinces.They have two children, Sayyid Sirajul Hasan, an eminent physicist, who is the Director of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore and Sayyida Talat Fatima Hasan, who is a very successful entrepreneur in the USA.
Hasan attended the Sultan ul Madaris, Lucknow.The he went to the La Martiniere Boys’ College in Kolkata,.He completed his graduation from Muir Central College, Allahabad, where he was a student of Professor R.P. Tripathi. Later he went to New College, Oxford, where he completed an M.A. and D.Phil. in Indian history. In Oxford he was the President of the Oxford India Majlis.
He began his academic career as a Lecturer in History at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. He was appointed as Professor in the Department of History at Aligarh Muslim University, of which he was a Chairperson as well. He contributed greatly to the growth of the History department in Aligarh in its initial years. Later he became the General Secretary and then the President of the Indian History Congress. He was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Asiatic Society in London.
A secularist with an abiding faith in leftism, Hasan was a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1969-1978. From 1971 to 1977, he was the Union Minister of State (with independent charge) for Education, Social Welfare & Culture in the Government of India. As India’s education minister, he founded the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi. He was also the architect behind the setting up of 27 social science research institutes in India under the aegis of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi, such as the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (1973).He was instrumental in improving the career promotion scheme of college and university teachers in India. He was also instrumental in starting the 10+2+3 system of education at the High School, Junior College and undergraduate levels. He played a major role in tabling “Towards Equality: The Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India (1974-5)” in parliament, which was submitted by a committee appointed by the Government of India.
From 1977 to 1980 he was Vice President of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi. He served as Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union from 1983 to 1986.He was the Governor of West Bengal from 1986 to 1989 and 1989 to 1993 and also the Governor of Odisha in 1989.
When he was the Governor of West Bengal, he founded the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Calcutta (1993). He was its first chairman
He died of renal failure in Calcutta, West Bengal in 1993, while continuing in office as the Governor.
The Nurul Hasan Education Foundation is named after him.