KĀSEMI, NOṢRAT-ALLĀH (b. Tehran, 1908; d. Tehran 1996; Figure 1), physician, poet, writer, orator, and politician. The first of three children born to Mirzā Asad-Allāh Khan Kāsemi, a court official and head of a landowning family in Mazandaran, he earned a diploma from Dār al-Fonun (q.v.) in 1929, and graduated from Tehran medical school in 1935 with a first order national science medallion (ʿĀqeli, III, p. 1252; Movaḥḥedi, p. 56).
Academic and medical careers. After graduating from the medical school and military service in 1936, Kāsemi was commissioned by ʿAli-Aṣḡar Ḥekmat (q.v.), the minister of education, to translate a well-known book on healthcare and medical ethics by the noted French surgeon Victor Pauchet (1869-1936; Le chemin du bonheur (la rééducation de soi-même), Paris, 1930) as Rāh-e ḵošbaḵti (Path of happiness, 1937). This well-received book was one of the first modern self-help health guides published in Iran with the younger generation as its main target (ʿĀqeli, III, p. 1252). In 1937, with the aid of several other medical colleagues, he published a monthly medical journal called Darmān (“Healing”; Movaḥḥedi, pp. 57-60). In 1938, he started his academic career as an associate professor in the newly reorganized Faculty of Medicine at the University of Tehran (see FACULTIES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TEHRAN i). He taught a course on “General disease” (Bimārihā-ye ʿomumi) and headed the school’s library and publications office, where he published a book entitled Rāhnemā-ye pezeški (“Medical guide”) for young physicians (Kāsemi, 2007, pp. 6-7; ʿĀqeli, III, p. 1252).
Kāsemi’s tenure at the University of Tehran lasted 30 years (1938-68). During this time, he was promoted to full professor (1946) and served as the chair of Endocrinology. Kāsemi taught endocrinology in the department of medicine and taught general disease, healthcare, medical history, and medical ethics in the pharmacology and dentistry departments (Movaḥḥedi, pp. 74-75). He also authored a two-volume book on endocrinology entitled Bimārihā-ye ḡoddad-e moetraššeḥ-e dāḵeli (“Endocrinological diseases”) that formed the foundation of his course. Thus, Kāsemi became one of the first professors to teach from his own Persian textbook rather than from the French textbooks commonly used at the time. In 1942, he started the Majalle-ye ʿelmi-e Daneškada-ye pezeški (Scientific journal of the medical school). Later, he also published a journal, Nāmehā-ye pezeški-e Irān (Medical letters of Iran). These periodicals not only presented the latest news of the medical school, but also provided the latest national and international medical findings for the benefit of the entire Iranian medical community (Movaḥḥedi, p. 77; ʿĀqeli, III, p. 1254).
Kāsemi was a permanent member of the Iranian Medical Congress. He organized a commission of distinguished professors to find Persian equivalents for the various French, English, and Latin medical terminologies. This proved to be a passion that he pursued both single-handedly and with others until the end of his life. His meticulous efforts in this area culminated in an unfinished volume entitled Farhang-e vāžehahā-ye pezeški (Dictionary of medical terminologies) published posthumously in 2007 (Mortażavi, p. 351).
In 1946, the shah founded the Imperial Organization for Social Services (IOSS; Sāzmān-e šāhanšāhi-e ḵadamāt-e ejtemāʿi), and the two reformers from Faculty of Medicine of the University of Tehran, Javād Āštiāni and Noṣrat-Allāh Kāsemi, were appointed to serve as its managing director and deputy managing director, respectively. Through their tireless efforts, this organization eventually built and operated close to 250 medical clinics and seven major hospitals covering both major cities and the remotest villages of the country. They also established Iran’s first and much needed Madrasa-ye parastāri (Nursing School; ʿĀqeli, III, p. 1253). Kāsemi served in IOSS in one position or another until the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
Political career. Kāsemi’s political career was intimately connected with his close friendship with the shah’s confidant and influential statesman, Manučehr Eqbāl (q.v.). He started his political career in 1949 when Eqbāl served as the powerful minister of interior. Cooperating with ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Hažir (q.v.), then the court minister, Eqbāl’s main task was to prevent the election of “undesired elements” to the Constituent Assembly (Majles-e moʾassesān), the Sixteenth Majles, and the First Senate. Capitalizing on his family’s stature and reputation in Mazandaran, Kāsemi was elected to the Constituent Assembly, which met in May 1949 and empowered the shah to dissolve the Majles. Less than a year later in February, he was also elected to the 16th session of the Majles. Kāsemi was elected to the Majles Special Oil Commission, which prepared the bill for nationalization of Iran’s oil industry on 8 March 1951 (Komisiun-e ḵāṣṣ-e naft; Ḥaqiqat, 2003, p. 418; ʿĀqeli, III, p. 1254).
In 1957, at the urging of the United States, the shah initiated a two-party system. On his orders, Prime Minister Eqbāl founded the government majority party, Ḥezb-e melliun (Nationalists’ party), and another confidant, Amīr Asad-Allāh ʿAlam, formed the loyal opposition, minority party, Ḥezb-e mardom (People’s party; ʿĀqeli, III, p. 1254). In the same year, Eqbāl appointed Kāsemi as the secretary general (Dabir-e koll) of the Melliun party, and a year later Kāsemi joined the cabinet as a minister without portfolio (Vazir mošāver; ʿĀqeli, III, pp. 1254-55). Tightly controlled elections by the Eqbāl government and his Melliun Party for the 20th Majles in the summer of 1960 led to increasing criticism by the recently revived National Front and a number of independent and pro-American political figures; this forced the shah to dismiss the prime minister on 28 August and to call for the resignation of all elected Majles deputies three days later. This event marked the end of Kāsemi’s political career (Ṣafāʾi, p. 317; Gasiorowski, pp. 175-87).
During the 1960s-80s, Kāsemi concentrated on cultural and literary projects. He wrote articles for various newspapers and news journals, often with critical political undertones. One of these articles, “Bāṭel al-seḥr-e ṭelesm-e fesād,” published in the widely read Māh-nāma-ye donyā (11, 1974, pp. 85-98), criticized the prevailed corruption in the governmental apparatus. The article received wide publicity but resulted in the immediate confiscation of the journal (Hušangnia, p. 61).
Literary career. From a very young age, Kāsemi displayed a strong attraction to Persian literature and poetry. Along with his regular studies at Dār al-Fonun, he received seminary training in the classical areas of Persian and Arab literature and philosophy from such seminary instructors as Sheikh Yad-Allāh Pāknaẓar, Ayatollah Moḥammad-ʿAli Lavāsāni, and Ayatollah Maḥdi Nuri (Kāsemi, 2007, p. 6; Ḥaqiqat, 2003, p. 418; Movaḥḥedi, pp. 39-41). In 1927 he joined the Iranian Literary Society (Anjoman-e adabi-e Irān), headed by Adib-al-Salṭāna Samiʿi, and often recited his own poems during the society’s regular meetings, where he soon was noticed and promoted by prominent literary and social figures such as Adib Pišāvari, ʿEtemād-al-Dawla Qaragozlu, and Mirzā Yaḥyā Khan Dawlatābādi (ʿĀqeli, III, p. 1352; Kāsemi, 2007, pp. 5-6, Alamuti, Nimruz, 13 June 2003, p. 25). In 1932 he was commissioned by ʿEtemād-al-Dawla Qaragozlu, then the minister of education, to develop an eight-volume book series for elementary education, including two volumes on history and geography (Movaḥḥedi, pp. 47-48). During this time, he also produced one of his notable poems entitled Čahār ṣad sāl baʿd az Ferdowsi (Four hundred years after Ferdowsi), a maṯnawi that was published and widely distributed in 1934 by the government on the occasion of Ferdowsi’s millennium celebrations (see FERDOWSI iv; Ḥaqiqat, 2003, p. 419).
Kāsemi, however, is more known for his qaṣidas, where he adopted the classical Ḵorāsāni or Torkestāni style (ʿĀqeli, p. 1255). His poems dealt with a variety of social, philosophical, historical, and personal issues. His qaṣidas such as, Zan čist? (What is woman?), Damāvand, Saʿdi, Daryāča-ye Lemān (Leman Lake), Vian (Vienna), and Kāḵ-e Qawām-al-Salṭana (The palace of Qawām-al-Salṭana) are powerful, colorful, and harmonious, successful in following the style of the great classical Persian poets (Moṣaffā, pp. 21-22). He also wrote eloquent maṯnawis and ḡazals, such as Meḥr-e mādar (Love of mother, 1945), Nur-e Ḵoda dar ḡār-e Herā (Light of God in the cave of Hera, 1970), ʿAli: Maẓhar-al-ʿajāyeb (Ali: Manifestation of marvels, 1978), Waʿda-ye penhān (Hidden promise), Šāʿer agar ʿāšeq šavad (If a poet falls in love), and Mapors (Don’t ask; Alamuti, Nimruz, 30 June 2003, p. 25; Mortażawi, p. 351).
Kāsemi was also a skillful writer and orator. His prose exhibited a reverential, lyrical style (naṯr-e mosajjaʿ), which illustrated his mastery of both Persian and Arabic languages and their intricate literary structures (Mortażawi, 1996, p. 451). This learned style is exemplified by his numerous articles in the literary journal Gowhar (q.v.; 1973-78) as well as by other works such as Farr-e izadi: rāz-e piruzi-e Irāniān bar Tāziān (Divine glory: the secret of the Iranian’s victory over the Arabs, 1975), Seh nāma (Three letters, 1959), and Gol (Flower, 1954). But this style was also sometimes judged to belong to a different literary age and geared towards the erudite few (Mortażawi, 1996, p. 351) and thus uneasy to the unaccustomed modern ear. A compilation of most of Kāsemi’s poems and prose was published posthumously in 2006 (see below).
Kāsemi was a lifetime member of Farhangestān-e zabān-e fārsi (q.v.) and the secretary of its medical division. In 1973, the Nuriāni Foundation was established to serve Iranian cultural and literary interests (Alamuti, Nimruz, 30 June 2003, p. 25). Kāsemi served as the secretary general of this foundation in 1973-79 and published two major journals. The first was a monthly journal entitled Gowhar (1973-78, 72 issues), which presented literary articles covering Persian history, culture, and literature. The second was a monthly medical journal entitled Ḵolāṣa-ye neveštahā-ye pezeški (Summary of medical literature), which provided summaries of the latest medical articles.
After the revolution, Kāsemi devoted himself to work on his Persian medical dictionary (ʿĀqeli, III, p. 1255; Alamuti, Nimruz, 30 June 2003, p. 25).
A selection of Kāsemi’s works in prose and poetry is edited by ʿA.-R. Ḥaqiqat as Nedā-ye ḥaqq: Bargozide-ye naẓm va naṯr-e Doktor Noṣrat-Allāh-e Kāsemi, Tehran, 2006.
Biographies and obituaries.
M. Alamuti, Iran dar ʿaṣr-e Pahlavi XI and XV, London, 1993.
B. ʿĀqeli, Šarḥ-e ḥāl-e rejal-e siāsi va neẓāmi-e moʿāṣer-e Iran III, Tehran, 2001, pp. 1252-55.
ʿA.-R. Ḥaqiqat, Šāʿerān-e bozorg-e moʿāṣer az Nimā tā Šāmlu, Tehran, 2003.
S. Hušangniā, “Mardi ke noḵost az ādamhā goriḵt va baʿd az donyā,” Ruzegār-e now 16/6, 1996, pp. 58-61.
H. Mortażavi, “Dargozašt-e Doktor Noṣrat-Allāh Kāsemi,” Rahāvard 40, 1996, pp. 350-53.
Maẓāher Moṣaffā, “Goftogu bā yek šāʿer,” Ḵušeh 11, pp. 20-21.
M.-M. Movaḥḥedi, Zendegi-nāme-ye mašāhir-e rejāl-e pezeški-e moʿāṣer-e Irān/Biographies of the famous contemporary Iranian physicians I, Tehran, 1992, pp. 29-84.
M. Gasiorowski, U. S. Foreign Policy and the Shah: Building a Client State in Iran, Ithaca, N.Y., 1991.
Maẓāher Moṣaffā, “Goftogu bā yek šāʿer,” Ḵušeh 11, pp. 20-21.
E. Ṣafāʾi, Naḵost-wazirān-e Irān I, Tehran, 1972, pp. 287-323.
(Mostafa Alamouti and EIr.)
Originally Published: December 15, 2011
Last Updated: April 24, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. XV, Fasc. 6, pp. 661-663