Saleem A. Shah was born in Allahabad, India on December 2, 1931. He earned his B.A. from the Allahabad University in 1952 and part of his master degree from Lucknow University. In 1953 he came to the United States to do graduate work at Princeton University but went on to Pennsylvania State University where he completed his master's and doctorate degrees in clinical psychology in 1955 and 1957 respectively.
From 1956 to 1959 he served as consulting psychologist at the Allegheny County Mental Health Clinic in Cumberland, Maryland and then worked at the Legal Psychiatric Services Division of the District of Columbia Health Department until 1966. In that year he joined the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as a staff member of the Center for Studies of Crime and Delinquency and two years later was appointed chief of the center (later renamed the Center for Studies for Antisocial and Violent Behavior). In 1987 Shah resigned as center chief in order to take up a new post as Senior Scientist in NIMH and devote more attention to research and consultation on issues of law and mental health. He received the Amicus Award of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, the Isaac Ray Award of American Psychiatric Association, as well as many other recognitions from the NIMH, the American Association of Correctional Psychologists, and the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration.
Shah was affiliated with numerous professional organizations which combined concerns for mental health and law. His principal affiliations included the American Association for the Advancement of Science; American Academy of Political and Social Science; American Association of Correctional Psychologists; American Psychological Association; American Psychology-Law Society; American Society of Criminology; District of Columbia Psychological Association; Maryland Psychological Association; and National Council on Crime and Delinquency. In addition he was member, associate or consultant for numerous advisory groups and review boards, including several sponsored by the American Bar Association and the A.P.A. In 1965-1966 he served on the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.
Shah, who was quite well known and respected internationally in his field, published many articles and accepted numerous invitations to give lectures. He worked closely on international psychiatry projects involving the former Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, as well as mental health projects in India. He was advisor for the World Health Organization and served on the executive committee of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health.
Saleem Shah died November 25, 1992, several days after a car accident caused by a drunken driver.