John D. Barrow

John D. Barrow

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John David Barrow FRS (born 29 November 1952, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

) is an English cosmologist
Physical cosmology
Physical cosmology, as a branch of astronomy, is the study of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and is concerned with fundamental questions about its formation and evolution. For most of human history, it was a branch of metaphysics and religion...

, theoretical physicist
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, and mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

. He is currently Research Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

. Barrow is also a writer of popular science and an amateur playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

.

Life


Barrow obtained his first degree in mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 and physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 from Van Mildert College
Van Mildert College
Van Mildert College, commonly known as Mildert, is a college of the University of Durham in England. Founded in 1965, it takes its name from William Van Mildert, Prince-Bishop of Durham from 1826 to 1836 and a leading figure in the University's 1832 foundation.Van Mildert College occupies grounds...

 at the University of Durham in 1974. In 1977, he completed his doctorate in astrophysics
Astrophysics
Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe, including the physical properties of celestial objects, as well as their interactions and behavior...

 at Magdalen College
Magdalen College, Oxford
Magdalen College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. As of 2006 the college had an estimated financial endowment of £153 million. Magdalen is currently top of the Norrington Table after over half of its 2010 finalists received first-class degrees, a record...

 in the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 under Dennis William Sciama
Dennis William Sciama
Dennis William Siahou Sciama FRS was a British physicist who, through his own work and that of his students, played a major role in developing British physics after the Second World War. He is considered as one of the fathers of modern cosmology.-Life:Sciama was born in Manchester, England...

. He did two postdoctoral years in astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 at the University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

.

In 1981 he joined the University of Sussex
University of Sussex
The University of Sussex is an English public research university situated next to the East Sussex village of Falmer, within the city of Brighton and Hove. The University received its Royal Charter in August 1961....

 and rose to the rank of Professor. In 1999, he became Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and a fellow in Clare Hall
Clare Hall, Cambridge
Clare Hall is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. It is a college for advanced study, admitting only postgraduate students.Informality is a defining value at Clare Hall and this contributes to its unique character...

 at Cambridge University. He is Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project
Millennium Mathematics Project
The Millennium Mathematics Project was set up within the University of Cambridge in 1999 as a joint project between the Faculties of Mathematics and Education...

. From 2003–2007 he was Gresham Professor of Astronomy
Gresham Professor of Astronomy
The Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, London, gives free educational lectures to the general public. The college was founded for this purpose in 1596 / 7, when it appointed seven professors; this has since increased to eight and in addition the college now has visiting professors.The...

 at Gresham College
Gresham College
Gresham College is an institution of higher learning located at Barnard's Inn Hall off Holborn in central London, England. It was founded in 1597 under the will of Sir Thomas Gresham and today it hosts over 140 free public lectures every year within the City of London.-History:Sir Thomas Gresham,...

, London, and he has been appointed as Gresham Professor of Geometry
Gresham Professor of Geometry
The Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, London, gives free educational lectures to the general public. The college was founded for this purpose in 1596 / 7, when it appointed seven professors; this has since increased to eight and in addition the college now has visiting professors.The...

 from 2008–2011; only one person has previously held two different Gresham chairs. In 2008, the Royal Society awarded him the Faraday Prize.

In addition to having published more than 400 journal articles, Barrow has coauthored (with Frank J. Tipler
Frank J. Tipler
Frank Jennings Tipler is a mathematical physicist and cosmologist, holding a joint appointment in the Departments of Mathematics and Physics at Tulane University. Tipler has authored books and papers on the Omega Point, which he claims is a mechanism for the resurrection of the dead. It has been...

) The Anthropic Cosmological Principle
Anthropic principle
In astrophysics and cosmology, the anthropic principle is the philosophical argument that observations of the physical Universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it. Some proponents of the argument reason that it explains why the Universe has the age and the fundamental...

, a work on the history of the ideas, specifically intelligent design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

 and teleology
Teleology
A teleology is any philosophical account which holds that final causes exist in nature, meaning that design and purpose analogous to that found in human actions are inherent also in the rest of nature. The word comes from the Greek τέλος, telos; root: τελε-, "end, purpose...

, as well as a treatise on astrophysics
Astrophysics
Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe, including the physical properties of celestial objects, as well as their interactions and behavior...

. He has also published 17 books for general readers, beginning with his 1983 The Left Hand of Creation. His books summarise the state of the affairs of physical questions, often in the form of compendia of a large number of facts assembled from the works of great physicists, such as Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, OM, FRS was an English theoretical physicist who made fundamental contributions to the early development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics...

 and Arthur Eddington.

Barrow's approach to philosophical
Philosophy of science
The philosophy of science is concerned with the assumptions, foundations, methods and implications of science. It is also concerned with the use and merit of science and sometimes overlaps metaphysics and epistemology by exploring whether scientific results are actually a study of truth...

 issues posed by physical cosmology
Physical cosmology
Physical cosmology, as a branch of astronomy, is the study of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and is concerned with fundamental questions about its formation and evolution. For most of human history, it was a branch of metaphysics and religion...

 makes his books accessible to general readers. For example, Barrow introduced a memorable paradox
Paradox
Similar to Circular reasoning, A paradox is a seemingly true statement or group of statements that lead to a contradiction or a situation which seems to defy logic or intuition...

, which he called "the Groucho Marx Effect" (see Russell-like paradoxes). Here, he quotes Groucho Marx
Groucho Marx
Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx was an American comedian and film star famed as a master of wit. His rapid-fire delivery of innuendo-laden patter earned him many admirers. He made 13 feature films with his siblings the Marx Brothers, of whom he was the third-born...

: "I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member". Applying this to problems in cosmology, Barrow states: "A universe simple enough to be understood is too simple to produce a mind capable of understanding it." That is, the better we understand the problem, the more likely it is to be oversimplified. Conversely, the closer we get to a description of reality, the more complex and incomprehensible the description becomes. There would be few if any fields of study in which this paradox does not apply.

Barrow has lectured at 10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street, colloquially known in the United Kingdom as "Number 10", is the headquarters of Her Majesty's Government and the official residence and office of the First Lord of the Treasury, who is now always the Prime Minister....

, Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, notable for its long association with the British royal family and its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I it...

, the Vatican
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

, and to the general public. In 2002, his play Infinities premiered in Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

, played in Valencia
Valencia (city in Spain)
Valencia or València is the capital and most populous city of the autonomous community of Valencia and the third largest city in Spain, with a population of 809,267 in 2010. It is the 15th-most populous municipality in the European Union...

, and won the Premi Ubu 2002 Italian Theatre Prize.

He was awarded the 2006 Templeton Prize
Templeton Prize
The Templeton Prize is an annual award presented by the Templeton Foundation. Established in 1972, it is awarded to a living person who, in the estimation of the judges, "has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical...

 for "Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities" for his "writings about the relationship between life and the universe, and the nature of human understanding [which] have created new perspectives on questions of ultimate concern to science and religion". He is a member of a United Reformed Church
United Reformed Church
The United Reformed Church is a Christian church in the United Kingdom. It has approximately 68,000 members in 1,500 congregations with some 700 ministers.-Origins and history:...

, which he describes as teaching "a traditional deistic picture of the universe".

Books


In English:
  1. Cosmic Imagery: Key Images in the History of Science. ISBN 978-0224075237
  2. New Theories of Everything. ISBN 978-0192807212
  3. Between Inner Space and Outer Space: Essays on the Science, Art, and Philosophy of the Origin of the Universe
  4. Impossibility: Limits of Science and the Science of Limits. ISBN 0-09-977211-6
  5. Material Content of the Universe
  6. Pi in the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and Being
  7. Science and Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology and Complexity
  8. The Artful Universe: The Cosmic Source of Human Creativity
  9. The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe
  10. The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless
  11. The Left Hand of Creation: The Origin and Evolution of the Expanding Universe
  12. The Origin of the Universe: To the Edge of Space and Time
  13. The Universe That Discovered Itself
  14. The World Within the World
  15. Theories of Everything: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation
  16. The Constants of Nature: The Numbers that Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe
  17. 100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know


In other languages:
  1. L'Homme et le Cosmos (in French)
  2. Perché il Mondo è Matematico? (in Italian)

External links



Publications available on the Internet