Jim Al-Khalili

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Jim Al-Khalili

Jim Al-Khalili Royal Society.jpg
Jim Al-Khalili at the Royal Society admissions day in London, July 2018
Jameel Sadik Al-Khalili[1]

(1962-09-20) 20 September 1962 (age 56)[2]
ResidenceSouthsea, Hampshire, United Kingdom
EducationPriory School, Portsmouth[3]
Alma materUniversity of Surrey (BSc, PhD)
Known forThe Life Scientific
Spouse(s)Julie Frampton[2]
Scientific career
ThesisIntermediate Energy Deuteron Elastic Scattering from Nuclei in a Three-Body Model (1989)
Doctoral advisorJeff Tostevin[citation needed]

Jameel Sadik "Jim" Al-Khalili OBE FRS FInstP (born 20 September 1962)[2] is a British theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster. He is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey. He is a regular broadcaster and presenter of science programmes on BBC radio and television, and is a frequent commentator about science in other British media.

In 2014, Al-Khalili was named as a RISE (Recognising Inspirational Scientists and Engineers) leader by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).[6][7] He was President of the British Humanist Association between January 2013 and January 2016.[8][9][10]

Early life and education[edit]

Al-Khalili was born in Baghdad in 1962.[2] His father was an Iraqi Air Force engineer, and his English mother was a librarian.[3] Al-Khalili settled permanently in the UK in 1979.[2] After completing (and retaking) his A-levels over three years until 1982,[3] he studied physics at the University of Surrey and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1986. He stayed on at Surrey to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy degree in nuclear reaction theory, which he obtained in 1989, rather than accepting a job offer from the National Physical Laboratory.[11]

Career and research[edit]

Jim Al-Khalili talking about determinism at QED 2011

In 1989, Al-Khalili was awarded a Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) postdoctoral fellowship at University College London, after which he returned to Surrey in 1991, first as a research assistant, then as a lecturer.[12] In 1994, Al-Khalili was awarded an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Advanced Research Fellowship for five years,[13] during which time he established himself as a leading expert on mathematical models of exotic atomic nuclei. He has published widely in his field.[5][14]

Al-Khalili is a professor of physics at the University of Surrey, where he also holds a chair in the Public Engagement in Science.[15] He has been a trustee (2006-2012) and vice president (2008-2011) of the British Science Association.[16] He also held an EPSRC Senior Media Fellowship.[13]

Al-Khalili was awarded the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize for science communication for 2007[17] and elected an Honorary Fellow of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

He has been a Fellow of the Institute of Physics since 2000, when he also received the Institute's Public Awareness of Physics Award.[18] He has lectured widely both in the UK and around the world, particularly for the British Council. He is a member of the British Council Science and Engineering Advisory Group,[19] a member of the Royal Society Equality and Diversity Panel,[20] an external examiner for the Open University Department of Physics and Astronomy, a member of the Editorial Board for the open access Journal PMC Physics A, and Associate Editor of Advanced Science Letters. He is also a member of the Advisory Committee for the Cheltenham Science Festival.

In 2007, he was a judge on the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize[21] for non-fiction and has been a celebrity judge at the National Science & Engineering Competition Finals at The Big Bang Fair. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.[22] In 2013 he was awarded an Honorary Degree (DSc) from the University of London.[23]

Al-Khalili was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2018.[24]


As a broadcaster, Al-Khalili is frequently on television and radio and also writes articles for the British press.[25][26] In 2004, he co-presented the Channel 4 documentary The Riddle of Einstein's Brain, produced by Icon Films.[27] His big break as a presenter came in 2007 with Atom, a three-part series on BBC Four about the history of our understanding of the atom and atomic physics.[28] This was followed by a special archive edition of BBC Horizon, The Big Bang.[29]

In early 2009, he presented the BBC Four three-part series Science and Islam about the leap in scientific knowledge that took place in the Islamic world between the 8th and 14th centuries.[30] He has contributed to programmes ranging from Tomorrow's World, BBC Four's Mind Games, The South Bank Show to BBC One's Bang Goes the Theory.[31] In October 2011, he began a programme on famous contemporary scientists on Radio Four, called The Life Scientific.[32] The first of this series featured his interview with Sir Paul Nurse.[33]

In 2004, Al-Khalili was chosen as one of twenty-one "Faces of UK Science" for an exhibition in London's National Portrait Gallery.[34]

In 2010, Al-Khalili presented a feature on the Doctor Who DVD of The Time Monster, entitled Between Now... and Now!, discussing the science behind time travel in that particular story.[35] He presented a three-part BBC Four series on the history of chemistry called Chemistry: A Volatile History, which was nominated for a BAFTA award, as well as a documentary on chaos theory called The Secret Life of Chaos. He is also one of several presenters on Genius of Britain, a five-part series for Channel 4 shown in 2010, along with Prof. Stephen Hawking, Prof. Richard Dawkins, Sir James Dyson and Sir David Attenborough.[36]

Al-Khalili is a regular guest on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time, presented by Melvyn Bragg.[37] He has been a guest on Start The Week[38] and the Today programme. In April, 2009, he presented a three-part series called The Secret Scientists for the BBC World Service.[39] He was the Desert Island Discs guest on 14 February 2010.

Al-Khalili also hosts a regular "Jim meets..." interview series at the University of Surrey, which is published on the university's YouTube channel. Guests have included Sir David Attenborough, Lord (Robert) Winston, Professor Brian Cox and Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.[40]

In 2011, Al-Khalili hosted a three-part documentary series on BBC Four entitled Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity.[41]

In January 2012, Al-Khalili presented a Horizon special on BBC 2, which examined the latest scientific developments in the quest to discover the Higgs Boson, with preliminary results from the Large Hadron Collider experiment at CERN suggesting that the elusive particle does indeed exist. In October that same year, he started presenting The Life Scientific on BBC Radio Four,[32] a programme in which celebrated living scientists are interviewed; the first was Sir Paul Nurse.[42] He has since interviewed a series of notable scientists, including Richard Dawkins, James Lovelock, Steven Pinker, Martin Rees, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Mark Walport and Tim Hunt.

Al-Khalili has presented the following TV programmes.[25]

  • Gravity and Me: The Force That Shapes Our Lives, 90 minute documentary for BBC in 2017[43]
  • The Beginning and End of the Universe, two-part documentary series for BBC in 2016[44]
  • Britain's Nuclear secrets: Inside Sellafield, one hour documentary for BBC Scotland, 2015
  • Science in a Golden Age, six-part TV documentaries for Al Jazeera in 2015
  • The Secrets of Quantum Physics, two-part TV documentaries for BBC in 2014
  • Light and Dark, two-part TV series for BBC, October 2013
  • Order and Disorder, two-part TV series for BBC, October 2012
  • The Hunt for Higgs, one-hour TV documentary for BBC, January 2012
  • The Science of Doctor Who, four-part TV documentary for BBC America, 2012
  • Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity, three-part TV series for BBC, October 2011
  • Horizon: Fukushima: Is Nuclear Power Safe?, one-hour TV documentary for BBC Two, September 2011
  • Harry Hill's TV Burp Series 10, as Paul McCartney singing "Helter Skelter" (Avalon TV) in 2011
  • Everything and Nothing, two linked TV documentaries on Cosmology (Everything about astrophysics and the Big Bang with Nothing about quantum physics and the vacuum) for BBC4, 2011
  • Genius of Britain, five-part TV series for Channel 4, shown in May/June 2010, jointly presented by Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Robert Winston and David Attenborough
  • Chemistry: A Volatile History, three-part TV series for BBC Science Unit on the history of chemistry, shown on BBC TV in the UK, January 2010
  • The Secret Life of Chaos, one-hour TV documentary for BBC Four, shown on 14 January 2010
  • Science and Islam, three-part series TV for BBC (Oxford Scientific Films), 2009
  • Lost Horizons: The Big Bang, one-hour TV documentary for BBC Science Unit, 2008
  • Atom, three-part TV series for BBC (Oxford Scientific Films), 2007. Al-Khalili also wrote the foreword for the companion book Atom by Piers Bizony (ISBN 1840468009).
  • The Riddle of Einstein's Brain, one-hour TV documentary for Channel 4 (Icon Films) in 2004
  • "Meltdown in Chernobyl", an episode from the American documentary television series Seconds from Disaster broadcast on the National Geographic Channel in 2004.


A list of Jim Al-Khalili's peer reviewed research papers can be found on Google Scholar[5] and Scopus.[7] His published books include:

  • Al-Khalili, Jim (1999). Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines.
  • Nucleus: A Trip into the Heart of Matter (2001) (co-author)
  • Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed (2004)
  • The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance (2010)
    • a.k.a. The House of Wisdom: The Flourishing of a Glorious Civilisation and the Golden Age of Arabic Science
    • a.k.a. Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science[45]
  • Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Science (2012)[46]
  • Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology (2014) (co-author)
  • Al-Khalili, Jim (26 January 2017). Quantum Mechanics. illus. Jeff Cummins & Dan Newman. London: Ladybird Books. ISBN 978-0-7181-8627-2.
  • Al-Khalili, Jim (7 February 2019). Gravity. illus. Jeff Cummins. London: Ladybird Books. ISBN 978-0-7181-8903-7.
As editor
  • The Euroschool Lectures on Physics with Exotic Beams, Vol. I (Lecture Notes in Physics) (2004)
  • The Euroschool Lectures on Physics with Exotic Beams, Vol. II (Lecture Notes in Physics) (2006)
  • The Euroschool Lectures on Physics with Exotic Beams, Vol. III (Lecture Notes in Physics) (2008)
As consultant editor

His essays, chapters and other contributions include

  • The Collins Encyclopedia of the Universe (2001)
  • Scattering and Inverse Scattering in Pure and Applied Science (2001)
  • Quantum Aspects of Life (2008)
  • 30-second Theories: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Theories in Science (2009)

Awards and honours[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Al-Khalili lives in Southsea in Portsmouth with his wife Julie.[3] They have a son and daughter. Al-Khalili describes himself as an atheist and a humanist,[51] remarking, "as the son of a Protestant Christian mother and a Shia Muslim father, I have nevertheless ended up without a religious bone in my body".[52] He has been a supporter of Leeds United F.C. since Don Revie managed the club in the early 1970s.[53]


  1. ^ Jim Al-Khalili at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ a b c d e Anon (2018). Al-Khalili, Prof. Jameel S., (Jim). ukwhoswho.com. Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.246627. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b c d Rutherford, Adam (2019). "Jim Al-Khalili on HIS life scientific". bbc.co.uk. BBC.
  4. ^ "2011 Kelvin Medal and Prize". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Jim Al-Khalili publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  6. ^ "RISE Awards Announced". EPSRC. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  7. ^ a b Jim Al-Khalili publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  8. ^ "Jim Al-Khalili named President-elect of British Humanist Association". British Humanist Association. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  9. ^ Jim Al-Khalili at The Guardian
  10. ^ Lecture on Alan Turing from the University of Edinburgh YouTube Channel. Posted 4 June 2012. Accessed 28 April 2017.
  11. ^ Al-Khalili, Jameel (1989). Intermediate Energy Deuteron Elastic Scattering from Nuclei in a Three-Body Model (PhD thesis). University of Surrey. OCLC 556478831. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.328117. Free to read (registration required)
  12. ^ "University of Surrey: Professor Jim Al-Khalili". Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  13. ^ a b Bowater, Laura (2012). Science Communication: A Practical Guide for Scientists. p. 74.
  14. ^ Al-Khalili, Jim S. Author details, Scopus
  15. ^ "Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE, theoretical physicist, University of Surrey". The Guardian. 2 February 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  16. ^ "Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE". Royal Society. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  17. ^ Al-Khalili, Jim (21 January 2008). "The Arabic Science That Prefigured Newton". The Guardian. England. Retrieved 17 March 2009.
  18. ^ "RSA - Jim Al-Khalili". Royal Society of Arts. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  19. ^ "Biographies of Science and Engineering Advisory Group members" (PDF). British Council. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  20. ^ "Equality and Diversity Advisory Network". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  21. ^ "Judges Announcement". The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  22. ^ "No. 58729". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2008. p. 9.
  23. ^ a b "Honorary degrees recognise contributions to science". Royal Holloway University of London. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  24. ^ a b "Distinguished scientists elected as Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society". Royal Society. 9 May 2018.
  25. ^ a b Jim Al-Khalili on IMDb
  26. ^ "Jim Al-Khalili". Journalisted. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  27. ^ "C4 to unlock secrets of Einstein's brain". Broadcast. 17 June 2004. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  28. ^ Melville, Caspar (7 March 2013). "Facing the future: an interview with Jim Al-Khalili". Rationalist Association. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  29. ^ "Lost Horizons: The Big Bang". BBC Four. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  30. ^ Jha, Alok (12 January 2009). "Science Weekly: What has the Islamic world ever done for science?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  31. ^ "Bang Goes the Theory: Top five weird physics facts". BBC One. 10 July 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  32. ^ a b "The Life Scientific". Radio Four. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  33. ^ "Jim Al-Khalili's new science series starts on Radio 4". University of Surrey. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  34. ^ "Focus falls on greatest enigmas of science". The University of York. 30 April 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  35. ^ "Doctor Who Restoration Team: Myths And Legends". Purpleville.
  36. ^ "Genius of Britain". Channel 4. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  37. ^ He has been a guest on the following In Our Time episodes: Rutherford, Higgs Boson, The Graviton, The Physics of Time, The Discovery of Radiation, Maths in the Early Islamic World.
  38. ^ "Start the Week". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  39. ^ "The Secret Scientists". BBC World Service. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  40. ^ The University of Surrey's channel on YouTube
  41. ^ "Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity". BBC Four. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  42. ^ "The Life Scientific: Paul Nurse". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  43. ^ "Gravity and Me: The Force That Shapes Our Lives". BBC Four. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  44. ^ "The Beginning, The Beginning and End of the Universe". BBC Four. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  45. ^ Retitled to avoid confusion with The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization by Jonathan Lyons.
  46. ^ Heck, Peter (June 2013). "On Books". Asimov's Science Fiction. 37 (6): 108–111. Review of Paradox.
  47. ^ "RISE Awards Announced". 31 March 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  48. ^ Nicola Davis (16 June 2016). "Winners of inaugural Stephen Hawking medal announced". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  49. ^ Turnbull, Catherine (12 July 2017). "York University honours global experts". The Press. York. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  50. ^ "Honorands 2019". University of St Andrews. 28 June 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  51. ^ Jim Al-Khalili. Science Explorer: Jim Al-Khalili featured in The Life Scientific. BBC Radio 4. I find it more comfortable to say I'm an atheist, and for that I probably have someone like Dawkins to thank.
  52. ^ "It's time to herald the Arabic science that prefigured Darwin and Newton". The Guardian. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  53. ^ "Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE". British Humanist Association. Retrieved 2 November 2013.