Jim Al-Khalili

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Jim Al-Khalili
Jim Al-Khalili at the Royal Society admissions day in London, July 2018
Jameel Sadik Al-Khalili[3]

(1962-09-20) 20 September 1962 (age 61)[4]
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
EducationPriory School, Portsmouth[5]
Alma materUniversity of Surrey (BSc, PhD)
Known forThe Life Scientific
SpouseJulie Frampton[4]
Scientific career
ThesisIntermediate Energy Deuteron Elastic Scattering from Nuclei in a Three-Body Model (1989)

Jameel Sadik "Jim" Al-Khalili CBE FRS HonFREng FInstP (Arabic: جميل صادق الخليلي; born 20 September 1962[4]) is an Iraqi-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 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 Humanists UK between January 2013 and January 2016.[8][9][10]

Early life and education[edit]

Al-Khalili was born in Baghdad in 1962.[4] His father was an Iraqi Air Force engineer, and his English mother was a librarian.[5] Al-Khalili settled permanently in the United Kingdom in 1979.[4] After completing (and retaking) his A-levels over three years until 1982,[5] 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.[2][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 of London 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 2012, he delivered the Gifford Lectures on Alan Turing: Legacy of a Code Breaker at the University of Edinburgh.[23] In 2013 he was awarded an Honorary Degree (DSc) from the University of London.[24] Al-Khalili was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2018[25] and elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2023.[26]

He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2021 Birthday Honours for services to science and public engagement in STEM.[27]


As a broadcaster, Al-Khalili is frequently on television and radio and also writes articles for the British press.[28][29] In 2004, he co-presented the Channel 4 documentary The Riddle of Einstein's Brain, produced by Icon Films.[30] 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.[31] This was followed by a special archive edition of Horizon, "The Big Bang".[32]

In early 2009, Al-Khalili 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.[33] 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.[34] In 2010 he presented the BBC documentary on the history of chemistry, Chemistry: A Volatile History.[35] In October 2011, he began a programme on famous contemporary scientists on Radio Four, called The Life Scientific.[36] The first of this series featured his interview with Sir Paul Nurse.[37] He has since interviewed a series of notable scientists, including Richard Dawkins, Alice Roberts, James Lovelock, Steven Pinker, Martin Rees, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Mark Walport and Tim Hunt, and he has himself been interviewed on the show by Adam Rutherford.

Al-Khalili 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.[38] In 2011, Al-Khalili hosted a three-part documentary series on BBC Four entitled Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity.[39] In 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.

Awards and honours[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Al-Khalili lives in Southsea, Portsmouth, with his wife Julie.[5] They have a son and daughter. Al-Khalili describes himself as an atheist and a humanist,[45] 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".[46] Al-Khalili became vice president of Humanists UK in 2016 after stepping down as its president.[47] He is also a patron of Guildford-based educational, cultural and social community hub, The Guildford Institute.[48]



A list of Jim Al-Khalili's peer reviewed research papers can be found on Google Scholar[2] 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)
  • Al-Khalili, Jim (2004). Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed.
  • 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[49]
  • Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Science (2012)[50]
  • 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.
  • Al-Khalili, Jim (10 March 2020). The World According to Physics. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-18230-8.
  • Al-Khalili, Jim (5 April 2022). The Joy of Science. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-21157-2.
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
  • Al-Khalili, Jim (8 June 2004). Invisible Worlds: Exploring the Unseen. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-84342-9.

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)

Jim Al-Khalili has written one science fiction novel:


  1. ^ "2011 Kelvin Medal and Prize". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Jim Al-Khalili publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  3. ^ Jim Al-Khalili at the Mathematics Genealogy Project Edit this at Wikidata
  4. ^ a b c d e Anon (2018). "Al-Khalili, Prof. Jameel S., (Jim)". Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). Oxford: A & C Black. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.246627. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ a b c d Rutherford, Adam (2019). "Jim Al-Khalili on HIS life scientific". BBC.
  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. Retrieved 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 access icon (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. John Wiley & Sons. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-118-40666-3.
  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. Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  19. ^ "Biographies of Science and Engineering Advisory Group members" (PDF). British Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. 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. ^ "Gifford Lectures". ed.ac.uk. University of Edinburgh.
  24. ^ a b "Honorary degrees recognise contributions to science". Royal Holloway University of London. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  25. ^ a b "Distinguished scientists elected as Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society". Royal Society. 9 May 2018.
  26. ^ "Royal Academy of Engineering welcomes 73 new Fellows". Retrieved 4 October 2023.
  27. ^ a b "No. 63377". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2021. p. B9.
  28. ^ Jim Al-Khalili at IMDb
  29. ^ "Jim Al-Khalili". Journalisted. Archived from the original on 14 August 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  30. ^ "C4 to unlock secrets of Einstein's brain". Broadcast. 17 June 2004. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  31. ^ Melville, Caspar (7 March 2013). "Facing the future: an interview with Jim Al-Khalili". Rationalist Association. Archived from the original on 11 August 2020. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  32. ^ "Lost Horizons: The Big Bang". BBC Four. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  33. ^ Jha, Alok (12 January 2009). "Science Weekly: What has the Islamic world ever done for science?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  34. ^ "Bang Goes the Theory: Top five weird physics facts". BBC One. 10 July 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  35. ^ Docherty, P. "Can we have some more?" Nature Chem 2, 701 (2010)
  36. ^ "The Life Scientific". Radio Four. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  37. ^ "Jim Al-Khalili's new science series starts on Radio 4". University of Surrey. 7 October 2011. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  38. ^ The University of Surrey's channel on YouTube
  39. ^ "Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity". BBC Four. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  40. ^ "RISE Awards Announced". 31 March 2014. Archived from the original on 2 October 2017. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  41. ^ Nicola Davis (16 June 2016). "Winners of inaugural Stephen Hawking medal announced". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  42. ^ Turnbull, Catherine (12 July 2017). "York University honours global experts". The Press. York. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  43. ^ "Honorands 2019". University of St Andrews. 28 June 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  44. ^ "PROFESSOR JIM AL-KHALILI OBE". The Asian Awards. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  45. ^ 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.
  46. ^ "It's time to herald the Arabic science that prefigured Darwin and Newton". The Guardian. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  47. ^ "Humanists UK Patron: Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE". Humanists UK. Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  48. ^ "About: Find out more about the Guildford Institute and its mission".
  49. ^ Retitled to avoid confusion with The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization by Jonathan Lyons.
  50. ^ Heck, Peter (June 2013). "On Books". Asimov's Science Fiction. 37 (6): 108–111. Review of Paradox.