John D. Barrow

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This article is about the English theoretical physicist John David Barrow. For other uses, see John Barrow (disambiguation).
John Barrow
Born John David Barrow
(1952-11-29) 29 November 1952 (age 64)
London, England, UK

astronomer and mathematician

writer of popular science
Institutions University of Cambridge
Gresham College
University of California, Berkeley
University of Oxford
University of Sussex
Alma mater University of Durham
University of Oxford
Doctoral advisor Dennis William Sciama
Doctoral students Peter Coles
David Wands
Notable awards Templeton Prize (2006)
Michael Faraday Prize (2008)
Kelvin Prize (2009)
Dirac Medal (2015)
Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (2016)

John David Barrow FRS (born 29 November 1952) is an English cosmologist, theoretical physicist, and mathematician. He is currently Research Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Barrow is also a writer of popular science and an amateur playwright.[citation needed]


Barrow attended Barham Primary School in Wembley until 1964 and Ealing Grammar School for Boys from 1964–71 and obtained his first degree in mathematics and physics from Van Mildert College at the University of Durham in 1974.[1] In 1977, he completed his doctorate in astrophysics at Magdalen College, Oxford, under Dennis William Sciama. He was a Junior Research Lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, from 1977–81. He did two postdoctoral years as a Miller Research Fellow in astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, as a Commonwealth Lindemann Fellow (1977–8) and Miller Fellow (1980–1).

In 1981 he joined the University of Sussex and rose to the rank of Professor and Director of the Astronomy Centre. In 1999, he became Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and a fellow in Clare Hall at Cambridge University. He is Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project. From 2003–2007 he was Gresham Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, London, and he has been appointed as Gresham Professor of Geometry from 2008–2011; only one person has previously held two different Gresham chairs.[2] In 2008, the Royal Society awarded him the Faraday Prize. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (London) in 2003 and elected Fellow of the Academia Europaea in 2009. he has received Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Hertfordshire, Sussex, Durham, S. Wales and Szczecin, and is an Honorary Professor at the University of Nanjing. He was a Centenary Gifford Lecturer at the University of Glasgow in 1989.

Since 1999, he has directed the Millennium Mathematics Project (MMP) at the University of Cambridge. This is an outreach and education programme to improve the appreciation, teaching and learning of mathematics and its applications. In 2006 it was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Educational Achievement by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

In addition to having published more than 500 journal articles, Barrow has coauthored (with Frank J. Tipler) The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, a work on the history of the ideas, specifically intelligent design and teleology, as well as a treatise on astrophysics. He has also published 22 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 and Arthur Eddington.

Barrow's approach to philosophical issues posed by physical cosmology makes his books accessible to general readers. For example, Barrow introduced a memorable paradox, which he called "the Groucho Marx Effect" (see Russell-like paradoxes). Here, he quotes Groucho Marx: "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."[3] Barrow has lectured at 10 Downing Street, Windsor Castle, and the Vatican, as well as to the general public. In 2002, his play Infinities premiered in Milan, played in Valencia, and won the Premi Ubu 2002 Italian Theatre Prize.

He was awarded the 2006 Templeton Prize 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".[4] He is a member of a United Reformed Church, which he describes as teaching "a traditional theistic picture of the universe".[5]

He was awarded the Dirac Prize and Gold Medal of the Institute of Physics in 2015 and the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2016.[6]


In English:

  • (1983) The Left Hand of Creation: The Origin and Evolution of the Expanding Universe, Barrow J., and Joseph Silk, Oxford UP
  • Between Inner Space and Outer Space: Essays on the Science, Art, and Philosophy of the Origin of the Universe
  • Impossibility: Limits of Science and the Science of Limits. ISBN 0-09-977211-6
  • Material Content of the Universe
  • Pi in the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and Being. Oxford University Press, 1992, ISBN 9780198539568
  • Science and Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology and Complexity
  • Barrow, John D.; Tipler, Frank J. (1988). The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-282147-8. LCCN 87028148. [7]
  • The Artful Universe: The Cosmic Source of Human Creativity. OUP, 1995, ISBN 978-0198539964. Expanded 2005, ISBN 019280569X
  • The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe. Pantheon, 2001, ISBN 0375420991
  • The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless
  • The Origin of the Universe: To the Edge of Space and Time
  • The Universe That Discovered Itself
  • The Artful Universe Expanded 2005.
  • The World Within the World
  • Theories of Everything: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation
  • The Constants of Nature: The Numbers that Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe. 2003, ISBN 0375422218
  • 2007 New Theories of Everything.[8] Pantheon, ISBN 978-0192807212
  • Cosmic Imagery: Key Images in the History of Science. The Bodley Head, 2008, ISBN 978-0224075237
  • 100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know: Math Explains Your World. W. W. Norton, 2009, ISBN 0393070077
  • The Book of Universes: Exploring the Limits of the Cosmos. W. W. Norton, 2011, ISBN 0393081214
  • Mathletics: A Scientist Explains 100 Amazing Things About The World of Sports. W. W. Norton, 2012, ISBN 978-0393063417
  • 100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know About Maths and the Arts. Bodley Head, 2014, ISBN 978-1847922311

In other languages:

  1. Perché il Mondo è Matematico? (in Italian)

As editor:

  1. Water and Life: The Unique Properties of H2O. (ed., with Ruth M. Lynden-Bell, Simon Conway Morris, John L. Finney, Charles Harper, Jr.) CRC Press, 2010. ISBN 1-4398-0356-0
  2. Fitness of the Cosmos for Life: Biochemistry and Fine-Tuning. (eds., with S. Conway Morris, S.J. Freeland, and C.L. Harper), Cambridge UP, 2007. ISBN 978-1-10740655-1
  3. Science and Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology and Complexity, 90th Birthday Volume for John Archibald Wheeler, (ed., with P.C.W. Davies, & C. Harper), Cambridge UP, 2004. ISBN 0-521-83113-X
  4. The Physical Universe: The Interface Between Cosmology, Astrophysics and Particle Physics, (ed., with A Henriques, M Lago, M Longair), Springer-Verlag, 1991. ISBN 978-3540542933

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Durham graduate wins $1M prize". University of Durham Department of Physics. 20 March 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  2. ^ Gresham College: New Gresham Chair of Geometry.
  3. ^ Barrow, John D (1990). The World Within the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 342–343. ISBN 0-19-286108-5. 
  4. ^ Lehr, Donald (2006-03-15). "John Barrow wins 2006 Templeton Prize". John Templeton Foundation. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  5. ^ Overbye, Dennis (16 March 2006). "Math Professor Wins a Coveted Religion Award". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  6. ^ "RAS honours leading astronomers and geophysicist". RAS. 8 January 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  7. ^ French edition: L'Homme et le Cosmos (in French)
  8. ^ earlier edition(1991) Theories of Everything: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation

External links[edit]

Publications available on the Internet