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John Stewart Bell

Born: 28-Jun-1928
Birthplace: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Died: 1-Oct-1990
Location of death: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Cause of death: Cerebral Hemorrhage

Gender: Male
Religion: Anglican/Episcopalian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: Ireland
Executive summary: Bell's theorem of quantum physics

British physicist John Stewart Bell was the originator of "Bell's theorem" or "Bell's inequality". First published in 1964, Bell's theorem restated the two-quantum puzzle as a more straightforward mathematical proposition, showing that in quantum particles generated as a pair (for example, electrons or light particles known as photons) a measurement of one particle changes the same property of its paired counterpart instantaneously, even if the particles are separated by vast distances. This suggests that the two particles remain connected in some unknown manner, sharing some quality beyond space and time. "Reality must be nonlocal", Bell wrote, asserting that "the atom's measured attributes are determined not just by events happening at the actual measurement site but by events arbitrarily distant, including events outside the light cone." Seeming to defy common sense and Albert Einstein, Bell's assertion has been supported by some subsequent experiments, challenged by others, and remains controversial.

At Queens University he studied under Paul Peter Ewald, but Bell did much of his groundbreaking work on quantum physics as his hobby, while devoting his work hours to more mundane accelerator and particle physics at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). He authored a 1981 paper titled "Bertlmann's Socks and the Nature of Reality", in which the mismatched stockings of a colleague, Reinhold Bertlmann, were used as an analogy to explain the famous Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) thought experiment of 1935. He met his wife and frequent collaborator, physicist Mary Ross, when they were both working on the particle accelerator design group in England's Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, Oxfordshire. In his preface to Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics, Bell wrote, "I here renew very especially my warm thanks to Mary Bell. When I look through these papers again I see her everywhere."

His cousin, Billy Bell, was Mayor of Belfast from 1979-80, and Mayor of Lisburn from 2002-03. He is believed to be the only person to serve as Mayor of two different cities in the United Kingdom.

Father: John Bell
Mother: Annie Bell
Sister: Ruby Bell
Brother: David Bell (electrical engineer)
Brother: Robert Bell (businessman)
Wife: Mary Ross Bell (physicist, m. 1954, no children)

    High School: Belfast High School, Belfast, Ireland (1944)
    University: BS Experimental Physics, Queen's University Belfast (1948)
    University: BS Mathematical Physics, Queen's University Belfast (1949)
    University: PhD Quantum Physics, University of Birmingham (1956)

    UK Mayor Lisburn (2002-03)
    UK Mayor Belfast, Northern Ireland (1979-80)
    Hughes Medal 1989
    UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment (1949-60)
    CERN 1960-90
    Royal Society 1972
    Irish Ancestry Paternal
    Scottish Ancestry Maternal
    Risk Factors: Vegetarian

Author of books:
Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics (1987)


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