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Jacob Bekenstein

Jacob Bekenstein
Born May 1, 1947 (1947-05-01) (age 62)
Mexico City, Mexico
Residence Jerusalem, Israel
Fields Theoretical physics
Institutions Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Alma mater Polytechnic University of New York
Doctoral advisor John Wheeler
Known for Black Hole Thermodynamics
Notable awards Rothschild Prize in Physics
Israel National Prize

Jacob David Bekenstein (Hebrew: יעקב בקנשטיין) (born May 1, 1947) is a physicist who has contributed to the foundation of black hole thermodynamics and to other aspects of the connections between information and gravitation.



Bekenstein was born in Mexico City, Mexico to Jewish parents. He has been Arnow Professor of Astrophysics at Ben-Gurion University and is now Polak Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and of The World Jewish Academy of Sciences.


Bekenstein received his undergraduate education in the Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, New York. He received his PhD from Princeton University in 1972, supervised by John Wheeler.

Major contributions to physics

In 1972, Bekenstein was the first to suggest that black holes should have a well-defined entropy. Bekenstein also formulated the generalized second law of thermodynamics, black hole thermodynamics, for systems including black holes. Both contributions were affirmed when Stephen Hawking proposed the existence of Hawking radiation two years later. It should be noted that Hawking had initially opposed Bekenstein's idea.

Based on his black-hole thermodynamics work, Bekenstein also demonstrated the Bekenstein bound: there is a maximum to the amount of information that can potentially be stored in a given volume, and that this maximum is proportional to the area that bounds this volume and not to the volume itself (related to the holographic principle).

In 1982, Bekenstein was the first person to develop a rigorous framework to generalize the laws of electromagnetism to handle inconstant physical constants. His framework replaces the fine structure constant by a scalar field. However, this framework for changing constants did not incorporate gravity.

In 2004, Bekenstein greatly boosted Mordehai Milgrom’s theory of Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) by developing a relativistic version. It is known as TeVeS for Tensor/Vector/Scalar and it introduces three different fields in space time to replace the one gravitational field.


  • In 2005, Bekenstein was awarded Israel Prize, for physics.
  • He is also a recipient of the Rothschild Prize in Physics.

See also




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