Jim Al-Khalili: Wikis


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Jim Al-Khalili

Jim Al-Khalili O.B.E
Born 20 September 1962 (1962-09-20) (age 47)
Baghdad, Iraq
Residence Southsea, Hampshire
Nationality British
Fields Physicist
Institutions University of Surrey
University College London
Alma mater University of Surrey
Doctoral advisor Ronald C. Johnson
Notable awards Michael Faraday Prize

Jim Al-Khalili OBE (Arabic: جميل الخليلي‎, born 20 September 1962) is an Iraqi-born British professor of theoretical physics, author and broadcaster.


Early life and education

Born in Baghdad in 1962 to an Iraqi father and English mother, Al-Khalili studied physics at the University of Surrey. He graduated with a B.Sc. degree in 1986 and stayed on to pursue a Ph.D. degree in nuclear reaction theory, which he obtained in 1989. In that year he was awarded a Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) postdoctoral fellowship at University College London. He returned to Surrey in 1991, first as a research assistant then lecturer.

Despite his work championing the importance of the scientific contributions of the medieval Islamic empire, Al-Khalili has stated that his interest in Islam itself is 'cultural rather than spiritual'.[1]

He currently divides his time between academia (lecturing and research in theoretical physics) and communicating science to a wider public through his writing and broadcasting. For an academic, his love of Leeds United often strikes an incongruous note. He is a committed "white" since he began following the great Don Revie team of the early 70's.

Career in physics

In 1994, Al-Khalili was awarded an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Advanced Research Fellowship for five years, 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].

Al-Khalili is now a professor of physics at the University of Surrey where he also holds a chair in the Public Engagement in Science. He is a Trustee and Vice President of the British Science Association.[3] He currently holds an EPSRC Senior Media Fellowship.[4]

In 2004 he was chosen as one of twenty-one "Faces of UK Science" on permanent exhibition in London’s National Portrait Gallery.[5] He was awarded the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize for science communication for 2007[6] 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. He has lectured widely both in the UK and around the world, particularly for the British Council. He is currently a member of the British Council Science and Engineering Advisory Group, a member of Royal Society Equality and Diversity Panel, an external examiner for Open University Department of Physics and Astronomy, a member of Editorial Board for the open access Journal PMC Physics A and associate editor of Advanced Science Letters. He is also a member of Advisory Committee for Cheltenham Science Festival. In 2007, he was a judge on the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.[7]


As a broadcaster, Al-Khalili appears regularly on television and radio and writes regular articles for the British press[8]. In 2004, he co-presented the Channel 4 documentary The Riddle of Einstein's Brain, produced by Icon Films[9]. 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.[10] This was followed by a special archive edition of BBC Horizon, The Big Bang. 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.[11]. 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. In 2010, he presents a new BBC Four three part series called Chemistry: A Volatile History on the history of chemistry 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, five-part series for Channel 4, to be shown in 2010, along with Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, James Dyson and David Attenborough.

Al-Khalili is a regular guest on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time, presented by Melvyn Bragg.[12] He has been a guest on Start The Week and the Today programme. In April, 2009, he presented a three-part series called The Secret Scientists for the BBC World Service. He was the Desert Island Discs guest on 14 February 2010.

Published works



Popular science books by Al-Khalili:-

  • Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines (1999, ISBN 0750305606)
  • Nucleus: A Trip into the Heart of Matter (2001, ISBN 0801868602)
  • Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed (2003, ISBN 1841882380)

These have, between them, been translated into thirteen languages.

Consultant editor

  • Invisible Worlds: Exploring the Unseen (2004, ISBN 0297843427)


  • The Collins Encyclopedia of the Universe (2001, ISBN 0007105851).
  • Scattering and inverse scattering in Pure and Applied Science (2001, ISBN 0126137609).
  • Quantum Aspects of Life (2008, ISBN 1848162677).
  • 30-second Theories: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Theories in Science (2009, ISBN 184831129X).

Forthcoming title

  • The House of Wisdom and the Legacy of Arabic Science (to be published by Penguin Press in the Autumn of 2010 ).


  • The Riddle of Einstein’s Brain, one-hour TV documentary for Channel 4 (Icon Films) in 2004
  • Atom, three-part TV series for BBC (Oxford Scientific Films), 2007 (BBC page)
    • Al-Khalili wrote the foreword for the companion book Atom by Piers Bizony ISBN 1840468009
  • Lost Horizons: The Big Bang, one-hour TV documentary for BBC Science Unit, 2008
  • Science and Islam, three-part series TV for BBC (Oxford Scientific Films), 2009
  • The Secret Life of Chaos, one hour TV documentary for BBC Four, shown on 14 January 2010
  • Chemistry: A Volatile History, three-part TV series for BBC Science Unit on the history of chemistry, being shown on BBC TV in the UK, January 2010
  • Genius of Britain, five-part TV series for Channel 4, to be shown in 2010, jointly presented with Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Robert Winston and David Attenborough


  1. ^ It's time to herald the Arabic science that prefigured Darwin and Newton, The Guardian 30 January 2008, accessed 19 February 2010.
  2. ^ List of his scientific papers on Google Scholar
  3. ^ Council of the British Science Association
  4. ^ EPSRC profile.
  5. ^ Portrait page at the National Portrait Gallery
  6. ^ Press release from the Royal Society
  7. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 58729, p. 9, 14 June 2008.
  8. ^ http://www.journalisted.com/jim-alkhalili
  9. ^ Current and Past Productions of Icon Films.
  10. ^ Atom for BBC Four announcement.
  11. ^ Science and Islam for BBC Four
  12. ^ 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.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Jim Al-Khalili OBE (born 20 September 1962) is a British theoretical nuclear physicist, academic, author and broadcaster.


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