Remembering John Bell

Roman Jackiw

Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

John Bell and I met and became acquainted in 1967, when I went to CERN for a year-long research visit, soon after finishing my doctoral studies a Cornell. At that time, particle physics theory was dominated, as it happens from time-to-time, by a single idea; there was broad agreement among theorists what the important problems are and how they should be solved — these days one hardly remembers the details of that program. But attaching my scientific activity to a consensus was not my ambition; I had much admired the independent attitude of one of my research supervisors at Cornell, Ken Wilson. So I looked among the staff at CERN for someone who pursued interesting issues that were neither ’central’ nor ’important’, and I was delighted to find such a scientist in John Bell. Moreover, he was generous in giving his time; he tolerated my coming to his office and appeared willing to discuss without limit. I appreciated the magnitude of his generosity only years later when I too became installed in an office and people began coming in and taking my time to talk about things.

Full text of this paper can be downloaded here.


Article written by