Professor Brian Cox OBE
Physicist, former pop star, television presenter and distinguished supporter of Humanism
I was sent to Sunday school for a few weeks but I didn’t like getting up on Sunday mornings. But some of my friends are religious. I don’t have a strong view on religion, other than illogical religion. Young earth creationism, for example: bollocks.
(Observer interview, March 2010)
Born in 1968, Brian Cox was educated at Hulme Grammar School, Oldham, before studying at the University of Manchester, where he was awarded a first class honours degree in physics.
In 1989 Brian Cox was a member of the rock band Dare, and in 1993, while still studying, he joined the band D:Ream. They had several hits in the UK charts, including a number one hit, “Things Can Only Get Better”, later used as a New Labour election anthem. He is a regular contributor to the BBC 6 Music Breakfast Show with Shaun Keaveny.
A year after D:Ream disbanded in 1997, Cox was awarded his PhD degree in high energy particle physics at the University of Manchester, based on his thesis drawn from work he did for the H1 experiment at the particle accelerator HERA at the DESY laboratory in Hamburg. He is a Royal Society University Research Fellow based in the Particle Physics group at the University of Manchester, where he holds a chair in Particle Physics. He currently works on the ATLAS experiment at CERN in Geneva, and his main research interest is a collaborative project aimed at upgrading ATLAS and CMS with forward proton detectors 420m away from the interaction points. He has worked at the H1 experiment at DESY in Hamburg, and the D0 experiment at the Tevatron at Fermilab, Chicago.
Professor Cox is probably best known to the public as the presenter of a number of science programmes for the BBC, and has received many awards for his efforts to publicise science. In 2002 he was elected an International Fellow of The Explorers Club and in 2006 he received the British Association Lord Kelvin Award for this work. His television programmes include “In Einstein’s Shadow”, the BBC Horizon series “Large Hadron Collider and the Big Bang”, “What On Earth Is Wrong With Gravity,” “Do You Know What Time It Is?” and “Can We Make a Star on Earth?” and in 2010 “Wonders of the Solar System”. He was the science advisor for the sci-fi film “Sunshine” and was featured on the Discovery Channel special “Megaworld: Switzerland”. He also gives regular lectures on the LHC.
In April 2010 he gave the BHA’s Voltaire Lecture on “The Value of Big Science: CERN, the LHC and the Exploration of the Universe”, persuasively rebutting the idea that science is not enough to fulfil people’s “spiritual needs”, to satisfy our sense of wonder, or to find purpose or meaning. For some, he said, “science doesn’t deliver and they need to fill in the unknown with something imaginary”, but this, he argued, is completely unnecessary. He also demonstrated that the UK is a world leader in science and spoke of the threats to this leadership, especially from cuts to the UK science budget – which is in fact a tiny fraction of national spending. He concluded: “Science is clearly economically valuable and clearly spiritually valuable. I don’t see why you would need anything else.”
He was awarded an OBE for services to science in June 2010.
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