Bohm, David

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BOHM, DAVID (1917–1994), U.S. physicist. Bohm was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and received his B.Sc. from Pennsylvania State University (1939) and Ph.D. in physics (1943), supervised by J. Robert *Oppenheimer initially at the California Institute of Technology and then at the University of California at Berkeley. He was assistant professor at Princeton University (1947–51) but was forced to leave after being blacklisted in the McCarthy era Communist witch hunt. Cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to name names, he left the United States and served as professor of physics at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil (1951–55), lecturer at the Haifa Technion (1955–57), and research fellow at the University of Bristol, U.K. (1957–61). He became professor of theoretical physics at Birkbeck College, University of London, until retirement in 1987 but continued to work there until his death. Bohm's first discovery in conventional physics was that electrons stripped from atoms behave in an organized manner. His early ideas on theoretical physics were set out in his book Quantum Theory (1951), which impressed Albert *Einstein and led to their working association. His collaborative work with Yakir *Aharanov (1959) produced the still controversial claim that electrons sense a nearby magnetic field even when its strength is zero. Bohm's later work, although founded on his experimental observations and interpretation of quantum mechanics, became increasingly philosophical and was influenced by his dialogue with the Indian spiritual master J. Krishnamurti. He was especially concerned with discerning patterns of cosmological order which transcend mechanistic descriptions of physics. He was a controversial figure with strong admirers and detractors. His ideas are intellectually accessible to non-specialists in his own books and F. David Peat's biography, Infinite Potential (1996).

[Michael Denman (2nd ed.)]