Physics has had a number of curious figures who have not only advanced our understanding of the universe, but also pushed forward a greater understanding of complex scientific questions among the greater community at large. Think ofAlbert Einstein, Richard Feynman, andStephen Hawking, all of whom stood out from among the crowd of stereotypical physicists to present physics to the world in their distinctive styles and found an audience of non-scientists for whom their presentations strongly resonated.
Though not yet as accomplished as these iconic physicists, when it comes to a “distinctive style” then British particle physicist Brian Cox certainly fits the bill. He rose to prominence first as a member of British rock bands in the early 1990’s before ultimately transitioning to work as an experimental physicist, exploring the cutting edge of particle physics.
Though well respected among physicists, it is his work as an advocate for science communication and education in which he really stands out from the crowd. He is a popular figure in British (and world-wide) media discussing matters of scientific importance, not only in the realm of physics but also more broadly on subjects of public policy and embracing secular principles of rationality.
Birthdate: March 3, 1968
Spouse: Gia Milinovich
Brian Cox was a member of the rock band Dare in 1989 until the band split up in 1992. In 1993, he joined the UK rock band D:Ream, which had a number of hits, including the number one “Things Can Only Get Better,” which went on to be used as a political election anthem in England.
D:Ream disbanded in 1997, at which point Cox (who had been studying physics all along and earned his PhD) went on to practicing physics full time.
Brian Cox received his doctorate in physics from the University of Manchester, completing his thesis in 1998. In 2005, he was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship.
He splits his time between work at the University of Manchester and at the CERN facility in Geneva, Switzerland, home of theLarge Hadron Collider. Cox’s work is on both the ATLAS experiment and theCompact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment.
Brian Cox has not only performed extensive research, but has also worked hard to help popularize science to lay audiences, especially through repeated appearances on the BBC programs such as The Big Bang Machine (and an October 2009 appearance on The Colbert Report, following which he later twitted that it featured some of the most intelligent questions he’d ever been asked).
In 2014, Brian Cox hosted a BBC Two 5-part television miniseries, The Human Universe, which explored humanity’s place in the universe by exploring the history of our growth as a species and also tackling existential questions such as “Why are we here?” and “What is our future?” (Fans of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey would, I think, enjoy this series.) He also released a book, called The Human Universe (co-authored with Andrew Cohen), in 2014
Two of his speeches are available as TED lectures, where he explains the physics being performed (or not being performed) at the Large Hadron Collider. He has co-authored the following books with fellow British physicist Jeff Forshaw:
- Why Does E=mc2 (And Why Do We Care?) (2009)
- The Quantum Universe (And Why Anything That Can Happen, Does) (2011)
He is also a co-host of the popular BBC radio program Infinite Monkey Cage, which is released worldwide as a podcast. In this program, Brian Cox joins with British actor Robin Ince and other guests of renown (and sometimes scientific expertise) to discuss subjects of scientific interest with a comedic twist.
Awards and Recognition:
- International Fellow of The Explorer’s Club, 2002
- Lord Kelvin prize from the British Association (for his work popularizing science), 2006
- Institute of Physics’ Kelvin Prize, 2010
- Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), 2010
- Institute of Physics’ President’s medal, 2012
- Royal Society’s Michael Faraday Prize, 2012
In addition to the above awards, Brian Cox has been recognized with a variety of honorary degrees.