Graham Farmelo is biographer and science writer, based in London, UK. He is currently researching the authorised biography of Stephen Hawking, having recently published ‘The Universe Speaks in Numbers’, a popular account of the relationship between theoretical physics and pure mathematics.
After graduating from the University of Liverpool in 1977 with a PhD in particle physics phenomenology, he was given tenure at the Open University in the UK (the world’s largest distance-teaching establishment in higher education). In 1990, after a sabbatical at Northeastern University – where he remains an Adjunct Professor – he moved to the Science Museum, London, where was head of contemporary science exhibitions and programs. He was responsible for the vision of the Museum’s Wellcome Wing, the world’s largest museum space devoted entirely to contemporary science, and was founding director of the Dana Centre, a facility for public engagement specifically for adults.
Among his specialties is the envisioning and direction of inter-disciplinary conferences on the role of science museums in cultural life and the public understanding of research. Most recent of these conferences was ‘Closing the Gap’ in Boston (2007), preceded by ‘The Public Understanding of Research’ in St Paul (2002) and ‘Here and Now’ in London (1997). He has co-edited several collections of essays on science engagement in modern museums and science centres, notably ‘Creating Connections’ (2004)
While at the Science Museum, he edited the essay collection ‘It Must Be Beautiful: great equations of modern science’, featuring pieces by leading scientists and historians, notably Peter Galison, Robert May, John Maynard-Smith, Roger Penrose, Steven Weinberg and Frank Wilczek. The book became a science best-seller in the UK and the US.
In 2003, Farmelo left the Science Museum and became a consultant in science engagement, working mainly with research institutions and museums in Europe and North America. He also began to work on his biography of Paul Dirac, ‘The Strangest Man’, which won the LA Times Prize for Science Writing (2010), the Costa Prize for Biography (2009) and was Physics World book of the year in 2009. In 2013, he published ‘Churchill’s Bomb’, a multi-viewpoint account of the early development of nuclear weapons, featuring Winston Churchill and about twenty nuclear scientists. Both books were written mainly at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, where he was a Director’s visitor every summer since 2004. He researched his latest book at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, where he was appointed a Bye-Fellow in 2009.
Farmelo is a frequent contributor to UK media on issues in contemporary science, he has written regularly for many national newspapers and magazines, including ‘Scientific American’, ‘Nature’ and ‘New Scientist’. Also, he has frequently appeared on BBC radio and television, and has lectured on physics all over the world over the past thirty years, notably on the life and work of Paul Dirac and the early history of quantum mechanics.
In 2011, he was appointed Honorary Fellow of the British Science Association, and a year later won the Kelvin Prize and Medal for outstanding contributions to the public understanding of physics.