A celebration of Basil Hiley's 80th birthday

(Under construction)

With the kind support of Taher Gozel and Bruce Fetzer

29 November 2015

A conference was held to celebrate the the 80th birthday of Basil Hiley. Basil has worked in the field of theoretical physics for, in excess of, 55 years culminating in him holding the Chair of Theoretical Physics at Birkbeck College London.

Basil was born in Yangon, Myanmar, (formerly known as Burma) on the 15 November 1935. He moved to India with his parents in 1940 to 1946. He grew up in India where his father was stationed with the British Indian Army before, during and after WWII. He returned the UK with his parents when India gained independence in 1947.

In India Basil attended many local schools of varying standards. His education did not stabilise until he returned to the UK where he attended Brockenhurst County High 1948-1956. He then became an undergraduate at Kings College London where he received a B. Sc. (Special Physics, Theoretical Option) 1st Class Honours, in 1959. He stayed on at Kings to work for his PhD in theoretical physics. The topic of his work was "Statistical Mechanics of Interacting Systems" under the supervision of Prof C. Domb. He received his PhD three years later in 1962. 

He first met David Bohm when David gave a lecture to students at Cumberland Lodge. Cumberland Lodge is a 17th-century Grade II listed country house in Windsor Great Park in the county of Berkshire whose patron is the queen. David had just been appointed to the Chair of theoretical physics at Birkbeck College, London University, and had been asked to give a lecture on quantum mechanics.

As a result of this meeting Basil applied for a lecturing position at Birkbeck and was successful. He continued as a lecturer until 1980 when he was promoted to Reader. In 1995 Basil was given the Chair of Physics until his retirement in 2001. He is now Emeritus Professor of Physics at Birkbeck till the present day. He also holds an Honorary Research position at University College London, where he is working with Dr. Robert Flack exploring weak values and their implications both theoretically and experimentally. The long term aim is to give the first evidence of the existence of the quantum potential in atomic systems. This work is supported by the Fetzer Franklin Fund. Bruce Fetzer who co-sponsored this celebration is on the board.

Basil and David worked on the deeper philisophical problems of quantum mechanics. They published many papers together resulting in their seminal work, The Undivided Universe: an Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Routledge, 397pp. (1993). Their fruitful collaboration came to an abrupt halt when David fell ill followed by his untimely death in 1992.

Basil has made several public appearances on TV and radio around the world. In Israel he took part in a TV Discussion titled ‘Quantum Theory and Reality’ in 1991. In 1993 he was invited to contribute to a programme called “Quarks and Quirks” by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In the same year he appeared on the BBC World Service's programme "Science Today". In 1999 he was part of BBC Discussions with the Artist Antony Gormley. He appeared on the BBC again in 2009 making a guest appearance on Melvyn Bragg’s “In our Time”: The Measurement problem in Physics.

Basil has published over one hundred and fifty papers in various physics journals. He also edited a collection of papers with F.D. Peat, Quantum Implications: Essays in Honour of David Bohm, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 455 pp (1987).

Basil also had a Special Issue of Foundations of Physics dedicated to him:  Basil Hiley Festschrift 43(4), (2013) 409-595.

He received the Majorana Prize “Best Person in Physics” in 2012.Previous notable holders have been Divid Mermin (Cornell) 2010, Geoffrey Chew (Berkley) 2008 and Lee Smolin (Perimeter) 2007.


The day began with an opening address by Taher Gozel our main sponsor. Taher told us of his early life and how he came study and appreciate the work of Basil Hiley and David Bohm. Opening remarks by Taher.

Prof. Nick. Monk: Works in the School of Mathematics and Statistics and Centre for Membrane Interactions and Dynamics at the University of Sheffield. Basil’s research student working on non-commutative geometry and pre-space to supply the mathematics for Bohm’s implicate/explicate order. Prof. Monk's talk

Prof. Tim. Palmer: Royal Society Research Professor in Climate Physics, Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Modelling and Predicting Climate and Professorial Fellow, Jesus College.  Met in Askloster, Sweden at a workshop sponsored by Georg Wikman where he presented his ideas on a deterministic realistic theory of quantum physics called "Invariant Set Theory", and on how the quantum potential might be considered a coarse-grained representation of the supposed fractal invariant set in the state space of the universe. Prof. Palmer's talk and slides

Prof. Maurice de Gosson: Senior Researcher at the Numerical Harmonic Analysis Group of the University of Vienna. First met in Växjö, Sweden.  Collaborated with Basil on symplectic geometry and quantum theory.  Prof. de Gosson's talk

Dr. C. Dewdney: Reader in Theoretical Physics at the University of Portsmouth. Basil’s research student who pioneered the numerical investigation of the role of the quantum potential in the quantum theory of both particles and fields.  Dr. Dewdney's talk

Prof. Harvey Brown: Professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford.  His interests are in the foundations of quantum theory and general relativity. The Birkbeck group had many extremely helpful and, at times, critical discussions on the role of the de Broglie-Bohm theory as a viable interpretation of the quantum formalism. Prof. Harvey's talk

Prof. Roger Penrose: Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, and an Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College. He was a Reader of Mathematics at Birkbeck when Basil joined the College.  He was developing spin networks and twistors during this period. The discussions focussed on radically new ways to unify quantum mechanics with general relativity. Prof. Penrose's talk




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