Professor John D. Barrow

Subject: Cosmology, mathematics and astrophysics


Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP)

Contact details:   

Research interests:

B.Sc. (Durham), D.Phil. (Oxon), D.Sc. (Herts., Sussex, Durham, S. Wales, Szczecin), FRS

John Barrow is a Professor of Mathematical Sciences in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. His principal research interests are in cosmology – the study of the past, present (and even likely future) structure of the Universe. Although he has observed on large telescopes occasionally in the past, he is a theorist, and the data that he is most interested is taken by satellites and telescopes like the Hubble, Keck and AAT instruments. At present, he has a particular interest in using astronomy to learn things about fundamental physics more accurately that can be done with laboratory or accelerator experiments, especially whether the ‘constants’ of physics might have very slow variations at the level of parts in a million over ten billion years. Like many cosmologists, he is also interested in studying varieties of the inflation phenomenon in its early stages and providing a natural explanation for why the universal expansion started to accelerate a few billion years ago. He also studies the mathematics of solutions of Einstein’s equations that describe anisotropic and non-uniform cosmological models, the possibility of singularities arising at a finite time in the cosmological evolution of simple forms of matter and the appearance of chaos near the apparent beginning of the universe’s expansion. He has also written about many aspects of the history and philosophy of cosmology and its interfaces with other subjects, especially those aspects of the universe’s structure which appear to be necessary for the evolution and persistence of life within it.

Professor Barrow is also very interested in public engagement and education. Since coming to Cambridge in 1999, he has directed and developed the Millennium Mathematics Project, an outreach programme for school students, teachers and the general public that was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for educational achievement in 2006. He was Gresham Professor of Astronomy (2003-7) and Gresham Professor of Geometry (2008-12) at Gresham College London. In addition to more than 500 research papers in astrophysics and cosmology, he has also written more than 20 books about many of the wider aspects of science and mathematics.

Select publications:

  • The Book of Universes
  • Mathletics
  • 100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Maths and the Arts
  • A play entitled Infinities which was performed in Milan under the direction of Luca Ronconi and won the Premi Ubu for best play in the Italian theatre in 2002.