Even String Theorists Can Be Nice.

I just emailed Clifford Johnson, a professor at USC who specializes in string theory and gravity. More importantly he is one of the permanent bloggers at Cosmic Variance. Recently he recounted a story from his advisor at the University of Southampton. So, I started thinking, hey! that probably means Clifford, who teaches in the States, probably got his degree in England.

Previously I had had some reservations about postgraduate degrees from abroad. But I had also had the feeling that most of the big general relativity things happen in England. After all, it’s tradition.

Sir Arthur Eddington, a pacifist, quaker, humanitarian, and Chief Astronomer at the Observatory of Cambridge University, single-handedly brought Einstein’s relativity to the Allied World — proving that science transcends political boundaries even in a time of war. Anyway, it was Eddington who made Einstein famous. He not only understood and explained the theory — which, at the time, was a remarkable feat in and of itself — he also gathered the money and manpower to execute two expeditions to put GR to its first experimental test. Eddington himself led the team in South America, while another headed to Africa, both to observe the bending of light by the sun during a solar eclipse.

The rest, as they say, is history. England has continued to produce excellent relativists, and not just in the philosophical sense. Hawking and Penrose are, perhaps, the most famous. But there are also Gibbons, d’Inverno, Tod, Geroch, and so many more!

After reading Clifford’s post, I decided to email him about his Southampton experience. Minutes later I received a response.

Add Warwick, Durham, and Southampton to my English school list.