The David Bohm Papers

About David Bohm

Born in Pennsylvania in 1917, Bohm started his academic career studying for his Ph.D. under J.R.Oppenheimer in 1943. He then worked on the Manhattan Project with Professor H. Massey, who led the British delegation of physicists to the WWII project to develop the first atomic bomb. He was appointed Assistant Professor at Princeton University where he began discussion with Albert Einstein. However his position was thrown into jeopardy in 1950 after allegations about were made against him during during the infamous McCarthy Witch Hunt.

During the war Bohm had been a member of the Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists and Technicians (FAECT) trade union. In 1949, as Cold War tensions increased, the Committee on Un-American Activities began investigating members of FAECT and, because he had also briefly been a member of the Communist Party, Bohm was called to testify before the Committee. He refused to give evidence against colleagues, was charged with Contempt of Congress and arrested. He was acquitted in May 1951, but nevertheless, he was banned from the Princeton campus and his contract was not renewed. It was during this period that he developed his pioneering ideas on plasma physics.

Bohm left for the University of São Paulo, Brazil in 1951, where the US Government confiscated his passport. He took up Brazilian nationality allowing him to move to Israel. He then obtained a research position at Bristol before finally, taking the Chair of Theoretical Physics at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Physics

David Bohm made significant contributions to physics, particularly in the area of quantum mechanics. Early in his career he discovered the electron phenomenon now known as 'Bohm diffusion'. His first book, Quantum Theory (1951), was well-received, by Einstein among others. However, he was unsatisfied with the orthodox interpretation of quantum theory and began to develop his own approach, expressed in his second book Causality and Chance in Modern Physics (1957). In 1959, with Yakir Aharonov, he discovered the 'Aharonov-Bohm effect', first predicted by two Birkbeck physicists, Professor W. Ehrenberg and Dr R. Siday. This effect shows how a vacuum could produce striking physical effects. His third book on physics, The Special Theory of Relativity, was published in 1965. His fourth, and final book was, The Undivided Universe: an ontological interpretation of quantum theory, co-authored with Basil Hiley. Unfortunately it first appeared in print in 1993, the year after Bohm's death.

Philosophy

David Bohm was a philosopher as well as a scientist. In 1959 he was struck by how his own ideas on quantum mechanics meshed with the thoughts of the Indian philosopher Krishnamurti. The two first met in 1961 and over the following years had many conversations. The books Fragmentation and Wholeness (1976), Wholeness and the Implicate Order (1980), Science, Order and Creativity (1987) and Changing consciousness : exploring the hidden source of the social, political, and environmental crises facing our world, co-authored with Mark Edwards (1991) include Bohm’s philosophical thoughts as well as his physics.

Society

In his later years, Bohm developed the technique of Dialogue, in which a group of individuals engage in constructive verbal interaction with each other. He believed that if carried out on a sufficiently wide scale this technique could help overcome fragmentation in society. Bohm led a number of Dialogues in the 1980s and 1990s, the most well-known being those held at Ojai Grove School in California.

David Bohm was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1990 and died in 1992.