Frank Close


Francis Edwin Close, OBE, FRS, FInstP (born 24 July 1945) is a particle physicist who is Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford.

Frank Close

Francis Edwin Close

(1945-07-24) 24 July 1945 (age 76)
EducationThe King's School, Peterborough
Alma materUniversity of St Andrews
Magdalen College, Oxford
Scientific career
FieldsParticle physics
InstitutionsStanford University
Daresbury Laboratory
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
University of Oxford
Exeter College, Oxford
Doctoral advisorRichard Dalitz


Close was a pupil at King's School, Peterborough (then a grammar school), where he was taught Latin by John Dexter, brother of author Colin Dexter. He took a BSc in Physics at St Andrews University graduating in 1967, before researching for a DPhil in Theoretical Physics at Magdalen College, Oxford, under the supervision of Richard Dalitz, which he was awarded in 1970. He is an atheist.[1]


In addition to his scientific research, he is known for his lectures and writings making science intelligible to a wider audience and promoting physics outreach.

From Oxford he went to Stanford University in California for two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow on the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. In 1973 he went to the Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire and then to CERN in Switzerland from 1973–5.[2] He joined the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire in 1975 as a research physicist and was latterly Head of Theoretical Physics Division from 1991. He headed the communication and public education activities at CERN from 1997 to 2000. From 2001, he was Professor of Theoretical Physics at Oxford. He was a Visiting Professor at the University of Birmingham from 1996–2002.

Close lists his recreations as writing, singing, travel, squash and Real tennis, and he is a member of Harwell Squash Club.

Honours and awardsEdit

Christmas lecturesEdit

His Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in 1993, entitled The Cosmic Onion, gave their name to one of his books. He was a Member on the Council of the Royal Institution from 1997–9. From 2000 to 2003 he gave public lectures as Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, London.


In his book, Lucifer's Legacy: The Meaning of Asymmetry, Close wrote: "Fundamental physical science involves observing how the universe functions and trying to find regularities that can be encoded into laws. To test if these are right, we do experiments. We hope that the experiments won't always work out, because it is when our ideas fail that we extend our experience. The art of research is to ask the right questions and discover where your understanding breaks down."[6]

His 2010 book Neutrino discusses the tiny, difficult-to-detect particle emitted from radioactive transitions and generated by stars. Also discussed are the contributions of John Bahcall, Ray Davis, Bruno Pontecorvo, and others who made a scientific understanding of this fundamental building block of the universe.

In The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe (2013), Close focuses on the discovery of the mass mechanism, the so-called Higgs-mechanism.[7]

In his 2019 book, Trinity: The Treachery and Pursuit of the Most Dangerous Spy in History, Close recounts the life and the espionage of Klaus Fuchs who passed atomic secrets to the Soviets during the race for development of the nuclear bomb. He concludes that "it was primarily Fuchs who enabled the Soviets to catch up with Americans".[8]

Other books include: Particle Physics: A Very Short Introduction ISBN 9780192804341, Antimatter ISBN 9780199550166 and Nothing ISBN 9780199225866.

See alsoEdit


Frank Close talks about The Infinity Puzzle on Bookbits radio.
  • Close, F. E. (1979). An Introduction to Quarks and Partons. London: Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-175150-3.
  • Close, Frank (1983). The Cosmic Onion: Quarks and the Nature of the Universe. London: Heinemann Educational. ISBN 0-435-69170-8.
    • rev. ed. The New Cosmic Onion: Quarks and the Nature of the Universe. London: Taylor & Francis. 2006. ISBN 1-58488-798-2.
  • Close, Frank; Michael Marten; Christine Sutton (1987). The Particle Explosion. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-851965-6.
    • rev. ed. The Particle Odyssey: A Journey to the Heart of the Matter. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2002. ISBN 0-19-850486-1.
  • Close, Frank (1988). End: Cosmic Catastrophe and the Fate of the Universe. London: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-65461-6. (Published in the US as Apocalypse When?)
  • Close, Frank (1990). Too Hot to Handle: The Story of the Race for Cold Fusion. London: W. H. Allen. ISBN 1-85227-206-6.
  • Close, Frank (2000). Lucifer's Legacy: The Meaning of Asymmetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-850380-6.
  • Close, Frank (2004). Particle Physics: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280434-0.
  • Close, Frank (2007). The Void. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-922590-3.
  • Close, Frank (2009). Antimatter. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-955016-6.
  • Close, Frank (2009). Nothing: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-922586-6.
  • Close, Frank (2010). Neutrino. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-957459-9.
  • Close, Frank (2011). The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-959350-7.
  • Close, Frank (2015). Half-Life: The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist or Spy. London: Basic Books. ISBN 978-1-78-074581-7.
  • Close, Frank (2017). Theories of Everything: Ideas in Profile. London: Profile Books. ISBN 978-1781257517.
  • Close, Frank (2019). Trinity: The Treachery and Pursuit of the Most Dangerous Spy in History. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0241309834.


  1. ^ When describing a total solar eclipse, Close wrote: "It was simultaneously ghastly, beautiful, supernatural. Even for a 21st century atheist, the vision was such that I thought, "If there is a heaven, this is what its entrance is like." The heavenly vision demanded music by Mozart; instead we had the crickets." Frank Close, 'Dark side of the moon', The Guardian, August 9, 2001, Guardian Online Pages, Pg. 8.
  2. ^ Close, Frank (December 2004). "A November revolution: the birth of a new particle". CERN Courier. 44 (10): 25–26.
  3. ^ "Subject Awards. Recipients of the Kelvin Medal and Prize". Institute of Physics. (main page of award)
  4. ^ "Officers of the BPhO. BPhO committee for the year 2003". University of Leicester.
  5. ^ "The Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize". The Royal Society. Retrieved 12 September 2013.
  6. ^[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Charitos, Panos. "Collecting the pieces of the Infinity Puzzle - An Interview with Frank Close". PH: Newsletter of the Physics Department. CERN.
  8. ^ "Trinity by Frank Close review – in pursuit of 'the spy of the century'". The Guardian. 17 August 2019. Retrieved 1 January 2021.

External linksEdit

  • Frank Close at
  • Frank Close at Exeter College
  • Interview in The Guardian, 1 June 2004
  • Radio 4 Museum of Curiosity 5 March 2008
  • Frank Close's page, Conville and Walsh literary agents
  • Works by Frank Close at Open Library  
  • Scientific publications of Frank Close on INSPIRE-HEP
  • Jodcast Interview with Professor Frank Close on the life, research and disappearance of Bruno Pontecorvo
  • Contributor to discussion on Eclipses for BBC Radio 4 programme In Our Time

Video clipsEdit

  • Frank Close introduces The Void on YouTube
  • Cosmic Onion lectures in 1993 on YouTube