Charles H. Bennett - Candidate for Vice President

IBM Fellow and Research Staff Member
IBM Research Division, T.J. Watson Research Center


The volunteer officers and staff of APS whom I have met over the last two years are smart, generous, and experienced. With their help APS is already doing many of the things it can and should be doing. Many of those things are the same as if we didn't have a pandemic: making physics an attractive and welcoming profession for every kind of person and at every career stage; protecting international scientific cooperation from short-sighted nationalistic interference, and, in concert with our sister organizations in other disciplines, showing the public how inspiring, fun, and, to put it mildly, useful science is. The other acute crisis, precipitated by the killing of George Floyd, is not so much a crisis as an opportunity for society to overcome its hysteresis and start following the 50+ year old recommendations of the Kerner Commission. The social sciences have a lot to teach about how to get from a dysfunctional society beset by perverse incentives to one with enough security and peace of mind for everyone that people can begin to trust their neighbors, their government, and their experts. But the physical sciences can help indirectly, by reminding us how high the stakes are. There are probably at least 1020 planets within the observable universe, but the nearest other civilization may be so far away that we will never know of it, nor it of us. What greater incentive can there be to take care of the one we have?

Most of my experience with scientific governance has been with the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), not an open-membership society like the APS. Together with the associated National Research Council, it has provided a long stream of authoritative advice to the US government on science and public policy, has done some effective public outreach on matters such as vaccine safety, climate change, and the utility of social science research, and has had some success in increasing its demographic, institutional, and international diversity. It has considered and adopted a scientific code of conduct, amending its rules to permit expulsion for severe violations of it.

If elected, I will learn from my many wise APS colleagues and staff, contribute my own opinions, and try with their help to fulfill the goals of the Mission Statement. Though I have little administrative experience, some competences I can offer are a long career working for an industrial laboratory, and a lot of experience communicating with scientists and laypeople in many parts of the world. At the NAS I learned that good governance of a learned society requires a broad perspective not only geographically but in time, navigating rare opportunities for constructive change on a scale of days and weeks while remembering that, like our sincere and competent forbears a century ago, we cannot escape being creatures of our times, some of whose beliefs and practices will be seen ludicrous or shameful a century from now.

Educational History

  • Postdoc, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center (1972-73)
  • Postdoc, Argonne National Laboratory (1971-72)
  • PhD, Harvard University (1971)
  • BA, Brandeis University (1964)
  • Croton-Harmon High School (1960)

URL for Full Bio or CV

Top 5 Honors, Awards, or Recognition

  • IEEE Shannon Lecture (2020)
  • Wolf Prize in Physics (2018)
  • International Center for Theoretical Physics Dirac Medal (2017)
  • Micius Quantum Prize (2019)
  • National Academy of Sciences (1997)

Most Recent APS Volunteer History

  • APS Council Steering Committee
  • APS Council Representative from Division of Quantum Information

Membership in Other Societies

  • AAAS
  • IEEE Information Theory
  • National Academy of Sciences, chair (2014-17) of Class III Engineering & Applied Physical Sciences

Other Relevant Experience

  • CIFAR advisory committee, Program committees of QIP, QCRYPT, IBM & Niels Bohr Workshops on Quantum information in cosmology. Much outreach experience with student and lay audiences in Europe, South America, Africa, East and South Asia.

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Charles H. Bennett