Northern Ireland

John Bell: Belfast street named after physicist who proved Einstein wrong

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Media captionBell's Theorem Crescent was unveiled at a launch in Titanic Quarter on Thursday morning

Belfast City Council has named a street after John Stewart Bell, one of Northern Ireland's most eminent scientists.

The street in Belfast's Titanic Quarter has been named Bell's Theorem Crescent.

He is regarded as one of the 20th Century's greatest physicists, and was believed to have been in line for a Nobel Prize in Physics when he died in 1990 from a stroke.

Fifty years ago, the Belfast scientist proved Albert Einstein wrong.

Image copyright Queens University Belfast
Image caption John Stewart Bell died in 1990 before he could be awarded the Nobel Prize

Bell's Theorem, more formally known as 'On the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox', demonstrated that Einstein's views on quantum mechanics - the behaviour of very small things like atoms and subatomic particles - were incorrect.

His theory continues to have a lasting impact on modern physics, and is said to have laid the foundation for quantum information technology.

Prof Roger Downer of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), said: "John Stewart Bell is a titan of modern science whose theories on quantum physics are shaping some of the most exciting technological developments of the 21st Century.

Image caption John Bell's brother and sister joined Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon for the official unveiling at Titanic Quarter

"Northern Ireland has an incredible scientific legacy and John Bell deserves to be celebrated as a physicist of global significance and a phenomenal role model for young people."

Dr Bell was born in Belfast in 1928 and went on to become one of the leading physicists of the 20th century.

He completed two degrees at Queen's University before achieving a PhD in physics from University of Birmingham.

'Bending the rules'

In later life, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize, but he died in 1990 before he could be awarded the honour.

Belfast city councillors approved the name Bell's Theorem Crescent last year after bending their rules preventing streets being named after individuals.

The council originally received an application from Titanic Quarter Ltd to call it John Bell Crescent.

David Gavaghan, Titanic Quarter Ltd, said: "John Stewart Bell is arguably the greatest scientist to ever come out of Northern Ireland and was nominated for the Nobel Prize before his premature death in 1990.

"At Titanic Quarter much of the work which takes place at the Northern Ireland Science Park, Queen's research institute and some of our large ICT employers such as Citi, owes something to John Bell's amazing work.

"Naming this street after Bell recognises the impact of his work internationally, but also reinforces the message that Titanic Quarter and Northern Ireland continue to push scientific horizons, and that this city is steeped in innovation and entrepreneurship."

There is already a street named in Bell's honour in Switzerland. The University of Toronto has named a quantum mechanics prize in his memory.

The unveiling of the sign signalled the beginning of Northern Ireland's first ever science festival.

Dr Liz Conlon who is chairing the festival said Dr Bell was an inspiration.

"Getting our young people interested in science is essential for building a solid economy in Northern Ireland. It is fitting that the inaugural Science Festival begins with the unveiling of a largely unknown local scientific genius," she said.

"The Institute of Physics described John Bell as one of the top ten physicists of the twentieth century, in the same league as Einstein, Heisenberg and Schrodinger. His legacy in quantum physics continues today and his story is an inspiration to us all."

The Northern Ireland Science Festival which is aimed at inspiring young people into science will run until 1 March.

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