A joint Fermilab/SLAC publication

Physicist parent, musician child, and a documentary about the Everetts

10/21/08

Many people have observed the connections between science research and musical aptitude. Today a more specific example of a connection between physicists and musicians hit me: physicist parent (PP) with musician child (MC). Here I'm most interested in musicians who have made a significant international name in their genre, not just anybody who picks up a guitar in their garage.

Two prominent examples are:

PP: Prof. Tunstall (lecturer in physics at the University of St Andrews--if you know more about him, let me know!)
MC: KT Tunstall (broke through with her track "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" on Jools Hollands' show in the United Kingdom, and had that song covered by Katherine MacPhee on American Idol in the United States)

PP: Hugh Everett (creator of the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics)
MC: Mark Everett (frontman of the Eels)

Mark Everett has also produced a documentary called Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives, which airs tonight on PBS' NOVA. Hugh revolutionised quantum physics with his dissertation and key paper but then pretty much disappeared from the academic scene and did classified work at the Pentagon.

Everett's story is a fascinating but tragic one. It's well worth looking into.

And if you know some more examples of PP-MC combinations, let me know in the comments.

Update: Another example from the comments:

PP: Albert Baez (developed the X-ray reflection microscope)
MC: Joan Baez (American folk singer who ought not need any introduction)

(Thanks to both Jean Deken and Blake Stacey who submitted this one. I'll also add that mathematical physicist John Baez is Albert's nephew/Joan's cousin.)

I also remembered other examples but in reverse with the renowned musician parent and famous physicist child:

MP: Vincenzo Galilei (Italian lutenist)
PC: Galileo Galilei (Yep, that guy)

MP: Constantijn Huygens (Dutch composer--and lutenist--but perhaps better known for his literature)
PC: Christiaan Huygens (demonstrated the wave behavior of light)

Bonus trivia question:

Which National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist wrote a book with a physicist father and two musician sons? What is the title of the book and what are the characters' names?

Physicist parent, film/TV child

Peter Steinberg responded to this post with his own parallel list of famous film and TV people who have physicists for parents. Some examples: Irene Jacob, Gore Verbinski, Jon Stewart. (You can read his original to find out the other halves of these pairings. And let Peter know if you have more to add to his list.)

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