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John Phillip Preskill (born January 19, 1953) is an American theoretical physicist and the Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

John Preskill
John Preskill 2.jpg
Born (1953-01-19) January 19, 1953 (age 66)
ResidencePasadena, California
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materPrinceton University (B.A.),
Harvard University (Ph.D.)
Known forThorne–Hawking–Preskill bet
Scientific career
FieldsTheoretical Physics
InstitutionsCalifornia Institute of Technology
Doctoral advisorSteven Weinberg
Doctoral studentsPeter Galison
Daniel Gottesman
Anton Kapustin
Sandip Trivedi


Preskill was born in Highland Park, Illinois. After earning a B.A. in physics at Princeton University, summa cum laude, in 1975, he received his Ph.D. in the same subject from Harvard University in 1980. His graduate adviser at Harvard was Steven Weinberg.

While still a graduate student, Preskill made a name for himself by publishing a paper on the cosmological production of superheavy magnetic monopoles in Grand Unified Theories. Since we do not observe any magnetic monopoles, this work pointed out serious flaws in the then current cosmological models, a problem which was later addressed by Alan Guth and others by proposing the idea of cosmic inflation.

After three years as a junior fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, Preskill became Associate Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech in 1983, rising to full professorship in 1990. Since 2000 he has been the Director of the Institute for Quantum Information at Caltech. In recent years most of his work has been in mathematical issues related to quantum computation and quantum information theory.

Preskill has achieved some notoriety in the popular press as party to a number of bets involving fellow theoretical physicists Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne. Hawking conceded the Thorne–Hawking–Preskill bet in 2004 and gave Preskill a copy of Total Baseball, The Ultimate Baseball Encyclopedia.

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