Abner Shimony

(1928-2015)

Abner Shimony was born the same year as John Bell but outlived him by 25 years.

In his lifetime, Shimony did more to promote Bell's idea of an "inequality theorem," one that might disprove (or prove) quantum mechanics, than possibly any other person. Just five years after Bell's work, Shimony in 1969 developed an empirically testable form of the Bell inequality, known as the CHSH inequality after the four contributors, John Clauser, Michael Horne, Shimony, and Richard Holt.

Clauser and colleague Richard Freedman did the first experimental test of Bell's inequality in 1971, with results that weakly validated standard quantum mechanics. This was followed by many hundreds of similar tests over the following decades, down to the present day.

Shimony authored the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Bell's Theorem, where he argues that the perfect correlations of opposite spin states in the entangled pairs is a consequence of the conservation of angular momentum. See John Bell on conservation of angular momentum.

Shimony said that Bell likely assumed that quantum mechanics would violate his "ad hoc" inequality, because quantum mechanics had bee so well established.

When Bell published his pioneering paper in 1964 he did not urge an experimental resolution of the conflict between Quantum Mechanics and Local Realistic Theories, probably because the former had been confirmed often and precisely in many branches of physics.
"Bell's Theorem," *Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy*, 2009 (retrieved January 23, 2022)

Between 1973 and 1984, Shimony helped organize and contribute to thirty-six issues of a newsletter called *Epistemological Letters**: Hidden Variables and Quantum Uncertainty*.

These privately published newsletters were circulated to about 180 of the most prominent physicists in the world. It contained contributions on the foundations of physics inspired by the work of John Bell, which in turn had been inspired by David Bohm's revival of Louis de Broglie's "pilot wave theory" and their idea of "hidden variables."

For many years, experimenters and theorists searched for "loopholes" in the experiments that might indicate something wrong with quantum mechanics. Bell had tantalized experimenters with the chance of a Nobel Prize if something was found to be wrong with quantum mechanics. Such a result would "shake the world," he told John Clauser. But every new test has only further confirmed the theory of quantum mechanics.

Shimony earned a PH.D. in philosophy from Yale in 1953 supervised by Rudolf Carnap and nine years later a Ph.D. in physics from Princeton, studying under Eugene Wigner.

Shimony taught first at MIT, then at Boston University for many years with a dual appointment at Yale.

A major research interest was exploring the possible conflict between quantum physics and relativity, something that worried Albert Einstein all his life.

A prominent doctoral student of Shimony's was the philosopher and historian of science Don Howard.