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In Memory of Professor Jonathan Dowling

By IQT News posted 08 Jun 2020

Lawrence Gasman
Inside Quantum Technology

Horrible news over the weekend that Professor Jonathan Dowling died from an aortic aneurysm. He was 65.

I met Jon twice, I think; once at our very first Inside Quantum Computing event in Boston a few years ago and then again in China two summers ago at an ITU-T conference on quantum networking that we both spoke at. We also corresponded by e-mail from time to time. Jon was supposed to speak at our online conference last week. But a couple of weeks ago, Jon e-mailed to say he was sick and wouldn’t be able to participate.   It occurred to me at the time that people do not say they are unable to attend an event because of illness two weeks in advance unless they are really very sick. (Jon specifically said in his note to me that he did not have COVID-19 but I do not know specifically what killed Jon.)

I did not know much about Jon when I invited him to the first IQT event, at which I discovered that he could make a pretty good claim for having invented the term “quantum technology.” Before that I had been immensely impressed on reading his book, “Schrodinger’s Killer App: The Race to Build the World’s First Quantum Computer.” It wasn’t so much that the book was informative and deep in its assessment of quantum computing – it was both, of course. What really attracted me was that the book was FUNNY! With all due respect to my colleagues who have written eloquently about quantum technology, humor is something one does not easily associate with quantum technology books. In fact, Jon should be credited as the inventor of “quantum humor,” and it is good to know that this brand of humor is alive and well at QED-C meetings, where it serves as something of a bonding ritual.

When I finally met Jon I discovered that he was hilarious in a delightfully Irish kind of way (he had dual citizenship, I believe) – cutting but wise and without a trace of malice in his jokes and witticisms. With my British background, Jon always reminded me of the Tom Baker incarnation of Doctor Who, which I hope Jon would take as complement. In fact Jon had one actual Sci-Fi credit on his resume. In the remake of the movie “The Time Machine,” equations appearing on a blackboard in the film were written by Jon!

I was looking forward to having Jon speak at future IQT meetings, which will now never happen. I am looking forward also to reading his next book
Schrödinger’s Web: Race to Build the Quantum Internet (on quantum networking), already listed on Amazon although not yet published.

Jon will be a great loss to the entire quantum technology community.


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