Jonathan Dowling (1955-2020)

Today I woke up to the sad and shocking news that Jon Dowling (homepage / Twitter / Wikipedia)—physics professor at Louisiana State, guy who got the US government to invest in quantum computing back in the 90s, author of the popular book Schrödinger’s Killer App: Race to Build the World’s First Quantum Computer, investigator of BosonSampling among many other topics, owner of a “QUBIT” license plate, and one of my main competitors in the field of quantum computing humor—has passed away at age 65, apparently due to an aortic aneurysm.

Three months ago, right before covid shut down the world, the last travel I did was a seven-hour road trip from Austin to Baton Rouge, together with my postdoc Andrea Rocchetto, to deliver something called the Hearne Lecture at the Louisiana State physics department. My topic (unsurprisingly) was Google’s quantum supremacy experiment.

I’d debated whether to cancel the trip, as flying already seemed too dangerous. Dowling was the one who said “why not just drive here with one of your postdocs?”—which turned into a memorable experience for me and Andrea, complete with a personal tour of LIGO and a visit to an alligator hatchery. I had no inkling that it was the last time I’d ever see Jon Dowling, but am now super-glad that we made the visit.

At the dinner after my talk, Dowling was exactly the same as every other time I’d seen him: loud, piss-drunk, obnoxious, and hilarious. He dominated the conversation with stories and jokes, referring in every other sentence either to his Irishness or my Jewishness. His efforts to banter with the waitress, to elicit her deepest opinions about each appetizer and bottle of wine, were so over-the-top that I, sitting next to him, blushed, as if to say, “hey, I’m just the visitor here! I don’t necessarily endorse this routine!”

But Dowling got away with it because, no matter how many taboos he violated per sentence, there was never any hint of malice in it. He was an equal-opportunity offender, with his favorite target being himself. He loved to talk, for example, about my pathological obsession with airy-fairy abstractions, like some kind of “polynomial hierarchy” that hopefully wouldn’t “collapse”—with the punchline being that he, the hardheaded laser physicist, then needed to learn what that meant for his own research.

The quantum computing community of the southern US, not to mention of Twitter and Facebook, and indeed of the entire world, will be poorer without this inimitable, louder-than-life presence.

Feel free to share your own Dowling stories in the comments.

27 Responses to “Jonathan Dowling (1955-2020)”

  1. Ian T Durham Says:

    When I first saw Mark Wilde’s post about this I didn’t believe it. I honestly thought it was a joke because Jon had such a twisted sense of humor (which I am really going to miss). I’m still not sure I can believe it. But beyond his sense of humor, he was a supremely nice person and always supportive of people. We just lost a legend.

  2. Anthony J. Brady Says:

    A short story (which I’ll post to social media soon, as well):

    Jon and I went to Boulder, CO last year (2019) in November, to speak to “the engineers” (as Jon called them) about the research grant we are on. We stayed in a hotel — infamously named the “Meat Market”, as Jon so clearly remembered — which was the hot-spot back in the ‘80s, when cocaine and good music ran rampant. Of course, when we arrived, the place was under a dry spell, as it had been for some years apparently; I guess most good things eventually come to an end. However, that didn’t stop us from having a good time. Jon and I sat back at a table, close to a barren bar, on our last night in Boulder. For each glass of wine he had, I had a glass of tequila (not the smartest decision, in hindsight). We sat there for hours, as we talked about our childhoods, our fathers, physics, gossip. That following morning, we shared an Uber together, with the Denver airport as our intended destination. One mile down the road, I told Jon, “I have to get out of this car immediately.” He responded, confused, “Why?!” To which I replied, “Because I’m about to puke in this one!” — perhaps the tequila had gotten one over on me. Of course Jon, being Jon, had to immediately post on social media about the event. He found it hysterical.

    I hope this short story reflects at least a smidgen of the character and personality that Jon possessed. He was more than a mentor and advisor. He was someone I could talk to about personal issues, past issues, and future careers — whilst never shying from sheer ludicrousy. He was obnoxious, yet he balanced that with an open mind and an open heart. He was extreme, but he was our Jon. Rest easy JPD.


  3. Paul Kwiat Says:

    Wow…that IS indeed a Very Very Sad thing. I’ve known Jon for seemingly forever, back before the JPL days. Although we didn’t always see scientific things the same way (somehow I feel he saw things my way even the reverse wasn’t true, which might seem to violate some sort of symmetry, but I think instead speaks to what an amicable — if provocative — scientist Jon was. He was incredibly talented at getting people to look at new areas and new creative ideas. Our field suffered a huge loss with his passing. Jon, I’m sure whereever you might be now you’re creating a ruckus, and maybe we can even hear it from here, if we listen hard enough (but actually not too hard…).
    We’ll miss you, Jon.

  4. Paul Alsing Says:

    I’m deeply saddened by the news of the loss of Jon. He was loud, feisty, boisterous, over the top, but always with his heart in the right place. He was a passionate advocate for quantum information science, and the field with miss him dearly. You know a person is genuinely unique when you find yourself reciting the stories he told, to others to elicit a smile. Jon was gracious enough to try to hire me both at JPL and at LSU when I was giving talks on relativistic quantum information, before it became a thing to talk about. After one of my talks, on entanglement for arbitrarily moving observers, when you could hear the crickets chirping, I remember Jon breaking the awkward silence by extemporaneously commenting “so it’s like being in the rest frame of the head with the chicken cut off… or something like that?” Next time you watch the remake of the Time Machine with Guy Pierce, look at the equations on the blackboard in the lab. Jon wrote those. At an after dinner speech he said, “So they called me up to write stuff on the blackboard for the movie ‘The Time Machine’. So I said sure. I broke out my thesis, copied and equation and faxed it in. Then I waited 10 mins, and copied another equation and faxed it in, because hey, I AM getting paid $200/hr to do this, so why rush!” I was insanely jealous. He said he was always proud that he drew a lightcone on the blackboard with the world line starting in the past lightcone and exiting outside it to Elsewhere. I always stop the movie at that point to look at it.
    I am proud to have collaborated with Jon on occasion, and to have published with him a couple of times. The field of Quantum Information Science and quantum optics has lost one of its most iconic figures. And I will still tell those Jon Dowling stories, because, Damn!, he was funny, AND smart. Now, I’m going to go have a scotch in his honor.
    Jon, my your be at rest (or stationary) in your purified High NOON state in Church of the Higher Hilbert Space.
    Your friend and colleague – Paul

  5. Tez Says:

    I am so sorry to hear this.

    Jon almost saved the field of QI from me.

    In ’95, before I had started a PhD in quantum optics, my soon-to-be PhD supervisor insisted on taking me to the quinquennial Rochester conference. She was trying hard to get me to go there for a Phd rather than go to her in Canada. It was my first real experience of the US (well, first one not sleeping in the street!).

    Giants of the field of quantum optics clumped and argued about stuff I couldn’t understand, while us mortals scurried around trying not to miss out on what everyone was manically excited about – the Cirac-Zoller paper had recently landed. US government people who clearly knew no physics were taking photos of every talk that seemed relevant to building our imminent quantum computer. So when I heard this *incredibly* loud person from JPL ahead of me in a coffee line spouting off about Shor’s algorithm (which he clearly had not understood very well – thanks to Gerard Milburn I at least had some undertstanding!), I recall thinking, “Oh man, this is the real America, surrounded by so many obnoxious fools, I really don’t think I can take it for 5 years”. In fact I was so mesmerized by what I perceived as this government ignoramus’ complete lack of awareness of how loud and foolish he was that I actually followed him a bit to watch him interact with a few people just for the show!

    Jon loved it when years later I told him this story (as we tried to consume our way through his endowment).

    Fast forward to today, and after 25 years as colleagues there are so many stories I wish I could tell. (Newport hotel anyone?)

    His talks were amazing performances – levels of bombast I doubt I will ever see exceeded. I think he once had me convinced with a 23 photon NOON state he could drill a hole through the earth. Or something like that.

    The US was not supportive of LOQC, but Jon was, and his support has been important. I work today with several former students and postdocs of his. He worked in the field from its inception and organized what I believe was the first conference focussed purely on LOQC in Baton Rouge. (There are no stories to tell from that one, I swear.)

    We lost one of those truly “larger-then-life” personalities today.

  6. Michele Amoretti Says:

    I met Jonathan Dowling in 2017, at the 2nd Workshop for Quantum Repeaters and Networks in Seefeld (Austria). I was impressed by his ability to switch from very serious technical discussions to light and humorous conversation. During a social dinner, he was asked who will win the Nobel prize for quantum networking, and he had no doubt in indicating .. (omissis) .. Since then I am waiting for the day I will know if he was right or wrong, and now I am sad he won’t know.

  7. Ivan Deutsch Says:

    The news of Jon Dowling’s passing was a shock to the system. I had known Jon since I was an itty bitty graduate student in the late 1980s as the quantum optics community was small and intimate. But even if it had been a giant community, you couldn’t miss Jon. He was loud, bombastic, and impossible to ignore. He wanted it that way, and so did everyone around him. He was a provocateur, and his provocations always pushed us to think harder while we simultaneously dueled with him. Always in good spirit, but always pushing the limits.
    One particular story I’ll always remember is back in the early days of quantum computing in the 1990s, when I was giving a talk about what I liked to call the “Tao of Quantum Computing.” The point was that coherence and decoherence where two sides of the same coin. I colored my Yin and Yang symbol Red and Green to represent red and green hatch chili — two sides of the same fruit. In discussing this I said, “so let’s talk talk about the green side of my yin yang,” but Jon heard the “green side of my YING YANG,” which has a very different meaning. He jumped in and, “what does your YING YANG” have anything to do with it and he and Chris Fuchs burst into laughter. I never saw that slide in the same way again.
    Good bye Jon. We’ll miss the color you brought to our community, the laughter you invoked, and the way you challenged us all to root out the bullshit in Quantum Information Science and life in general. Give ’em hell wherever you are!

  8. Jim Franson Says:

    Terrible news about Jon. He was one of a kind. Whenever I give a lecture on the Dirac theory to my QM class, I tell Jon’s story about attending a lecture by Dirac. It was supposed to be a lecture for the general public, and many people from the local community came to hear the famous physicist. The lecture was totally incomprehensible and no one understood anything, until Dirac got to the part where he said he was going to discuss Einstein’s famous equation relating mass and energy. Jon said the audience all sat up in their seats, ready to hear something they could finally understand, like E=m c^2. But Dirac showed the other equation involving the square-root of p^2 plus m^2, and the audience looked dismayed again. Jon laughed out loud, and I’m sure it was loud enough for Dirac to hear! He will be sorely missed.

  9. Drew Antony Says:

    What shocking news to hear at such an unfortunate time. I was one of Jon’s undergraduate students at LSU from 2009-2013 and let me tell you he turned those two semesters of quantum mechanics into a wild ride through his brilliant mind. Endless entertainment and playful jabs at students made the daunting task of learning quantum mechanics a little easier. A few years back, a friend and I went back to Baton Rouge for a visit to our alma mater. We stopped by Nicholson hall and I was excited to knock on a few doors and see who was around. We get to Jon’s door…*knock knock*…”Go away”…*knock knock*…”Do you not know what ‘go away’ means?”…It was classic Prof. Dowling up to his same old antics. Of course, he opened the door to find two of his old students, both of whom pursued graduate degrees in science and engineering and both of whom were in that same quantum class. We were so proud to be his former students and show him the impact he had on our careers. I’m sure I speak for all of the LSU physics students from 2012/2013 when I say we will all miss Jon dearly, but we will always carry a nugget of wisdom passed down from the unforgettable Jon Dowling. RIP Jon, forever LSU

  10. Scott Says:

    On further reflection, I think the following eulogy is more in line with what Dowling would’ve wanted—because more likely to bring smiles to anyone who knew him.

    Jonathan Dowling was a quiet and modest man—but on the extremely rare occasions when he opened his mouth, you could be certain that whatever came out had been carefully considered and carried the imprimatur of truth. Besides truth, his only other concern was to protect the feelings of those around him. A sober man in every sense of the word—he preferred orange juice, or on special occasions a non-alcoholic beer—Jon was like an invisible presence that propelled quantum optics forward. Even if he didn’t get his way—for example, if ignorant bureaucrats blocked what he was trying to do—the worst one could ever hear from him was “oh shucks, I hope we’ll have better luck next time!” Let Jon’s memory be an inspiration to all of us to live our lives without regret, by never doing or saying anything that could occasion regret.

  11. Sabre Kais Says:

    Like many of his friends, I’m deeply saddened by the news of the loss of Jon. I met Jon over ten years ago when he invited me to give a physics colloquium on quantum information and computation for complex chemical systems. The trip was a great opportunity to get to know Jon and I have benefited a lot from many deep discussions on the foundation of quantum mechanics and quantum entanglement and I’m proud of publishing a paper with him on reducing the number of ancilla qubits and the gate count required for creating large controlled operations. He was a great advocate for decimating quantum information science to the general public. In 2012, I organized a workshop on quantum information and computation for science high school teachers. When I asked him to give a general talk, his reply straight away was “YES it would be honor to give this talk”, it will be about “Quantum Technology: The Second quantum Revolution”. The talk was recorded at at Purdue, which was a great talk about the field foundation, the development of quantum technology and his future predictions! He had a lot of intriguing stories about his work and his early days in the field, will be fun to watch ( ! My last communication with him was last year when I invited him to visit us at Purdue and give a physics colloquium, as usual, he replied “yes I will be there! I am traveling in the Spring, please put me in the Fall semester.” He will be remembered! Sabre Kais, Purdue.

  12. Sean Huver Says:

    In 2003 or 2004 an alum of my school who worked at JPL put me in touch with Jon about the possibility of an internship in his group. I’ll never forget how abrasively loud his voice was the first time we spoke on the phone, but I was also struck by how motivated he was to help me, a complete stranger and a lowly undergrad, obtain an internship of my dreams.

    After a great experience at JPL I later followed Jon and Hwang Lee to LSU to be a student of his, and have many great memories. For those who superficially knew Jon he could be obnoxiously loud, domineering of conversation, ridiculously vulgar, an outrageously fun drunk, and known to tell the same stories over and over again with great exaggeration. For those of us fortunate to have known him well, well, he was absolutely all of those things, but he was also incredibly warm, genuinely caring, and quick to offer serious and sober advice whether it be personal or professional. Jon was a wonderful father figure to myself and so many others during our time as his students and postdocs, and while he did not have children of his own, that role came very naturally to him.

    I’d like to share two of my favorite memories of Jon:

    In 2007 or 2008 at a DARPA program review in Hilton Head, Jon was fuming (uncharacteristically so) about a result by Gerry Gilbert and Yaakov Weinstein showing that N00N states weren’t very useful for sensing under any realistic loss conditions. I had initial results showing that other types of entangled states could show greater robustness to loss, which Jon had somehow misinterpreted as proving the MITRE study wrong. At the welcome reception Jon was already a few glasses of wine in when he loudly declared to the entire room, and Gerry in particular, “That MITRE stuff might be good enough for government work, but it isn’t right!”. Gerry, rightfully upset by the comment in front of a DARPA PM, wanted to know what the hell Jon was going on about. Jon simply pointed at me and said, “Talk to him!”, and stormed off. Things were smoothed over by dinner the next night, but it was a great example of the kind of chaos one would get to witness while in Jon’s orbit.

    Later on, the night of my dissertation defense, a group of 20 or so of us took over a private area of a bar in Baton Rouge where Jon immediately dropped his credit card on the bar and kept the drinks flowing all night. $200 of tequila shots later, we were on stage together with his other students Ryan Glasser and Bill Plick, doing a karaoke rendition of “The Final Countdown”. To this day, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything as loud as Jon with a microphone yelling that chorus.

    This world is now a little less loud, but I’d like to think in many others there’s a Dowling joyfully causing a ruckus.

  13. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Hope Jon enjoyed college football. My town has been purple and gold all year.

  14. Gil Kalai Says:

    Sad news. Let me share one memory about Jon’s 2015 visit to Israel to our Quantum Science Center in Jerusalem. I attended his talk on metrology and beside the humor, provocations, showmanship, and huge optimism, the physics itself was impressive and the explanations were vivid and clear. Jon mentioned a certain mathematical problem that came from this research and it was a remarkable enumerative combinatorics conjecture. (Later known under the name the MORDOR identity.) The MORDOR identity is an amazing formula for the permanent of the matrix representing a sort of the discrete Fourier transform. (MORDOR stands for the initials of the authors, Keith R. Motes, Jonathan P. Olson, Evan J. Rabeaux, Jonathan P. Dowling, S. Jay Olson, and Peter P. Rohde. If I remember correctly one or more authors were actually undergraduate students.) The formula was reached at by evaluating the cases n≤6 and was checked symbolically for up to n≤16 or so and numerically much beyond. So it must be true! Later, I worked with a summer student and a colleague and also tried to get some experts in enumerative combinatorics interested but with no success in finding a proof. In August ’16 (after a Math Overflow posting) Ofir Gorodetsky and Ron Peled have proved the identity and their main tool is an identity by Borchardt (from a paper in 1855), which reduces the permanent calculation to the evaluation of two determinants. As it turned out there was already a 2000 paper by Guo-Niu Han (a great enumerative combinatorics hero) where Han proved formula of a more general nature regarding permanents. Han’s early paper notwithstanding, this always looked to me as a wonderful example of interdisciplinary effort where interests of researchers across different centuries and different areas are nicely entangled.

    Jon visited Israel several times later but I mainly met him on the social media. On Facebook, there was a nice picture of him with Einstein’s original writings at our national library and on Twitter he wrote a limerick for quantum computers skeptics. I can also mention that Jon urged the Israeli government to quickly develop quantum computers as well as quantum-based secure communication and this got quite a lot of public attention.

  15. Jim Gable Says:

    I was at a QED-C meeting in DC last year. We were in a capital hill briefing for congressional staffers, when someone behind me let loose with an irreverent, if valid, rant. I turned around and immediately thought “hey, that’s him!” (His reputation preceded him.) And I noticed how he lifted the spirit of the whole room, as many knew him already and those of us new to him were captured by his humor and his smile.

  16. Shawn Pethel Says:

    I knew Jon during the years he worked for the Army (~1990 until he went to JPL). We were in a small research group under Charles Bowden. I was extremely young and very fortunate to ‘grow up’ under scientists like Bowden and Dowling. Reading the comments above makes me smile, because Jon never changed. He was a visionary and a showman who could electrify dry technical meetings. He was equally inspiring and irritating. Jon had a knack for saying the wrong things to the wrong people, like the time he wondered aloud–in front of security personnel–if visiting high school students needed background checks. He also gave talks that left the impression that he invented whole subject areas. I once confronted him about self-promotion. In response, he drew a graph for me: one axis was ‘Brain’, the other ‘Mouth’. He said that most scientists have too much brain and not enough mouth; it was better to have a balance and, if anything, to err on the side of too much mouth! After Jon left I took over his office and, looking around, I still see reminders of him after all these years. Bizarrely, I just pulled out faded legal pad with some of my old calculations and noticed a note from Jon on it. (It reads, ‘Mathematica will do this symbolically! -J’) Jon was always quick with a laugh and a helping hand. He was incredibly open with me, but he also had an intensely private side. I think he suffered more than he let on. Now that he is gone, I can see how proud I am to have known him.

  17. Samuel Marks Says:

    Met Professor Jon Dowling through our mutual friend and collaborator Dr Peter Rohde. I fondly recall going to an underground whisky bar—with a retinue of postdocs and a couple of academics—with Jon regaling us with stories, and buying us all the whisky ????! – Was even able to selfishly take him aside to talk nonlinear optics and my own research topics, which he gave expert insights into (and we later had some back-and-forth over online).

    Really sad to hear of his passing. He will surely be missed.

    Thanks for posting this Professor Scott Aaronson—and as we say—wish his family long-life.

  18. Keep it loud Says:

    Sounds like the kind of character who would be facing more career adversity in todays climate than all of the protected, formerly protected or aspiringly protected groups put together, good thing he could bring in those grants.

  19. Frank Narducci Says:

    I just heard this very sad and shocking news yesterday from a colleague. As I read the comments, I thought back to the first time I met Jon not quite 30 years ago (yes, it was THAT memorable) when Jon was associated with the Army Missile Command and I was not even a senior graduate student. Every meeting with him since was always full of loud and “obnoxious” (said in jest!) comments mostly directed towards himself (with some playful Army vs Navy (where I worked) rivalry directed towards me, but full of humor and entertainment. He radiated an enthusiasm for life and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the moment. He also had a serious side. Although I never had the pleasure of collaborating on a project with him, I did write proposals with him, serve on panels etc. You could almost see his serious side kick in when it came to thinking about physics and he clearly thought deeply about problems. He was a physicist extraordinaire and entertainer wrapped up in one. As just one example, I will point to a lecture he gave at one of the Coherence and Quantum Optics Conferences called “What the Fock?”. Perfect example of his humor and dedication to science. He will absolutely sorely be missed. Rest in peace, my friend.

  20. Christopher Fuchs Says:

    Here are a few Jon Dowling stories from my collection.

    In 2002, I must have been giving a talk on quantum foundations somewhere; if so, I would have been advocating a line of thought which would later become QBism. Jon was not big on advocating one quantum interpretation over another, and wrote me an email right in the middle of my talk! (Unheard of in those days. How did he do it? Did we even have wi-fi back then?): “Enjoying your talk. Attached is an article you might enjoy. Keep your ying-yang non-green!” (See Ivan’s story above.) The article ended ominously, “There is [not]—and never shall be—one true interpretation of quantum mechanics. Isn’t it time we moved on with our lives?” Well, I have my doubts. However before his declaration, Jon told a story which I cannot doubt at all:

    “A colleague and I once invented the ‘many-beers’ interpretation at a bar near Pisa. With zero beers, quantum mechanics makes no sense. With one, you get an inkling. With two, things seem clear. With three, all mysteries are revealed. With four, things get foggy. And with five, quantum mechanics makes no sense once again.”

    In 2010, Jon wrote to Rob Spekkens and me that he would be visiting Waterloo and wondered if we could get together. After some time, I wrote Jon, “Sorry I’ve been silent. I’ve been working on a John Templeton Foundation proposal OBSESSIVELY and trying my best to sound like John Wheeler. It’s not an easy thing!” Jon responded simply:

    “Never run after a bus, a girl, or a unified field theory! (Because there will be another one coming along any minute now.)” — John A. Wheeler

    A couple of days later, I wrote to Jon and Rob, “Come, let’s drink! (Rob, I’m feeling social again; bring Inti … She and Kiki can do whatever they do, and we can do whatever we do … and with Jon around … I’ll call my roofer!)” (Not sure what I meant at the end, but surely it had something to do with some boisterous incident in Jon’s past.) Jon wrote me back in relief:

    “Thank goodness you’re drinking again! I expanded my liver by three in Japan for two weeks on sake, soju, and beer — so I’m ready!”

    During that same visit, Jon told me he had a motto, “Fund me, or kill me!” He would say it over and over with great delight. Maybe time did finally catch up with him, but we all know funding never ends for a guy like that!

    Jon Dowling, you’ll be sorely missed.

  21. Yaakov Weinstein Says:

    Sean, thanks for the shout out!
    I was also very sad to see the news about Jon. One story I’d like to share which maybe someone else can help fill in the details:
    I recall that at an IARPA QCS meeting Todd Brun (I think) called Jon out for not having a ‘Q’ in the name of his performer team (I believe the team name was PLATO). Jon responded on the spot that he was going to name him team HEMLOQ (standing for something which he came up with that moment), but thought better of it.
    Not to be outdone, Todd came up with a team name QARISTOTLE (which also stood for something) with the ‘Q’ silent.

  22. Franco Nori Says:

    Very sad news. Jonathan greatly helped the larger community of quantum information in many different ways, which are hard to quantify, but which many people remember fondly and deeply appreciate.

    Jon contributions to science were very important. I also greatly enjoyed reading his book. And his presence at conferences was felt (and heard!) by everybody present. He was full of life, amusing insights, penetrating observations, and irreverent comments, which people loved to hear from him. He managed to make fun of everything in insightful and penetrating ways.

    On several occasions we sat together at conference dinner banquets, and our table was by far the loudest, with people laughing non-stop for hours. People from other tables would migrate towards our table, because Jon was the magnet, attracting many others towards him. People wanted to have a good time, and Jon knew how to deliver it. Times with Jon were always memorable moments.

    Dear Jon, we can still hear you, and you will be remembered for a very long time.

  23. Chaoyang Lu Says:

    I was shocked with sadness about the passing of John Dowling. In the past three years, I had many interactions with Jon and six joint publications together. I have written a commemorative article to honor Jon which is published in a major Chinese media, Mr. Science, so far with ~20 thousand reads in one day and 100 comments.
    Here is the link

  24. Andrew Jordan Says:

    I’m shocked and saddened to hear this news. Life is fragile. Rest In Peace, Jon.

    I had many interactions with him at conferences over the years, and yes, he was always very boisterous. I loved his sense of humor and good-will toward everyone. He had lots of great stories about physics and our colleagues.

    One of my earliest memories of him was around 2008 when I was a pretty young professor; I had met and talked with him a few times before then. We were at another meeting, I think in Orange County, CA, and we started talking at a coffee break. He said:
    “I see its the Doogie Howser of physics. We meet again.”
    I still get a laugh when I think of it.

  25. Nicolas Cerf Says:

    I have been shocked by this sad news. I had not seen Jon for a very long while, but I still remember as if it was yesterday the time I was visiting the quantum computing group at JPL/Caltech during the Summer breaks in the early 2000’s. Jon was an inspiring team leader, with his unmistakable style. He was both a deep mind and a most funny person. I really loved his sense of humor.

    I still have vivid memories of a conference we both attended in 2000 in Capri island, south of Italy. The conference was part of the QCMC (Quantum Communication, Measurement and Computing) series. I can see him swimming in the sea in one of the most beautiful settings while endlessly talking about — or rather shouting about — optical qubits, as if we were in his office! He was truly passionate.

    Among other things, Jon has been pushing the area of quantum metrology. He is among the first if not the first having realized the importance of “NOON states” in that context. Actually, I believe he is the one who invented the term “NOON states”. If I am not proved wrong, I would suggest we rename these states as the “NOON-Dowling states”. This would be a nice tribute to his contribution to quantum optics.

  26. Gerhard Klimeck Says:

    A colleague and friend mentioned Jon’s passing to me at a virtual program review. I was shocked. Jon and I worked together at JPL 1998-2003. He helped me to connect my atomistic nanoelectronics modeling work into the quantum computing world funded various funding agencies. Jon was a wonderfully unique outlier as all the other posts have already shown. To me the most “noticeable” feature of Jon has been his voice. Anytime I went to conferences or program reviews, I could tell if Jon was present, since you could clearly hear him across huge conference ball rooms, hallways, bars, restaurants, lunch buffets…. I will miss him 🙁

  27. Dream a Little Dream: Quantum Computer Poetry for the Skeptics (Part I, mainly 2019) | Combinatorics and more Says:

    […] Dowling was an eminent quantum physicist who passed away in 2020. See here for some personal memories of […]