Born at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he studied physics at Pennsylvania State University, graduating in 1939, before completing his Ph.D. in 1943 under Robert Oppenheimer at the University of California, Berkeley. He then joined the Manhattan Project and during the following two years he worked with other leading scientist like Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi in developing the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
After the war Bohm became assistant professor at Princeton University where he worked closely with Albert Einstein. In May 1949, at the beginning of the McCarthyism hysteria period, Bohm was called upon to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee but pleaded the Fifth amendment right to decline to testify, refusing to give evidence against colleagues. In 1950 Bohm was charged for refusing to answer questions before the Committee and arrested. He was acquitted in May 1951 but Princeton had already suspended him and after his acquittal refused to renew his contract. Bohm's colleagues sought to have his position at Princeton reinstated, and Einstein reportedly wanted Bohm to serve as his assistant, but Bohm's contract with the university was not renewed. Then, Bohm left for Brazil to take up a Chair in Physics at the University of São Paulo.
In 1955, he moved to Israel where he spent two years at the Technion at Haifa. Here he met his wife Saral, who was an important figure in the development of his ideas. In 1957 Bohm moved to the UK. He held a research fellowship at University of Bristol until 1961, when he was made Professor of Theoretical Physics at Birkbeck College of the London University until his retirement in 1987.
Bohm made a number of significant contributions to physics, particularly in the area of quantum mechanics and relativity theory. Still a post-graduate at Berkeley he discovered the electron phenomenon now known as Bohm-diffusion. His first book, Quantum Theory published in 1951, was well-received by Einstein among others. However, he was unsatisified with the orthodox approach to quantum theory and began to develop his own approach (Bohm interpretation), a non-local hidden variable deterministic theory whose predictions are in perfect agreement with the quantum ones. His work and the EPR argument were the major factor motivating John Bell's inequality, whose consequences are still being investigated. In 1959, with his student Yakir Aharonov, he discovered the Aharonov-Bohm effect, showing how a vacuum could produce striking physical effects.
Bohm's scientific and philosophical views were inseparable. In 1959 he came across a book by the Indian philosopher Krishnamurti. He was struck with how his own ideas on quantum mechanics meshed with the philosophical ideas of Krishnamurti. Bohm's approach to philosophy and physics are expressed in his 1980 book Wholeness and the Implicate Order, and in the book Science, Order and Creativity. In his later years, Bohm developed the technique of Dialogue, in which equal status and "free space" were the most important prerequisites. He believed that if carried out on a sufficiently wide scale, these Dialogues could help overcome fragmentation in society. More about David Bohm's ideas on Dialogue at a site maintained to carry on his concepts of Dialogue. A public Dialogue list, mostly in English, is still active for participation at Worldwide Dialogue by E-mail.
David Bohm died in London, England.