After graduating from Cornell University in 1962, Bardeen earned his Ph.D. Degree in Physics from the University of Minnesota in 1968.
Following research appointments at Stony Brook University and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, he was an Assistant and Associate Professor in the Physics Department at Stanford University. In 1975, Bardeen joined the staff of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory where he has served as Head of the Theoretical Physics Department. During 1993-1994, he was Head of Theoretical Physics at the SSC Laboratory before its termination.
Bardeen is co-inventor of the theory of the axial vector current anomaly which is of foundational importance in modern theoretical physics. He developed with Stephen L. Adler the "non-renormalization theorem" (known as the Adler–Bardeen theorem). He has played a major role in the development of perturbation theory for quantum chromodynamics, and dynamical approaches to electroweak symmetry breaking.
Bardeen is considered one of the leading authorities on quantum field theory and its application to the phenomena of elementary particle physics. In 1985, he was awarded a John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for research on the application of quantum field theory to elementary particle physics.
[National Academy of Sciences. American Academy of Arts and Sciences. American Physical Society]
He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1999.