Hermann Bondi


Hermann Bondi

Infobox Scientist
name = Sir Hermann Bondi
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image_size = 150px
caption = Hermann Bondi
birth_date = birth date|1919|11|01
birth_place = Austria
death_date = death date and age|2005|09|10|1919|11|01
death_place = Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
residence =
citizenship =
nationality = England
ethnicity =
field = mathematician physical cosmology
work_institutions =
alma_mater =
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doctoral_students =
known_for = steady-state theory of the universese
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author_abbrev_zoo =
influences =
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prizes =
religion = Humanism
footnotes =

Sir Hermann Bondi, KCB , FRS (1 November 1919–10 September 2005) was an Anglo-Austrian mathematician and cosmologist. He is best known for developing the steady-state theory of the universe with Fred Hoyle and Thomas Gold as an alternative to the Big Bang theory, but his most lasting legacy will probably be his important contributions to the theory of general relativity.

Early life

Bondi was born in Austria, the son of a medical doctor. He was brought up in Vienna, where he studied at the Realgymnasium. He showed early prodigious ability at mathematics, and was recommended to Sir Arthur Eddington by Abraham Frankel. Frankel was a distant relation, the only mathematician in the extended family, and Hermann's mother had the foresight to engineer a meeting between her young son and the famous man, knowing that this might be the key to enabling him to follow his wishes and become a mathematician himself. Eddington encouraged him to travel to England to study at Trinity College, Cambridge. He arrived in Cambridge in 1937, escaping from anti-semitism in Austria. Realising the perilous position of his parents in 1938, shortly before the "Anschluss", he sent them a telegram telling them to leave Austria at once. They managed to reach Switzerland, and later settled in New York.

In the early years of World War II, he was interned on the Isle of Man and in Canada as an enemy alien. Other internees included Thomas Gold and Max Perutz. Bondi and Gold had been released by the end of 1941, and worked with Fred Hoyle on radar at the Admiralty Signals Establishment. He became a British subject in 1946.

Bondi lectured in mathematics at the University of Cambridge from 1945 to 1954.

Theoretical work

In 1948, Bondi, Hoyle and Gold formulated the steady-state theory, which holds that the universe is constantly expanding but matter is constantly created to form new stars and galaxies to maintain a constant average density. It is probably fair to say that this theory dominated over the rival Big Bang theory until the discovery of the cosmic background radiation caused a sudden change in fortune.

Bondi was a major contributor to the golden age of general relativity (roughly 1960-1975). He was one of the first to correctly appreciate the nature of gravitational radiation, introducing Bondi radiation coordinates, the Bondi k-calculus, and the notion of Bondi mass, and writing influential review articles. He popularized the sticky bead argument which was said to be originally due, anonymously, to Richard Feynman, for the claim that physically meaningful gravitational radiation is indeed predicted by general relativity, an assertion which was controversial up until about 1955. An influential 1947 paper revived interest in the Lemaitre-Tolman metric, an inhomogeneous, spherically symmetric dust solution (often called the LTB or Lemaître-Tolman-Bondi metric). Bondi also contributed to the theory of accretion of matter from a cloud of gas onto a star or a black hole, working with Raymond Lyttleton and giving his name to "Bondi accretion" and the "Bondi radius".

He became a professor at King's College London in 1954, and was given the title of Emeritus Professor there in 1985. He was secretary of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1956 to 1964.

Other work

Bondi was also active outside the confines of academic lecturing and research. He held many positions:
*Director-General of the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO)(1967–1971) (which later became the European Space Agency, ESA)
*Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence (1971-1977)
*Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Energy (1977–1980)
*Chairman of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) (1980–1984)
*President of the Society for Research into Higher Education (1981–1997)
*President of the Hydrographic Society (1985–1987)
*Master of Churchill College, Cambridge (1983–1990).

He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1959 and was appointed a Knight Commander of the Bath in 1973. He was awarded the Einstein Society Gold Medal in 1983, the Gold Medal of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications in 1988, the G.D. Birla International Award for Humanism, and the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2001.

His report into the flooding of London in 1953 led eventually to the building of the Thames Barrier. He also supported the proposal for a Severn Barrage to generate electricity, but this project was not carried forward.

His papers from 1940 to 2000 are archived in 109 archive boxes by the Janus Project in Cambridge.

Personal life

His parents were Jewish, but he never "felt the need for religion" and was a lifelong humanist. He was president of the British Humanist Association from 1982 to 1999, and president of the Rationalist Press Association from 1982.

He married his wife, Christine, in 1947; she had been one of Hoyle's research students and like him she went on to be active in the humanist movement. Together, they had two sons and three daughters. He died in Cambridge [GRO Register of deaths: SEP 2005 D67C 21 CAMBRIDGE - Hermann Bondi, DoB = 1 Nov 1919, aged 85]

ee also

*List of British Jewish scientists

References

External links

* [http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD/GBR/0014/BOND The Papers of Sir Hermann Bondi] (Janus Project)
* [http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/cgi-bin/nph-abs_connect?db_key=AST&db_key=PHY&author=bondi,+h. 93 papers by Hermann Bondi]
*Obituaries
** [http://news.independent.co.uk/people/obituaries/article311877.ece Obituary] ("The Independent", 12 September 2005)
** [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/09/13/db1301.xml&sSheet=/portal/2005/09/13/ixportal.html Obituary] ("The Telegraph", 13 September 2005)
** [http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/science/story/0,,1568773,00.html Obituary] ("The Guardian", 14 September 2005)
** [http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v437/n7060/full/437828a.html Obituary] ("Nature", 6 October, 2005)
** [http://physicsweb.org/articles/news/9/9/8/1 Sir Hermann Bondi: 1919 - 2005] (Institute of Physics, 14 September 2005)
** [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cambridgeshire/4255806.stm Black hole scientist Bondi dies] (BBC News, 17 September 2005)


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