- Hermann Bondi
name = Sir Hermann Bondi
image_size = 150px
caption = Hermann Bondi
birth_date = birth date|1919|11|01
death_date = death date and age|2005|09|10|1919|11|01
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
field = mathematician
steady-state theoryof the universese
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 theoryof the universe with Fred Hoyleand Thomas Goldas an alternative to the Big Bangtheory, but his most lasting legacy will probably be his important contributions to the theory of general relativity.
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 Eddingtonby 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 Englandto study at Trinity College, Cambridge. He arrived in Cambridgein 1937, escaping from anti-semitismin Austria. Realising the perilous position of his parents in 1938, shortly before the " Anschluss", he sent them a telegramtelling 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 Manand in Canadaas an enemy alien. Other internees included Thomas Goldand Max Perutz. Bondi and Gold had been released by the end of 1941, and worked with Fred Hoyleon radarat the Admiralty Signals Establishment. He became a British subject in 1946.
Bondi lectured in mathematics at the
University of Cambridgefrom 1945 to 1954.
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 radiationcaused 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 argumentwhich 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 staror a black hole, working with Raymond Lyttletonand giving his name to " Bondi accretion" and the " Bondi radius".
He became a
professorat King's College Londonin 1954, and was given the title of Emeritus Professorthere in 1985. He was secretary of the Royal Astronomical Societyfrom 1956 to 1964.
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
Churchill College, Cambridge(1983–1990).
He became a fellow of the
Royal Societyin 1959 and was appointed a Knight Commander of the Bathin 1973. He was awarded the Einstein Society Gold Medalin 1983, the Gold Medal of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applicationsin 1988, the G.D. Birla International Award for Humanism, and the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Societyin 2001.
His report into the flooding of
Londonin 1953 led eventually to the building of the Thames Barrier. He also supported the proposal for a Severn Barrageto generate electricity, but this project was not carried forward.
His papers from 1940 to 2000 are archived in 109 archive boxes by the
Janus Projectin Cambridge.
His parents were Jewish, but he never "felt the need for religion" and was a lifelong humanist. He was president of the
British Humanist Associationfrom 1982 to 1999, and president of the Rationalist Press Associationfrom 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]
List of British Jewish scientists
* [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]
** [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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