Bondi, Sir Hermann


Bondi, Sir Hermann
▪ 2006

      Austrian-born British mathematician and cosmologist (b. Nov. 1, 1919, Vienna, Austria—d. Sept. 10, 2005, Cambridge, Eng.), was best known for his collaboration with astronomer Thomas Gold and astrophysicist Fred Hoyle in formulating (1948) the steady-state theory of the universe, which postulates that the universe is infinite and, though expanding, remains essentially unchanged over time through the continuous creation of new matter. The steady-state theory contributed to the development of cosmology, but it was supplanted by the big-bang theory, which (in agreement with subsequent astronomical observations) held that the universe had a specific beginning. Bondi's later study of the general theory of relativity and black holes led to a useful description of how gases would behave as they were drawn into a black hole, an effect known as Bondi accretion. After graduating (M.A., 1940) in mathematics from Trinity College, Cambridge, Bondi was briefly interned (1940–41) as an “enemy alien.” He met Gold at an internment camp in Canada, but the two men were returned to England, where they did wartime research under Hoyle. Bondi taught mathematics at Cambridge (1945–54) and at King's College, London (1954–85), and was a master of Churchill College, Cambridge (1983–90). He also led a successful career in public service, first as director general of the European Space Research Organization (1967–71) and later as a scientific adviser to the British government (1971–80). Bondi was knighted in 1973.

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▪ British scientist
born November 1, 1919, Vienna, Austria
died September 10, 2005, Cambridge, England

      British mathematician and cosmologist who, with Fred Hoyle (Hoyle, Sir Fred) and Thomas Gold (Gold, Thomas), formulated the steady-state theory of the universe.

      Bondi received an M.A. from Trinity College, Cambridge. During World War II he worked in the British Admiralty (1942–45). He then taught mathematics at Cambridge (1945–54) and at King's College in London (1954–85; emeritus 1985); he served as master of Churchill College, Cambridge, from 1983 to 1990. Bondi combined his academic career with active involvement in public service. He was director general of the European Space Research Organization (1967–71), chief scientific adviser to the British ministry of defense (1971–77), chief scientist of the department of energy (1977–80), and chairman of the Natural Environment Research Council (1980–84).

      In 1948 Bondi, Hoyle, and Gold advanced their cosmological theory of a steady-state universe (steady-state theory), which postulates that the universe is the same everywhere and for all time. This means that as the universe expands, new matter would have to be created to balance this expansion. The theory of an eternal, steady-state universe, with no specific origin, has fallen into disrepute since the discovery (1961) of cosmic background radiation (i.e., a faint glow of radio radiation emanating from all directions in space), which strongly suggests that the universe began at some definable moment in the past with a violent explosion of an extremely dense and intensely hot mass of material.

      Works by Bondi include Cosmology (1952; reissued 1960), The Universe at Large (1960), Relativity and Commonsense (1964), and Assumption and Myth in Physical Theory (1967). He was made a fellow of the Royal Society in 1959 and was knighted in 1973. His autobiography, Science, Churchill, and Me, was published in 1990.

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Universalium. 2010.

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