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About Herman Naftali Bondi
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.
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.
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 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 Lemaître-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.
Herman Bondi's Timeline
November 1, 1919
Cambridge, United Kingdom
September 10, 2005
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK