Sir Hermann Bondi

On this date in 1919, Hermann Bondi (later knighted in 1973) was born in Vienna, Austria. He graduated from Trinity College with a degree in mathematics in 1940. Bondi worked as a university lecturer at Cambridge University from 1945 to 1948, a professor of mathematics at King’s College from 1954 to 1971, and master of Churchill College in Cambridge from 1983 to 1990.

Bondi was an astronomer, mathematician and cosmologist who is renowned for his studies of relativity and black holes. He was one of the developers of the steady-state theory of the universe, which proposes that matter is constantly being created and that the universe had no beginning in time. (The steady-state theory has since been replaced with the big-bang theory.) Bondi discovered the Bondi Accretion, the Bondi Radius and Bondi mass. His books include Cosmology (1952), The Universe at Large (1961), and his autobiography, Science, Churchill and Me (1990). He was also the director of the European Space Research Organisation from 1967 to 1971, and the Chief Scientific Adviser for England’s Ministry of Defence from 1971 to 1977. He married Christine Stockman, a fellow physicist and humanist, in 1947, and has two sons and three daughters.

Although his family was Jewish, Bondi was a strong humanist who never “felt the need for religion,” according to a Sept. 13, 2005 Telegraph article. Bondi co-founded the British Humanist Association and served as its president from 1982 to 1999, and was president of the Rationalist Press Association from 1982 until 2005. According to a Sept. 23, 2005 letter in The Guardian, Bondi donated half of the money from a large award he received to the Atheist Centre in Andra Pradesh, India. D. 2005

“Our humanist attitude should therefore throughout be to stress what we all have in common with each other and relegate quarrelsome religion to the private domain where it can do [less] harm.”

—Hermann Bondi, April 1995, speech titled “Ethics, Science and Humanism” (quoted on the International Humanist and Ethical Union website, June 1, 1995).

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

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