Hermann Bondi

On this date in 1919, Sir Hermann Bondi (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 1945-48, a professor of mathematics at King’s College from 1954-71 and a master of Churchill College in Cambridge from 1983-90.

Bondi was an astronomer, mathematician and cosmologist renowned for his studies of relativity and black holes. He was one of the developers of the steady-state theory of the universe, which proposed 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 1967-71 and chief scientific adviser for England’s Ministry of Defence from 1971-77. He married Christine Stockman, a fellow physicist and humanist, in 1947 and had 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 UK Telegraph article (Sept. 13, 2005). Bondi co-founded the British Humanist Association and served as its president from 1982-99 and was president of the Rationalist Press Association from 1982 until 2005. Bondi donated half of the money from a large award he received to the Atheist Centre in Andra Pradesh, India. (D. 2005)

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