Sir Hermann Bondi and the Steady State Theory

Hermann Bondi

Hermann Bondi

On November 1, 1919, Anglo-Austrian mathematician and cosmologist Sir Herman Bondi was born. Bondi 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. Their model was rendered obsolete, when in 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson detected a background microwave radiation from all directions in space, as predicted by the “Big Bang” theory of creation that is now accepted.

Hermann Bondi was born in Vienna and moved to England to read the mathematical tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge. He arrived in 1937 and thus escaped from the growing anti-semitism in Austria. After World War II started, Bondi was interned on the Isle of Man and in Canada as a friendly enemy alien. Next to Bondi, further internees included Thomas Gold and Max Perutz. In 1941, Gold and Bondi were released and began working with Fred Hoyle on radar at the Admiralty Signals Establishment.

From 1945 to 1954, Bondi lectured mathematics at the University of Cambridge. During that period, Bondi, Hoyle and Gold came up with the famous Steady State theory. The theory was an alternative to the Big Bang model of the evolution of the universe. It means that the density of matter in the expanding universe remains unchanged due to a continuous creation of matter, thus adhering to the perfect cosmological principle. The principle asserts that the observable universe is basically the same at any time as well as at any place. The theory was eclipsed by the rival Big Bang theory with the discovery of the cosmic microwave background.

Hermann Bondi became further known for the Bondi radiation coordinates, the Bondi k-calculus, the notions of Bondi mass and Bondi news. He further popularized the sticky bead argument which was said to be originally due, anonymously, to Richard Feynman. 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.

In 1954 he became a professor at King’s College London and became Emeritus Professor in 1985. At the Royal Astronomical Society, Bondi was secretary from 1956 to 1964.

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