Thomas Fink

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For the American poet, see Thomas Fink (poet).
Thomas Fink
Thomas fink.jpg
Born New York, U.S.
Nationality American, British
Fields Physics
Institutions Cambridge
Curie Institute (CNRS)
Alma mater Caltech
Doctoral advisor Robin Ball
Other academic advisors Bernard Derrida
Notable awards Fisher Prize (Physics)

Thomas Fink is an Anglo-American physicist and author. He has published a number of papers in statistical physics and mathematical biology and two popular books. He is a Fellow of the London Institute for Mathematical Sciences and a Chargé de Recherche in the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

Education and positions[edit]

Fink did his BS at Caltech, where he won the annual Fisher Prize for top physicist and Green prize for best research. He then moved to England for his PhD at St John's College, Cambridge, where he was supervised by Robin Ball in the TCM group of the Cavendish Laboratory. He was a Junior Fellow at Caius College, Cambridge and did a postdoc at École Normale Supérieure with Bernard Derrida. He now occupies his current positions at the London Institute and the CNRS.


Fink is a researcher in theoretical physics. He published his first paper in the journal Science at the age of 20 while at Caltech and received his PhD at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. Fink uses statistical mechanics to study complex systems in physics and interdisciplinary fields, including evolvability, cellular automata, non-random expression, competition between agents, dynamics on networks, small boolean networks, self-assembly and non-coding DNA, according to his website. His Erdős number is 3 (see the list of people by Erdős number).

Selected Papers

  • S. Ahnert, T. Fink and A. Zinovyev, 'How much non-coding DNA do eukaryotes require?', J. Theor. Bio. 252, 587.
  • F. Brown, T. Fink and K. Willbrand, ‘On arithmetic and asymptotic properties of up-down numbers’, Disc. Math. 307 1722.
  • B. Derrida and T. Fink, 'Sequence determination from overlapping fragments', Phys. Rev. Lett. 88, 068106.
  • T. Fink and R. Ball, 'How many conformations can a protein remember?', Phys. Rev. Lett. 87, 198103.
  • T. Fink and Y. Mao, 'Designing Tie knots by random walks', Nature 398, 31.[1]
  • B. Werner and T. Fink, 'Beach cusps as self-organized patterns', Science 260, 968.


According to his homepage, Fink's books have sold 1/3 million copies.

The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie, (with Yong Mao, Fourth Estate, London) is a cultural, historical and mathematical examination of ties and tie knots. The book includes a layman's account of the authors' mathematical papers which derived all possible knots capable of being tied with a standard necktie.[2] It has been published in 10 languages.

The Man's Book (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Orion, Little, Brown) is a handbook of men's customs, habits and pursuits. It is organized by subject, with chapters on health, dress, sports, outdoors, drinking, eating and others. The author dedicates only a few pages to each section, and within that space tries to summarize the essentials as completely and densely as possible. For instance, the section on beer explains the different beer styles, lists popular beers from around the world, and summarizes beer drinking customs. The book was designed and typeset by the author, and was written so that each section finishes on the last line of a page. This effect does not survive translation, however. The Man's Book has been reviewed in The Times (UK), the Literary Review, the New Statesman, and has been translated into German, Italian, Russian and other languages.[3] In May 2009 IntuApps and Little, Brown released an iPhone application inspired by The Man's Book. The app hit the no. 1 spot in the Apple App Store, with over 1 million downloads, on 23 May 2009, according to the IntuApps website and Little, Brown.[4]

London Institute for Mathematical Sciences[edit]

In 2009 Fink founded the London Institute (full name: London Institute for Mathematical Sciences),[5] a non-profit institute for physics and mathematics research. Located in Mayfair, London, LIMS is like a university research department, but with no teaching or administrative duties. It is private in the sense that it covers its own costs through research grants and donations. In 2011 the London Institute became a registered charity in England and Wales.

Personal life[edit]

Fink was born in Plattsburgh, New York and moved to San Antonio, Texas as a child. After four years in California (Caltech), he moved to Cambridge, England. Fink left Cambridge in 2003 and spent the next several years between London and Paris. In 2009 he acquired dual nationality and has since lived in London full-time. Outside of physics, Fink is interested in design, simplicity, adaptability, skiing and shooting, according to his web page.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Solving a knotty problem". BBC News. 4 March 1999. 
  2. ^ Buck, Gregory (2000). "Why not knot right?". Nature 403 (6768): 362. doi:10.1038/35000270. 
  3. ^ Sanderson, Mark (19 November 2006). "Literary life". The Telegraph. 
  4. ^ "The Man's Book: the Essential Guide for the Modern Man". PCWorld. 2009-05-06. Retrieved 2010-04-05. 
  5. ^ "London Institute for Mathematical Sciences".