Tom Kibble

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Tom Kibble

Thomas Walter Bannerman Kibble

(1932-12-23)23 December 1932
Died2 June 2016(2016-06-02) (aged 83)
London, England, UK
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh (BSc, MA, PhD)
Known forQuantum field theory, broken symmetry, Higgs boson, Higgs mechanism, Kibble–Zurek mechanism, cosmic strings
Scientific career
FieldsTheoretical physics
InstitutionsImperial College London
ThesisTopics in quantum field theory: 1. Schwinger's action principle; 2. Dispersion relations for inelastic scattering processes (1958)
Doctoral advisorJohn Polkinghorne
Doctoral studentsSeifallah Randjbar-Daemi[citation needed]
Jonathan Ashmore[2]

Sir Thomas Walter Bannerman Kibble CBE FRS MAE[1] (/ˈkɪbəl/; 23 December 1932 – 2 June 2016) was a British theoretical physicist, senior research investigator at the Blackett Laboratory and Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London.[3] His research interests were in quantum field theory, especially the interface between high-energy particle physics and cosmology. He is best known as one of the first to describe the Higgs mechanism, and for his research on topological defects. From the 1950s he was concerned about the nuclear arms race and from 1970 took leading roles in promoting the social responsibility of the scientist.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Kibble was born in Madras, in the Madras Presidency of British India, on 23 December 1932.[5][6] He was the son of the statistician Walter F. Kibble, and the grandson of William Bannerman, an officer in the Indian Medical Service, and the author Helen Bannerman. His father was a mathematics professor at Madras Christian College, and Kibble grew up playing on the grounds of the college and solving mathematics puzzles his father gave him.[7] He was educated at Doveton Corrie School in Madras and then in Edinburgh, Scotland, at Melville College and at the University of Edinburgh.[3] He graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc in 1955, MA in 1956 and a PhD in 1958.[5][8]


Kibble worked on mechanisms of symmetry breaking, phase transitions and the topological defects (monopoles, cosmic strings or domain walls) that can be formed.

He is most noted for his co-discovery of the Higgs mechanism and Higgs boson with Gerald Guralnik and C. R. Hagen.[9][10][11] As part of Physical Review Letters 50th anniversary celebration, the journal recognised this discovery as one of the milestone papers in PRL history.[12] For this discovery Kibble was awarded the American Physical Society's 2010 J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics.[13] While Guralnik, Hagen, and Kibble are widely considered to have authored the most complete of the early papers on the Higgs theory, they were controversially not included in the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][7] In 2014, Nobel Laureate Peter Higgs expressed disappointment that Kibble had not been chosen to share the Nobel Prize with François Englert and himself.[21]

Kibble pioneered the study of topological defect generation in the early universe.[22] The paradigmatic mechanism of defect formation across a second-order phase transition is known as the Kibble-Zurek mechanism. His paper on cosmic strings introduced the phenomenon into modern cosmology.[23]

He was one of the two co-chairs of an interdisciplinary research programme funded by the European Science Foundation (ESF) on Cosmology in the Laboratory (COSLAB) which ran from 2001 to 2005. He was previously the coordinator of an ESF Network on Topological Defects in Particle Physics, Condensed Matter & Cosmology (TOPDEF).[8]

Awards and honours[edit]

Kibble was an elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1980,[1][24] of the Institute of Physics (1991), and of Imperial College London (2009). He was also a member of the American Physical Society (1958), the European Physical Society (1975) and the Academia Europaea (2000).[8] In 2008, Kibble was named an Outstanding Referee by the American Physical Society.[4][25]

In addition to the Sakurai Prize, Kibble has been awarded the Hughes Medal (1981) of the Royal Society, the Rutherford (1984) and Guthrie Medals (1993) of the Institute of Physics,[8] the Dirac Medal (2013),[26] the Albert Einstein Medal (2014)[27] and the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2014).[28] He was appointed a CBE in the 1998 Birthday Honours and was knighted in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to physics.[29][30]

Kibble was posthumously awarded the Isaac Newton Medal by the Institute of Physics for his outstanding lifelong commitment to the field.[31]


In 1966 Kibble authored a textbook, Classical Mechanics,[32] from the 3rd edition onwards with Frank H. Berkshire. which as of 2016 is still in print and is now in its 5th edition.[33]

Personal life and voluntary roles[edit]

Kibble was married to Anne Allan from 1957 until her death in 2005. Kibble had three children.[34][35][36][37][38]

In the 1950s and 1960s, Kibble became concerned about the nuclear arms race[39] and from 1970 he took leading roles in several organisations promoting scientists' social responsibility.[8] In the period 1970–1977, he was a national committee member, then treasurer, then chair of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science; from 1976 he was a trustee of the Science and Society Trust; from 1981 to 1991 he was a national coordinating committee member, then vice-chair, then chair of Scientists against Nuclear Arms; he was a sponsor of Scientists for Global Responsibility; and from 1988 he was chair, and later a trustee, of the Martin Ryle Trust.[39] He was chair of the organising committee of the Second International Scientists' Congress, held at Imperial College in 1988, and was a co-editor of the proceedings.[40]

In retirement, Kibble chaired the Richmond branch of the Ramblers Association.[41]

He died in London on 2 June 2016 at the age of 83.[42][7]


  1. ^ a b c Anon (1980). "Sir Thomas Kibble CBE FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 13 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the website where:

    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

  2. ^ Ashmore, Jonathan Felix (1972). Aspects of quantum field theory. (PhD thesis). University of London. hdl:10044/1/16203.
  3. ^ a b "Science – It's not Fiction; Tom Kibble". FP News, The magazine and Annual Review of The Stewart's Melville FP Club. Daniel Stewart's and Melville College Former Pupils Club. December 2014. p. 13. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
  4. ^ a b Gauntlett, Jerome (2016). "Thomas Kibble (1932–2016) Theoretical physicist and Higgs-boson pioneer". Nature. 534 (7609): 622. Bibcode:2016Natur.534..622G. doi:10.1038/534622a. PMID 27357788. S2CID 4401102.
  5. ^ a b "KIBBLE, Sir Thomas (Walter Bannerman)". Who's Who. Vol. 2016 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)(subscription required)
  6. ^ The International Who's Who 1996–97 (60 ed.). Europa Publications. 1996. pp. 826–827. ISBN 9781857430219.
  7. ^ a b c Yin, Steph (19 July 2016). "Tom Kibble, Physicist Who Helped Discover the Higgs Mechanism, Dies at 83". New York Times. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e Kibble, Tom (2011). "Thomas Walter Bannerman (Tom) Kibble – Biography". Curriculum vitae. The Academy of Europe.
  9. ^ "Phys. Rev. Lett. 13, 585 (1964) – Global Conservation Laws and Massless Particles". Physical Review Letters.
  10. ^ Guralnik, Gerald S. (2009). "The History of the Guralnik, Hagen and Kibble development of the Theory of Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking and Gauge Particles". International Journal of Modern Physics A. 24 (14): 2601–2627. arXiv:0907.3466. Bibcode:2009IJMPA..24.2601G. doi:10.1142/S0217751X09045431. S2CID 16298371.
  11. ^ "Guralnik, G S; Hagen, C R and Kibble, T W B (1967). Broken Symmetries and the Goldstone Theorem. Advances in Physics, vol. 2" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  12. ^ "Physical Review Letters – Letters from the Past – A PRL Retrospective". Physical Review Letters.
  13. ^ "APS Physics – DPF – J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics".
  14. ^ APS News - 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics and Landmark Papers in PRL History(October 8, 2013)
  15. ^ "Nobel committee’s 'Rule of Three’ means some Higgs boson scientists were left out." Washington Post (October 8, 2013)
  16. ^ "The 2013 Nobel prizes. Higgs’s bosuns." Economist (October 12, 2013)
  17. ^ "Why are some scientists unhappy with the Nobel prizes?" Economist (October 9, 2013)
  18. ^ "House of dreams. Scientists race to explain why the Higgs boson matters." Economist (March 3, 2012)
  19. ^ Guralnik, G. S; Hagen, C. R (2014). "Where have all the Goldstone bosons gone?". Modern Physics Letters A. 29 (9): 1450046. arXiv:1401.6924. Bibcode:2014MPLA...2950046G. doi:10.1142/S0217732314500461. S2CID 119257339.
  20. ^ "Gerald Guralnik, 77, a 'God Particle' Pioneer, Dies". The New York Times. 3 May 2014.
  21. ^ "Early night cost Higgs credit for big physics theory". BBC News. 18 February 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  22. ^ Kibble, T. W. B. (1976). "Topology of cosmic domains and strings". J. Phys. A: Math. Gen. 9 (8): 1387–1398. Bibcode:1976JPhA....9.1387K. doi:10.1088/0305-4470/9/8/029.
  23. ^ Hindmarsh, M.; Kibble, T. (1995). "Cosmic strings". Rep. Prog. Phys. 58 (5): 477–562. arXiv:hep-ph/9411342. Bibcode:1995RPPh...58..477H. doi:10.1088/0034-4885/58/5/001. S2CID 118892895.
  24. ^ Duff, M. J.; Stelle, K. S. (2021). "Sir Thomas Walter Bannerman Kibble. 23 December 1932—2 June 2016". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 70: 225–244. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2020.0040. S2CID 227209669.
  25. ^ "APS Journals – Outstanding Referees".
  26. ^ "Kibble, Peebles and Rees Share the 2013 Dirac Medal". International Centre for Theoretical Physics. 8 August 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  27. ^ "Faces & Places – Kibble receives Albert Einstein Medal". CERN Courier. 13 July 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  28. ^ "Academic excellence recognised as RSE announces Royal Medals and Prizes" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  29. ^ "No. 60895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2014. p. b2.
  30. ^ "Queen's birthday honours list 2014: Knights". the Guardian. 13 June 2014.
  31. ^ Ghosh, Pallab (1 July 2016). "Late scientist Tom Kibble wins award for particle work". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  32. ^ Kibble T W B (1966) Classical Mechanics. McGraw-Hill, London.
  33. ^ Kibble, T W B and Berkshire, F H (2004) Classical Mechanics. McGraw-Hill, London.
  34. ^ "Sad farewell to physicist who transformed our understanding of the universe". Imperial College London. 3 June 2016.
  35. ^ "Higgs pioneer and IOP fellow Sir Thomas Kibble has died". Institute of Physics. 3 June 2016.
  36. ^ "Sir Tom Kibble, physicist – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 8 June 2016.
  37. ^ Close, Frank (8 June 2016). "Sir Tom Kibble, physicist obituary. One of the world's foremost theoretical physicists". The Guardian.
  38. ^ Gauntlett, Jerome (10 June 2016). "Sir Tom Kibble: a tribute". Imperial College London.
  39. ^ a b SGR Sponsors
  40. ^ Hassard, John; Kibble; Tom and Lewis, Patricia; (eds) (1989) Ways Out of the Arms Race: from the nuclear threat to mutual security. World Scientific, Singapore.
  41. ^ "Arise Sir Tom!". Richmond Ramblers. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  42. ^ "Tom Kibble, UK physicist who worked on Higgs boson dies, says university". The Daily Telegraph. 2 June 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.

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