Tom Kibble

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Sir Tom Kibble
Born Thomas Walter Bannerman Kibble
(1932-12-23)23 December 1932
Madras, Madras Presidency, British India
Died 2 June 2016(2016-06-02) (aged 83)
London, England, UK
Nationality British
Fields Theoretical physics
Institutions Imperial College London
Alma mater University of Edinburgh, BSc, MA, PhD
Thesis Topics in quantum field theory: 1. Schwinger's action principle; 2. Dispersion relations for inelastic scattering processes (1958)
Doctoral advisor John Polkinghorne
Doctoral students Seifallah Randjbar-Daemi
Known for Quantum field theory, broken symmetry, Higgs boson, Higgs mechanism, and cosmology
Notable awards

Sir Thomas Walter Bannerman Kibble, CBE FRS[1] (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.[2] 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.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Kibble was born in Madras, India on 23 December 1932,[4][5] and was the grandson of William Bannerman, an officer in the Indian Medical Service, and the author Helen Bannerman. He was educated at Doveton Corrie School in Madras and then in Edinburgh, Scotland, at Melville College and at the University of Edinburgh.[2] He graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc in 1955, MA in 1956 and a PhD in 1958.[4][6] Kibble was married to Anne Allan from 1957 until her death in 2005. Kibble had three children.[7][8][9][10][11] He died in London on 2 June 2016 at the age of 83.[12][13]


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.[14][15][16] As part of Physical Review Letters 50th anniversary celebration, the journal recognized this discovery as one of the milestone papers in PRL history.[17] For this discovery Kibble was awarded the American Physical Society's 2010 J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics.[18] 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.[19][20][21] In 2014, Nobel Laureate Peter Higgs expressed disappointment that Kibble had not been chosen to share the Nobel Prize with François Englert and himself.[22]

Kibble pioneered the study of topological defect generation in the early universe.[23] 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.[24]

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).[6]

In 1966 Kibble published a textbook, Classical Mechanics,[25] which is still in print (as of 2016), now in its 5th edition and co-authored with Frank Berkshire.[26]

Awards and honours[edit]

Kibble was a elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1980,[1] 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).[6] In 2008, Kibble was named an Outstanding Referee by the American Physical Society.[3][27]

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,[6] the Dirac Medal (2013),[28] the Albert Einstein Medal (2014)[29] and the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2014).[30] He was awarded a CBE in the 1998 Birthday Honours and was knighted in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to physics.[31][32]

Kibble was posthumously awarded the Isaac Newton Medal by the Institute of Physics for his outstanding lifelong commitment to the field.[33]

Social responsibility of scientists[edit]

In the 1950s and 1960s, Kibble became concerned about the nuclear arms race[34] and from 1970 he took leading roles in several organisations promoting the social responsibility of the scientist.[6] 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.[34] 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.[35]


  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 at the Wayback Machine (archived September 25, 2015)‹The template Wayback is being considered for merging.› 

  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ a b Gauntlett, Jerome (2016). "Thomas Kibble (1932–2016) Theoretical physicist and Higgs-boson pioneer". Nature. 534 (7609): 622–622. doi:10.1038/534622a. PMID 27357788. 
  4. ^ a b KIBBLE, Sir Thomas (Walter Bannerman). Who's Who. 2016 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  5. ^ The International Who's Who 1996–97 (60 ed.). Europa Publications. 1996. pp. 826–827. ISBN 9781857430219. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Kibble, Tom (2011). "Thomas Walter Bannerman (Tom) Kibble – Biography". Curriculum vitae. The Academy of Europe. 
  7. ^ "Sad farewell to physicist who transformed our understanding of the universe". Imperial College London. 3 June 2016. 
  8. ^ "Higgs pioneer and IOP fellow Sir Thomas Kibble has died". Institute of Physics. 3 June 2016. 
  9. ^ "Sir Tom Kibble, physicist – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 8 June 2016. 
  10. ^ Frank Close (8 June 2016). "Sir Tom Kibble, physicist obituary. One of the world's foremost theoretical physicists". The Guardian. 
  11. ^ Jerome Gauntlett (10 June 2016). "Sir Tom Kibble: a tribute". Imperial College London. 
  12. ^ "Tom Kibble, UK physicist who worked on Higgs boson dies, says university". The Daily Telegraph. 2 June 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  13. ^ "Tom Kibble, Physicist Who Helped Discover the Higgs Mechanism, Dies at 83". New York Times. 19 July 2016. 
  14. ^ "Phys. Rev. Lett. 13, 585 (1964) – Global Conservation Laws and Massless Particles". Physical Review Letters. 
  15. ^ 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:0907.3466free to read. doi:10.1142/S0217751X09045431. 
  16. ^ "Guralnik, G S; Hagen, C R and Kibble, T W B (1967). Broken Symmetries and the Goldstone Theorem. Advances in Physics, vol. 2" (PDF). 
  17. ^ "Physical Review Letters – Letters from the Past – A PRL Retrospective". Physical Review Letters. 
  18. ^ "APS Physics – DPF – J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics". 
  19. ^ “The 2013 Nobel prizes. Higgs’s bosuns.” Economist (October 12, 2013)
  20. ^ “Why are some scientists unhappy with the Nobel prizes?” Economist (October 9, 2013)
  21. ^ Guralnik, G. S.; Hagen, C. R. (2014). "Where Have All the Goldstone Bosons Gone?". Modern Physics Letters A. 29 (9): 1450046. arXiv:1401.6924free to read. doi:10.1142/S0217732314500461. 
  22. ^ "Early night cost Higgs credit for big physics theory". Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  23. ^ Kibble, T. W. B. (1976). "Topology of cosmic domains and strings". J. Phys. A: Math. Gen. 9 (8): 1387. Bibcode:1976JPhA....9.1387K. doi:10.1088/0305-4470/9/8/029. 
  24. ^ Hindmarsh, M.; Kibble, T. (1995). "Cosmic strings". Rept.Prog.Phys. 58 (5): 477–562. arXiv:hep-ph/9411342free to read. Bibcode:1995RPPh...58..477H. doi:10.1088/0034-4885/58/5/001. 
  25. ^ Kibble T W B (1966) Classical Mechanics. McGraw-Hill, London.
  26. ^ Kibble, T W B and Berkshire, F H (2004) Classical Mechanics. McGraw-Hill, London.
  27. ^ "APS Journals – Outstanding Referees". 
  28. ^ "Kibble, Peebles and Rees Share the 2013 Dirac Medal". International Centre for Theoretical Physics. 8 August 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2016. 
  29. ^ "Faces & Places - Kibble receives Albert Einstein Medal". CERN Courier. International Journal of High-Energy Physics. 13 July 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2016. 
  30. ^ "Academic excellence recognised as RSE announces Royal Medals and Prizes" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2016. 
  31. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60895. p. b2. 14 June 2014.
  32. ^ "Queen's birthday honours list 2014: Knights". the Guardian. 
  33. ^ Ghosh, Pallab (1 July 2016). "Late scientist Tom Kibble wins award for particle work". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 30 August 2016. 
  34. ^ a b SGR Sponsors
  35. ^ John Hassard, Tom Kibble and Patricia Lewis (editors) (1989) Ways Out of the Arms Race: from the nuclear threat to mutual security. World Scientific, Singapore.

External links[edit]