Tom Kibble

Last updated


Tom Kibble

Thomas Walter Bannerman Kibble

(1932-12-23)23 December 1932
Died2 June 2016(2016-06-02) (aged 83)
London, England
Nationality British
Alma mater University of Edinburgh (BSc, MA, PhD)
Known for Quantum field theory, broken symmetry, Higgs boson, Higgs mechanism, Kibble–Zurek mechanism, cosmic strings
Scientific career
Fields Theoretical physics
Institutions Imperial College London
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 John W. Barrett [2]
Seifallah Randjbar-Daemi [ citation needed ]
Jonathan Ashmore [3]

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. [4] 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. [5]


Early life and education

Kibble was born in Madras, in the Madras Presidency of British India, on 23 December 1932. [6] [7] 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. [8] He was educated at Doveton Corrie School in Madras and then in Edinburgh, Scotland, at Melville College and at the University of Edinburgh. [4] He graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc in 1955, MA in 1956 and a PhD in 1958. [6] [9]


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. [10] [11] [12] As part of Physical Review Letters 50th anniversary celebration, the journal recognised this discovery as one of the milestone papers in PRL history. [13] He was awarded the American Physical Society's 2010 J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics. [14]

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. [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [8]

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). [9]

Awards and honours

Kibble was an elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1980, [1] [25] 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). [9] In 2008, Kibble was named an Outstanding Referee by the American Physical Society. [5] [26]

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, [9] the Dirac Medal (2013), [27] the Albert Einstein Medal (2014) [28] and the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2014). [29]

He was appointed a CBE in the 1998 Birthday Honours and was knighted in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to physics. [30] [31]

Kibble was posthumously awarded the Isaac Newton Medal by the Institute of Physics for his outstanding lifelong commitment to the field. [32]


In 1966 Kibble authored a textbook, Classical Mechanics, [33] from the 3rd edition onwards with Frank H. Berkshire. which as of 2016 is still in print and is now in its 5th edition. [34]

Personal life and voluntary roles

Kibble was married to Anne Allan from 1957 until her death in 2005. Kibble had three children. [35] [36] [37] [38] [39]

In the 1950s and 1960s, Kibble became concerned about the nuclear arms race [40] and from 1970 he took leading roles in several organisations promoting scientists' social responsibility. [9] 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. [40] 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. [41]

In retirement, Kibble chaired the Richmond branch of the Ramblers Association. [42]

He died in London on 2 June 2016 at the age of 83. [43] [8]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Steven Weinberg</span> American theoretical physicist (1933–2021)

Steven Weinberg was an American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate in physics for his contributions with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow to the unification of the weak force and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spontaneous symmetry breaking</span> Symmetry breaking through the vacuum state

Spontaneous symmetry breaking is a spontaneous process of symmetry breaking, by which a physical system in a symmetric state spontaneously ends up in an asymmetric state. In particular, it can describe systems where the equations of motion or the Lagrangian obey symmetries, but the lowest-energy vacuum solutions do not exhibit that same symmetry. When the system goes to one of those vacuum solutions, the symmetry is broken for perturbations around that vacuum even though the entire Lagrangian retains that symmetry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Abdus Salam</span> Pakistani theoretical physicist (1926–1996)

Mohammad Abdus Salam was a Pakistani theoretical physicist. He shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics with Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg for his contribution to the electroweak unification theory. He was the first Pakistani and the first Muslim from an Islamic country to receive a Nobel Prize in science and the second from an Islamic country to receive any Nobel Prize, after Anwar Sadat of Egypt.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peter Higgs</span> English physicist (born 1929)

Peter Ware Higgs is an English theoretical physicist, Emeritus Professor at the University of Edinburgh, and Nobel Prize laureate for his work on the mass of subatomic particles.

The year 1964 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Higgs mechanism</span> Mechanism that explains the generation of mass for gauge bosons

In the Standard Model of particle physics, the Higgs mechanism is essential to explain the generation mechanism of the property "mass" for gauge bosons. Without the Higgs mechanism, all bosons (one of the two classes of particles, the other being fermions) would be considered massless, but measurements show that the W+, W, and Z0 bosons actually have relatively large masses of around 80 GeV/c2. The Higgs field resolves this conundrum. The simplest description of the mechanism adds a quantum field (the Higgs field) which permeates all of space to the Standard Model. Below some extremely high temperature, the field causes spontaneous symmetry breaking during interactions. The breaking of symmetry triggers the Higgs mechanism, causing the bosons it interacts with to have mass. In the Standard Model, the phrase "Higgs mechanism" refers specifically to the generation of masses for the W±, and Z weak gauge bosons through electroweak symmetry breaking. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN announced results consistent with the Higgs particle on 14 March 2013, making it extremely likely that the field, or one like it, exists, and explaining how the Higgs mechanism takes place in nature. The view of the Higgs mechanism as involving spontaneous symmetry breaking of a gauge symmetry is technically incorrect since by Elitzur's theorem gauge symmetries can never be spontaneously broken. Rather, the Fröhlich–Morchio–Strocchi mechanism reformulates the Higgs mechanism in an entirely gauge invariant way, generally leading to the same results.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yoichiro Nambu</span> Japanese-American nobel-winning physicist

Yoichiro Nambu was a Japanese-American physicist and professor at the University of Chicago.

The J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics, is presented by the American Physical Society at its annual April Meeting, and honors outstanding achievement in particle physics theory. The prize consists of a monetary award (US$10,000), a certificate citing the contributions recognized by the award, and a travel allowance for the recipient to attend the presentation. The award is endowed by the family and friends of particle physicist J. J. Sakurai. The prize has been awarded annually since 1985.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gerald Guralnik</span>

Gerald Stanford "Gerry" Guralnik was the Chancellor’s Professor of Physics at Brown University. In 1964 he co-discovered the Higgs mechanism and Higgs boson with C. R. Hagen and Tom Kibble (GHK). As part of Physical Review Letters' 50th anniversary celebration, the journal recognized this discovery as one of the milestone papers in PRL history. While widely considered to have authored the most complete of the early papers on the Higgs theory, GHK were controversially not included in the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">François Englert</span> Belgian theoretical physicist

François, Baron Englert is a Belgian theoretical physicist and 2013 Nobel Prize laureate.

The timeline of particle physics lists the sequence of particle physics theories and discoveries in chronological order. The most modern developments follow the scientific development of the discipline of particle physics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">C. R. Hagen</span>

Carl Richard Hagen is a professor of particle physics at the University of Rochester. He is most noted for his contributions to the Standard Model and Symmetry breaking as well as the 1964 co-discovery of the Higgs mechanism and Higgs boson with Gerald Guralnik and Tom Kibble (GHK). As part of Physical Review Letters 50th anniversary celebration, the journal recognized this discovery as one of the milestone papers in PRL history. While widely considered to have authored the most complete of the early papers on the Higgs theory, GHK were controversially not included in the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Brout</span> American physicist (1928–2011)

Robert Brout was an American theoretical physicist who made significant contributions in elementary particle physics. He was a professor of physics at Université Libre de Bruxelles where he had created, together with François Englert, the Service de Physique Théorique.

<i>The God Particle</i> (book) Book by Leon M. Lederman

The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? is a 1993 popular science book by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon M. Lederman and science writer Dick Teresi.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Higgs boson</span> Elementary particle involved with rest mass

The Higgs boson, sometimes called the Higgs particle, is an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics produced by the quantum excitation of the Higgs field, one of the fields in particle physics theory. In the Standard Model, the Higgs particle is a massive scalar boson with zero spin, even (positive) parity, no electric charge, and no colour charge that couples to mass. It is also very unstable, decaying into other particles almost immediately upon generation.

The 1964 PRL symmetry breaking papers were written by three teams who proposed related but different approaches to explain how mass could arise in local gauge theories. These three papers were written by: Robert Brout and François Englert; Peter Higgs; and Gerald Guralnik, C. Richard Hagen, and Tom Kibble (GHK). They are credited with the theory of the Higgs mechanism and the prediction of the Higgs field and Higgs boson. Together, these provide a theoretical means by which Goldstone's theorem can be avoided. They show how gauge bosons can acquire non-zero masses as a result of spontaneous symmetry breaking within gauge invariant models of the universe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guido Tonelli</span> Italian particle physicist

Guido Tonelli is an Italian particle physicist who was involved with the discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider. He is a professor of General Physics at the University of Pisa (Italy) and a CERN visiting scientist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tejinder Virdee</span> British physicist

Sir Tejinder Singh Virdee,, is a Kenyan-born British experimental particle physicist and Professor of Physics at Imperial College London. He is best known for originating the concept of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) with a few other colleagues and has been referred to as one of the 'founding fathers' of the project. CMS is a world-wide collaboration which started in 1991 and now has over 3500 participants from 45 countries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sally Dawson</span> American physicist

Sally Dawson is an American physicist who deals with theoretical elementary particle physics.

Michel Della Negra is a French experimental particle physicist known for his role in the 2012 discovery of the Higgs Boson.


  1. 1 2 3 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. "Academy of Europe: CV".
  3. Ashmore, Jonathan Felix (1972). Aspects of quantum field theory. (PhD thesis). University of London. hdl:10044/1/16203.[ permanent dead link ]
  4. 1 2 "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.
  5. 1 2 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.
  6. 1 2 "Kibble, Sir Thomas (Walter Bannerman)" . Who's Who . Vol. 2016 (online Oxford University Press  ed.). Oxford: A & C Black.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. The International Who's Who 1996–97 (60 ed.). Europa Publications. 1996. pp. 826–827. ISBN   978-1-85743-021-9.
  8. 1 2 3 Yin, Steph (19 July 2016). "Tom Kibble, Physicist Who Helped Discover the Higgs Mechanism, Dies at 83". New York Times . Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Kibble, Tom (2011). "Thomas Walter Bannerman (Tom) Kibble – Biography". Curriculum vitae. The Academy of Europe.
  10. "Phys. Rev. Lett. 13, 585 (1964) – Global Conservation Laws and Massless Particles". Physical Review Letters. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.13.585 . Archived from the original on 27 May 2020. Retrieved 28 February 2008.
  11. 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.
  12. "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.
  13. "Physical Review Letters – Letters from the Past – A PRL Retrospective". Physical Review Letters.
  14. "APS Physics – DPF – J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics". Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  15. APS News - 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics and Landmark Papers in PRL History (8 October 2013)
  16. "Nobel committee's 'Rule of Three' means some Higgs boson scientists were left out." Washington Post (8 October 2013)
  17. "The 2013 Nobel prizes. Higgs's bosuns." Economist (12 October 2013)
  18. "Why are some scientists unhappy with the Nobel prizes?" (9 October 2013)
  19. "House of dreams. Scientists race to explain why the Higgs boson matters." (3 March 2012)
  20. 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.
  21. "Gerald Guralnik, 77, a 'God Particle' Pioneer, Dies". The New York Times . 3 May 2014.
  22. "Early night cost Higgs credit for big physics theory". BBC News. 18 February 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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. arXiv: 2011.13257 . doi: 10.1098/rsbm.2020.0040 . S2CID   227209669.
  26. "APS Journals – Outstanding Referees".
  27. "Kibble, Peebles and Rees Share the 2013 Dirac Medal". International Centre for Theoretical Physics. 8 August 2013. Archived from the original on 3 December 2021. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  28. "Faces & Places – Kibble receives Albert Einstein Medal". CERN Courier. 13 July 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  29. "Academic excellence recognised as RSE announces Royal Medals and Prizes" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh. 19 March 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  30. "No. 60895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2014. p. b2.
  31. "Queen's birthday honours list 2014: Knights". the Guardian. 13 June 2014.
  32. Ghosh, Pallab (1 July 2016). "Late scientist Tom Kibble wins award for particle work". BBC News . BBC . Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  33. Kibble T W B (1966) Classical Mechanics. McGraw-Hill, London.
  34. Kibble, T W B and Berkshire, F H (2004) Classical Mechanics. McGraw-Hill, London.
  35. "Sad farewell to physicist who transformed our understanding of the universe". Imperial College London . 3 June 2016.
  36. "Higgs pioneer and IOP fellow Sir Thomas Kibble has died". Institute of Physics . 3 June 2016.
  37. "Sir Tom Kibble, physicist – obituary". The Daily Telegraph . 8 June 2016.
  38. Close, Frank (8 June 2016). "Sir Tom Kibble, physicist obituary. One of the world's foremost theoretical physicists". The Guardian .
  39. Gauntlett, Jerome (10 June 2016). "Sir Tom Kibble: a tribute". Imperial College London .
  40. 1 2 SGR Sponsors
  41. 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.
  42. "Arise Sir Tom!". Richmond Ramblers. Retrieved 19 March 2019.[ permanent dead link ]
  43. "Tom Kibble, UK physicist who worked on Higgs boson dies, says university". The Daily Telegraph . 2 June 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.