AWORLD-CLASS theoretical physicist, and a strictly Othodox Jew, Cyril (Yechiel) Domb was preoccupied in later life with reconciling the two worlds of which he was an acknowledge master – the natural sciences and the Torah.
Domb was born into a modest, Orthodox family and at Hackney Downs School his scientific ability was nurtured by its celebrated mathematics teacher Frederick Swan. He easily won a place at Pembroke College, Cambridge, graduating in 1941. From there he was accepted into the Admiralty Signal Establishment (Portsmouth), and came under the influence of the renowned, if controversial, astronomer and mathematician Fred Hoyle. There he joined Hoyle, in a group working on issues connected with the early development of radar, in particular the radar detection not merely of enemy aircraft but of the height at which they were flying.
But his major scientific interests concerned the so-called ‘critical’ phenomena of fluids and ‘phase transitions’ – the processes by which matter changes from one state (i.e. liquid) to another (i.e. gas). He became a leading authority in these subjects.
In 1949 Domb was elected to a special research fellowship at Oxford and in 1954, still in his early 30s, he was appointed professor of theoretical physics at King’s College, London, where he remained until his aliyah to Israel in 1981. Domb held the chair of physics at Bar-ilan University from 1981 until 1989, and also served as academic president of the Jerusalem College of Technology.
He was a long-serving president of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists and his article, The Bible and Creation was published by the JC in February 17, 1961 .The then Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, a trained engineer, took issue with some of Domb’s arguments, and the two began a correspondence on the reconciliation of Torah precepts and scientific facts. Domb published his theories on the reconciliation of these alleged contradictions in two volumes of essays. In 1977 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and four years later received the Max Born prize. He held numerous visiting professorships the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, and is survived by his wife Shirley, six children and many grandchildren.
Domb: reconciling science with Torah