Cyril Domb

The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries - GE­OF­FREY AL­DER­MAN

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

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