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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 September 2005, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
Black hole scientist Bondi dies
Hermann Bondi
Astrophysicist and black hole expert Sir Hermann Bondi dies
A scientist who helped formulate a controversial view of the universe has died in Cambridge aged 85.

Sir Hermann Bondi was an astrophysicist who helped formulate the steady-state theory of the universe - which said it has always existed.

When this theory was supplanted by the Big Bang in the 1950s, Sir Hermann did pioneering work on black holes.

Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees, who said Sir Hermann died on 10 September, praised his contribution to science.

He said his work helped Yorkshireman Sir Fred Hoyle and German Thomas Gold develop the steady-state theory, at the time an important scientific idea.

Sir Hermann had suffered from Parkinson's disease for years, Professor Rees added.

Prison camp meeting

Hermann Bondi graduated from Cambridge University in 1940 but as an Austrian was immediately interned as an "enemy alien" first in Britain then in Canada.

He met Thomas Gold in one of these prison camps and the pair struck up a working relationship.

Once the value of the two scientists was recognised they were set a task of developing radar systems for the British Admiralty and they met Fred Hoyle.

In 1948, the three presented their theory that the universe has always existed in a steady state.

Space boffin

After this was discredited by the Big Bang theory Sir Hermann then focused his studies on the theory of relativity and black holes.

His view that the gravitational pull of a black hole builds up gas in its vicinity led to a mathematical exercise by scientist Stephen Hawking who suggested that radiation can emerge from these mysterious objects.

In the 1960s, Sir Hermann promoted space exploration and was director-general of the European Space Research Organization between 1967 and 1971.

He served the British government as chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence from 1971 to 1977 and was knighted in 1973.

He is survived by his wife, two sons and three daughters.

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