Cyril Domb Biography

(Theoretical Physicist)

Birthday: December 9, 1920 (Sagittarius)

Born In: London, UK

Can religion and science ever be reconciled? This age-old question has had many a great mind baffled, but not Cyril Domb. The theoretical physicist best known for his works on phase transitions and critical phenomena of fluids was also an orthodox Jew deeply devoted to the religion of Judaism. As a young child he had been tutored in Jewish studies and thus religion became a major part of his life. A brilliant kid, he had always loved mathematics and was blessed with an excellent memory. He went to college on a scholarship and eventually became a professor of theoretical physics. He founded the British Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists as someone who was both a scientist and a highly religious Jew. Even though best known for his writings on Phase Transitions and Critical Phenomena, he was equally devoted in his efforts to prove to the world that science and religion need not be mutually exclusive of each other. Religion was never against science, and he wrote on a variety of topics reconciling the apparent differences between science and Judaism. He served as a professor for most of his life and was very much loved and respected by his students.
Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In December

Died At Age: 91


Spouse/Ex-: Shirley Galinsky

father: Yoel Domb

mother: Sarah

Born Country: England

Physicists British Men

Died on: February 15, 2012

place of death: Jerusalem, Israel

City: London, England

Childhood & Early Life
He was born in North London into a Hasidic Jewish family. His father Yoel was from Warsaw while his mother Sarah was of Polish origin. At birth he was given the Hebrew name of Yechiel.
From a young age he was educated in classical Jewish studies and he also attended Torah classes in a synagogue. He was also deeply inspired by his grandparents who were very religious.
He attended Hackney Downs secondary school where he excelled in mathematics. His teacher F.J. Swann recognized his genius and helped him by providing advanced books in mathematics. It was his teacher who motivated him to try for a scholarship to Cambridge.
He was awarded a fellowship at Pembroke where he joined in October 1938. He graduated in 1941 with a degree in mathematics.
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After his graduation he joined the Admiralty Signal Establishment in Portsmouth as part of the research group on radar. Till then the radar systems could determine the approaching of enemy aircraft, but could not indicate their height. Domb and his group developed a method that could determine the height as well.
He decided to continue his studies and joined the mathematics department of Cambridge; by now theoretical physics was also part of the department. He immersed himself in research, starting with the statistics of particle counters.
During his time at Pembroke he became very interested in lattice dynamics and statistical mechanics. Fred Hoyle had become the supervisor of his PhD dissertation. Domb earned his PhD in 1949 with his doctoral thesis on "Order-Disorder Statistics".
He helped found the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists in the late 1940s. The Organization is devoted to integrate the scientific community with the framework of Orthodox Jewish tradition. It serves as a meeting ground for intellectual and religious people.
He became a university lecturer in mathematics at Cambridge University in 1952 and served there till 1954 when he left the position to join the King’s College, London, as a professor of theoretical physics in 1954. He remained there till 1981.
He published an article in London’s ‘Jewish Chronicle’ in 1961. After reading it, the Lubavitcher Rebbe started corresponding with him and encouraged him to clear the myth that religion and science are incompatible with each other.
Domb went on to publish several articles on science and religion along with the Rabbi Aryeh Carmell. A collection of these articles which reconciled scientific theories with Jewish beliefs were published in ‘Challenge: Torah views on science and its problems’ in 1976.
He was elected as a fellow to the Royal Society of London in 1977 in view of his contributions to the field of physics.
He started editing the series ‘Phase Transitions and Critical Phenomena’ in 1972 with the statistical physicist Melville S. Green. After Green’s death Domb continued the work with Lebowitz, ultimately publishing 20 volumes.

He accepted a position as the professor of physics at Bar-Ilan University in 1981, serving there till 1989. During this time he was also a visiting professor at the University of Maryland, Yeshiva University, and Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
During the 1980s he founded an academic journal, ‘Journal of Torah and Scholarship’ to which he also contributed several articles. He was very religious and spent much of his free time on Talmudic studies.
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Major Works
Along with Melville S. Green and Joel Lebowitz, he edited the 20-volume series of ‘Phase transitions and critical phenomena’. This series is considered one of the most authoritative series on the topic.
Awards & Achievements
He was awarded the prestigious Max Born Prize by the German Physical Society and the British Institute of Physics in 1981 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to physics.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was married to Shirley Galinsky since 1957 and the couple had six children.
He lived a long life during which he contributed a lot to science and religion through his experiments, teachings and writings. He died of natural causes in 2012 at the age of 91.

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