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Fellows Directory

Thomas Kibble


Thomas ‘Tom’ Kibble was a theoretical physicist with interests in quantum field theory and cosmology. He made renowned contributions to topics in particle physics that will be familiar even to non-scientists. He was a co-discoverer of the Higgs mechanism, confirmed in 2012 by the discovery of the Higgs boson in landmark experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

Tom pioneered the study of the formation of topological defects at phase transitions in the very early Universe. He was one of the first to consider the existence of cosmic strings — one-dimensional structures spanning the Universe that may have been generated shortly after the Big Bang. This work also led to groundbreaking developments on the formation of analogous defects at rapid phase transitions in condensed matter systems.

Tom received numerous awards, including the Royal Medal A, the J. J. Sakurai Prize of the American Physical Society, the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Guthrie Medal of the Institute of Physics. He was knighted in 2014 for services to physics.

Sir Thomas Kibble CBE FRS died on 2 June 2016.

Professional positions

Professor Emeritus and Distinguished Research Fellow, Department of Physics, Imperial College London

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Astronomy and physics
    • Elementary particle physics, Cosmology, Mathematical and theoretical physics


spontaneous symmetry breaking, topological defects, Quantum field theory, cosmic strings, cosmology


  • Royal Medals

    For his theories of symmetry-breaking in quantum field theory, with diverse applications to elementary particle masses, vortex formation in Helium 3 and structure formation in the early universe.

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