CHENNAI: When Tom Kibble’s name appeared in the Queen’s Birthday honours list for knighthood, a quiet cheer went around among a few people at the Madras Christian College in Tambaram. Ironically, Tom Kibble neither studied there nor did he ever teach any subject at the college — but his name is one that practically every student has uttered at some point or the other, albeit in reference to a computer centre that bears the same name.
“Professor Walter Frederick Kibble was one of the more popular mathematics and statistics teachers who ever taught at MCC,” recalls the College’s Principal Dr Alexander Jesudasan of Tom Kibble’s father. Fondly referred to as the ‘absent-minded professor’, MCC lore in the late 70s and 80s had stories of how Kibble would leave his vehicle at Guindy and spend most of his afternoon trying to scour the Tambaram grounds for it. After having finished his education in the UK, Kibble joined MCC in 1924 and taught there till he retired in 1961, “Tom Kibble was born here in Madras in 1932 and even studied for three years at the Doveton Corrie School before they relocated abroad,” explains Dr Joshua Kalapati, resident historian and professor at the college. Also brilliant at mathematics and physics, Tom Kibble was one among six researchers whose work in the 60’s led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012.
Deeply entwined with the growth of the College, Kibble taught at their original Royapuram campus till they shifted to Tambaram in 1937, “These buildings and this legacy is the work of Scottish missionaries and educators like Kibble and we are proud that we are here today carrying it forward,” says Jesudasan, who hosted Tom Kibble when he came to MCC a couple of years back and spoke to the staff study circle. “He remembered very little of his young days, but he knew that his mother Janet had been very active with the staff wives association and had been the first warden of the ladies hostel when it moved from Guindy to Tambaram,” adds Kalapati.
Whatever else may come and go, there is a part of Kibble that will always stay a part of MCC — the sundial at the main portico of the college. Designed by the astute mathematician to give the time accurate to the minute, it was installed there and continues to be a solar wonder, that is often forgotten and overshadowed - but seldom forgotten.