Born 1957 in Philadelphia, PA, the family moves to Villanova, Pennsylvania a few years later. Sparked by a physics experiment in school, Tobin develops an interest in glassblowing and proceeds to make decorative objects, such as glass trees, which he sells on the streets of New York (1970). In 1971 he begins seriously to pursue another life-long passion, music, and studies playing the saxophone with classical saxophonist Arthur Hegvik. A year later he discovers working in clay and on the potter's wheel, which lays the foundation for the craftsmanship of his later creative work.
In 1973 Tobin begins studying physics and two years later wins the position of post research assistant with Nobel Prize winner Campbell
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