Person: Hoyle, Sir Fred
Fred Hoyle was an English astronomer best known for his espousal of the "steady-state" theory of the universe and rejecting the "big bang" theory. He also wrote science fiction.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- She also provided Fred with his early education, in particular teaching him numbers.
- At first the business did well and in 1920 it was decided to send Fred to a small private school.
- There Fred entered a school near Thundersley and immediately made friends with a classmate.
- In March Fred put his truancy scheme into practice and while his parents believed he was at school, the school believed that he was ill at home.
- Despite his attempts to avoid formal education Hoyle did show interest in educating himself.
- After Hoyle narrowly missed out on a scholarship for grammar school, an appeal was entered and he scraped through beginning his studies at Bingley Grammar School in September 1926.
- In 1927 Bingley town library acquired a copy of Eddington's Stars and Atoms and Hoyle read it avidly.
- Unable to study at university without a scholarship, he returned to Bingley Grammar School but instead of working steadily through the year with the aim of gaining a scholarship to Leeds at the second attempt, Hoyle decided to aim at a Cambridge University Scholarship.
- Bingley Grammar School did not really have the teaching resources to bring Hoyle rapidly up to Cambridge Scholarship standard, but the mathematics teacher did his very best and gave him lessons in his own home.
- Hoyle's performance was good in physics and chemistry but, as he expected, his preparation for mathematics had been weak and the mathematics paper dragged him down.
- This time his performance was better and he did make the scholarship standard, but the College did not have scholarships for everyone who made the standard, and again Hoyle missed out.
- In the autumn of 1933 Hoyle entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, intending to read for a degree in science.
- So Hoyle embarked on the one year mathematics course, entering at the bottom level of the slow stream.
- Having achieved his aim in mathematics, it would have been natural for Hoyle to move into the science course as he had intended.
- Hoyle was taught by some outstanding people while he was an undergraduate at Cambridge.
- In 1939 Hoyle published a major paper on Quantum electrodynamics in the Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society.
- Although Hoyle had completed the work for a Ph.D. by then he was persuaded by Pryce not to submit (the Ph.D. was new to Cambridge and Pryce did not approve of it).
- Although his research was in applied mathematics, it was through the problem of accretion of gas by a large gravitating body which Ray Lyttleton discussed with him that Hoyle's interests turned towards mathematical problems in astronomy.
- During the war Hoyle worked for the Admiralty on radar, doing most of this work in Nutbourne.
- During his time with the Admiralty Hoyle worked with Hermann Bondi and Thomas Gold and he discussed astronomy with them in spare moments.
- These three would later propose "steady-state cosmology" for which Hoyle is probably best known.
- After three years as a Junior Lecturer in Mathematics, Hoyle was promoted to Lecturer in Mathematics at Cambridge and given tenure.
- It was in the last of these five lectures that Hoyle coined the phrase "Big Bang" for the creation of the universe.
- Although now accepted by most scientists, the term was actually meant to be a scornful description of the creation theory which Hoyle did not accept.
- When this was performed in 1962 at the Mermaid Theatre, one critic wrote: "Seldom can scientific mumbo-jumbo have sounded so convincing." This writing, Hoyle believed, complemented his serious work, in the middle of which he would stop to indulge in what he called "whimsical fantasies." He was convinced that really important discoveries were most likely to come from an exercise of creative imagination.
- In 1966 Hoyle founded the renowned Institute of Theoretical Astronomy at Cambridge and was its Director until 1972.
- It was an inspiring talk which, like so much of Hoyle's work, really made one think about things in a new light.
- Hoyle continued to publish up to the end of his life with Mathematics of evolution appearing in 1999 and A Different Approach to Cosmology: From a Static Universe through the Big Bang towards Reality (written jointly with G Burbidge and Narlikar) being published in 2000.
- Hoyle received many honours.
- Hoyle sought to answer some of the biggest questions in science: How did the Universe originate?
- For instance he discovered that the secret of how stars evolve lay in a certain property of the carbon nucleus, a property (a resonance) that was not discovered until Fred himself had pointed to its absolute necessity.
- Fred believed that, as a general rule, solutions to major unsolved problems had to be sought by exploring radical hypotheses, whilst at the same time not deviating from well-attested scientific tools and methods.
- Fred Hoyle had no respect for the boundaries between scientific disciplines which were artificial social constructs that often stood in the way of a proper comprehension of the cosmos.
Born 24 June 1915, Bingley, Yorkshire, England. Died 20 August 2001, Bournemouth, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin England, Physics
Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive