CONFLICT IN THE COSMOS: Fred Hoyle's Life in Science

Simon Mitton, Author, Simon Mitton, Author
Simon Mitton, Author, Simon Mitton, Author . Joseph Henry $27.95 (428p) ISBN 978-0-309-09313-2
Reviewed on: 02/07/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005

Sir Fred Hoyle (1915–2001) was one of the major figures in 20th-century cosmology, but he's perhaps most famous for being spectacularly wrong, as his steady state theory of the universe, which he clung to inalterably, lost out to the big bang theory (which, ironically, Hoyle named during a talk on the BBC). Hoyle played an important role in the popularization of astronomy through radio, science books and even science fiction novels, which, according to astronomer Minton, drew many future prominent astronomers to the field. Hoyle pioneered research into the explosion of supernovas and how they scatter the heavier elements throughout the galaxies, and he determined how the atoms in our bodies are created in stars' nuclear furnaces, again unwittingly boosting the big bang theory. Minton gives just enough attention to Hoyle's childhood years to show how the youth shaped the man. His account of the educational system at Cambridge when Hoyle arrived in the 1930s will interest Anglophiles, although some readers may skim his blow-by-blows of academic infighting in Hoyle's later years. Minton makes a few minor misstatements (e.g., Einstein first proposed the equivalency of matter and energy in 1905, not 1907). But the author's lively writing and extensive research bring to life this important figure in the development of modern astronomy. Agent, Sara Menguc. (On sale Mar. 22)