- 1823–2010 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
Astronomer. Fred Hoyle was a world-renowned astronomer and is acknowledged as one of the 20th century's most creative scientists. He wrote papers on an astonishingly wide range of astronomical topics and was a great populariser of science. He was also a masterly writer of science fiction.
Hoyle was born in Bingley, Yorkshire, in June 1915. His father was a wool merchant and his mother a musician of exceptional ability who attended the Royal College of Music. Schooled at Bingley Grammar, Hoyle went to Emmanuel College in 1933 to read mathematics, winning the Part III Mayhew Prize three years later. As a research student under Paul Dirac he won the first Smith's Prize in 1938, and a year later his thesis on quantum electrodynamics won him a Fellowship at St John's. The war years saw him working for the Admiralty on radar and other technical projects.
Hoyle went on to make several outstanding contributions to astrophysics. By 1946 he had formulated the original and still generally accepted idea that the elements are generated in evolving stars and injected into the interstellar medium by supernova explosions. In 1957 Hoyle collaborated with Willy Fowler, Margaret and Geoffrey Burbidge on an epoch-making paper on the nucleosynthesis of elements in stars. Hoyle also co-authored a landmark paper on the evolution of a low-mass star into a much brighter 'red giant' star. These achievements won Hoyle the Crafoord and Balzan Prizes, and it was widely felt that he might have shared Willy Fowler's 1983 Nobel Prize.
Hoyle was Plumian Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge from 1958 to 1972, and the founder and first Director of the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy. He also carried out some excellent work for the Anglo-Australian Telescope.
Hoyle was always a controversial figure. He became the main expositor of the theory of Steady-State, or continuous creation, according to which the universe has existed for an infinite past and will continue infinitely into the future, as opposed to evolutionary cosmological models, to which he gave the name 'The Big Bang'. He provoked much controversy with claims that Darwin's theory of evolution was wrong, that Archaeopteryx was a fake, and that influenza epidemics came from space.
Hoyle was one of the great popularisers of science in the 20th century. Huge numbers of people received initial inspiration from Hoyle's 1950 radio lectures on 'The Nature of the Universe', and from books such as'Frontiers of Astronomy' (1955). By writing in plain English he made science available, put it on the popular agenda and broke down conventional barriers.
Hoyle's inventiveness and originality also extended to science fiction. He wrote successfully for more than three decades and won a devoted following. His first novel, 'The Black Cloud' (1957), about an alien intelligence embodied in a cloud of interstellar gas that threatens to engulf the Earth, is a classic.
Other successes included 'A for Andromeda' (1962), the follow-up novel to the popular TV series starring Julie Christie, and 'Rockets in Ursa Major' (1969), based on Hoyle's 1962 play and written in collaboration with his son Geoffrey.
Hoyle died in August 2001, aged 86, leaving a considerable intellectual legacy to astronomers and the public alike.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Donated by Lady Barbara Hoyle, 2002.
Addition material donated by Geoffrey Hoyle 2002 - .
Content and structure area
Scope and content
The collection comprises manuscripts, typescripts, letters, papers, lectures, notebooks, diaries, photographs, slides, film, audiotapes, reprints, preprints, books and artefacts.
A preliminary listing is also available on the Library's website: http://www.joh.cam.ac.uk/library/special_collections/personal_papers/hoyle1/