Fred Hoyle and the Big Bang Theory

Sir Fred Hoyle FRS (1915-2001)
© wikipedia

Sir Fred Hoyle, born in 1915 was a famous astronomer, mathematician, and author. The scientist was the first to coin the term “Big Bang” for the now prevailing theory of the early development of the universe in 1949, even though he happened to be a strong opponent of this theory.

Hoyle was born and grew up in England, he studied at Emmanuel College in Cambridge and later worked on radar research during World War II. Together with Hermann Bondi, a mathematician and cosmologist, and Thomas Gold, a well known astrophysicist, he researched on methods of finding out the altitude of enemy airplanes. Hoyle returned to Cambridge, started as a lecturer and mainly focused on astrophysics.

Hoyle was always convinced that the universe is indeed expanding, but the density of the matter is invariable, because of the homogenous development of new matter at all times. This theory is called ‘Steady State’ and was developed by Hoyle as well as his former colleagues Bondi and Gold. This theory was often compared with a flowing river, because even though the water molecules move away from each other, the river stays the way it is. The ‘Steady State Theory’ has been proven wrong at the latest with the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation, which has been predicted by the scientists favoring the ‘Big Bang Theory’. The term itself was established by Fred Hoyle himself. On BBC radio’s third programme broadcast, Hoyle hosted a show about astronomy, in which he tried to explain the difference between the two leading theories and coined the term ‘Big Bang’. The content of this popular show was published in his book ‘The Nature of the Universe’.

In 1967 Fred Hoyle created the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy, which later merged together with two other institutions to the Institute of Astronomy and depicts the largest astronomy department at Cambridge. Fred Hoyle then left Cambridge and began publishing science books that soon gained of high popularity, especially young people were amazed by his books due to them being very easy to understand. He also wrote science fiction books and was invited to numerous talks around the globe. To his most popular books belongs the science-fiction novel ‘The Black Cloud‘ published in 1957. It discusses a huge black cloud moving towards the Earth, which causes panic. A group of scientists then tries communicating with the cloud to understand its purpose. Some scientific topics in the book are AI, as well as optical character recognition, which gain as much importance in the novel as the problems the scientists face with the government officials.

Fred Hoyle was a remarkable scientists, not fearing conflict which led to him being in many controversial positions during his career. He passed away on August 20, 2001 at the age of 86.

On yovisto you can learn more about the origin of the universe and the big bang theory from the lecture Origin of the Universe: The Big Bang of Christopher D. Impey at the University of Arizona.

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