37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 37 Radio Astronomy I
HAD Oral, Wednesday, September 7, 2005, 2:00-3:30pm, Umney Theatre, Robinson College

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[37.03] Conflict in the Cosmos: the Hoyle-Ryle clashes

S. Mitton (St Edmund's College, Cambridge, UK)

Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) made great contributions to both astrophysics and cosmology. His work in accretion theory (1939-45) and nuclear astrophysics (1946-57) continues to be admired and widely quoted. In cosmology, the field for which he is best known among the general public, his achievement is more questionable and marked by controversy. He was the first to use the expression Big Bang to describe the evolving universes of Eddington, Lemaitre, and Gamow. He named his own theory Continuous Creation, although the expression Steady State, coined by Bondi and Gold, became associated with Hoyle's model of a universe of infinite age, infinite extent, and matter creation. By 1952 the Cambridge radio astronomer Martin Ryle (1918-84) realised that his group could join the observational cosmology game. They would use counts of radio sources to discriminate between evolution and steady state. Ryle's first two surveys were inadequate and unreliable, although he did not see it that way, believing from the outset that he had proved Hoyle wrong. The third and fourth surveys did point to an evolutionary universe, but Hoyle refused to accept this, given Ryle's earlier track record in observational cosmology. The two argued passionately for a period of 20 years in a way that came to do serious harm to the standing of astronomy in the University of Cambridge. The paper examines the reasons for the failure of the two Cambridge astronomers to be more co-operative. This research was supported by St Edmund's College, Cambridge.

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The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: smitton@cambridge.org

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.