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More Fred Hoyle

June 25, 2015

As a youngster, one of Fred Hoyle’s favorite activities was finding ways to skip school. Another was reading — especially about astronomy and other sciences. It’s not surprising, then, that Hoyle made a career as a scientist, writer — and contrarian.

Hoyle was born 100 years ago in Yorkshire, England. After grammar school, he won a scholarship to Cambridge, where he studied under some of the leading scientists of the day. He worked on British radar development during World War II, then returned to Cambridge as a teacher and researcher.

While there, he published the concept of nucleosynthesis — the idea that stars create almost all of the chemical elements through nuclear reactions. The idea earned one of his collaborators a Nobel Prize — but not Hoyle.

In part, that may be because of his role as a contrarian. He left Cambridge after he became disgusted with academic politics. And he eschewed the idea that the universe began with a Big Bang — a term he coined during a BBC radio broadcast. Instead, Hoyle thought that new matter was created as the universe expanded. He also championed the idea that life on Earth originated in space.

Hoyle remained popular with the public, though. While at Cambridge, he presented a series of BBC radio programs about the universe, and he began writing science fiction. He wrote novels, a play, and two television serials. He continued his writing and research until the late 1990s. He died in 2001.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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