The Bruce Medalists


  Photo 1972, courtesy California Institute of Technology Archives
Fred Hoyle
24 June 1915 1970 Bruce Medalist 20 August 2001

Fred Hoyle was born in Yorkshire in northern England and educated in mathematics and theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge, where he worked under Rudolph Peierls and Paul A.M. Dirac. In the late 1930s he worked with Ray Littleton on stellar evolution and the accretion of interstellar matter onto stars. During World War II Hoyle made significant contributions to the development of radar. Afterward, he returned to Cambridge, where he remained from 1945 to 1973, with many long-term visits to the California Institute of Technology and other American institutions. He founded Cambridge’s Institute of Theoretical Astronomy (later merged into the Institute of Astronomy) and served as its first director. As Plumian Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge he was a leader in British science and especially in the founding of the Anglo-Australian Telescope. With Martin Schwarzschild he developed the theory of the evolution of red giant stars. His early work on stellar evolution and nuclear physics led to his famous collaboration with Margaret Burbidge, Geoffrey Burbidge and William Fowler on the synthesis of the elements beyond helium in stars. Hoyle successfully predicted the existence of a resonance in carbon-12 that was essential to helium-burning in stars. In 1948 Hoyle, Hermann Bondi, and Thomas Gold developed the steady state cosmological models. Hoyle provided a mathematical theory of the model which was an extension of the general theory of relativity and featured continuous creation of matter. The leading spokesman for the new theory, he coined the term “big bang” for the competing model during a radio lecture. He worked on numerous other problems in theoretical astrophysics and cosmology—from the origin of the solar system to the nature of quasars. In 2000, long after nearly all cosmologists had accepted the evidence for an evolving universe, Hoyle, Geoffrey Burbidge, and N.V. Narlikar supported a (quasi) steady state universe in a book. Hoyle was also the proponent of the equally unpopular idea that life came to earth from elsewhere. This theory resulted from his extensive collaboration with Chandra Wickramasinghe on the nature, structure, and origin of interstellar dust grains. The author or coauthor of much science fiction, a play, opera librettos, and more than twenty nonfiction books, Hoyle was a leading popularizer of science.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Abell, George O., PASP 82, 567-72 (1970).

Other awards
American Astronomical Society, Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, 1971.
Association pour le Développement International del’Observatoire de Nice, ADION medal, 1986
Astronomische Gesellschaft, Karl Schwarzschild Medal, 1992.
International Balzan Prize Foundation, Balzan Prize, 1994.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Jansky Prize, 1969.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1968, presented by D.H. Sadler, QJRAS 9, 271-73 (1968).
Royal Society, Royal medal, 1974.
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Crafoord prize, 1997.
UNESCO, Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science, 1967.

Some offices held
Royal Astronomical Society, President, 1971-73.

Biographical materials
Hoyle Productions, Ltd.,
Burbidge, Geoffrey, Biographical Memoirs of the Royal Society 49, 215 (2003).
Clayton, Donald D., Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers (Springer, NY, 2007), pp. 532-33.
Gough, Douglas, ed., The Scientific Legacy of Fred Hoyle (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 2005).
Gregory, Jane, Fred Hoyle’s Universe (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford,2005).
Horgan, John, “Profile: Fred Hoyle: The Return of the Maverick,” Sci. Am. 272, 3, 46-47 (1995).
Hoyle, Fred, “The Universe: Past and Present Reflections,” Ann. Revs. Astron. Astrophys. 20, 1-35 (1982).
Hoyle, Fred, The Small World of Fred Hoyle: An Autobiography (M. Joseph, London, 1986).
Hoyle, Fred, Home is Where the Wind Blows: Chapters from a Cosmologist’s Life. (University Science Books, Mill Valley, CA, 1994).
Hoyle, Fred, interview with Alan Lightman, in Lightman, Alan & Roberta Brawer, Origins: The Lives and Worlds of Modern Cosmologists (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 1990), pp. 51-66.
Mitton, Simon, Conflict in the Cosmos: Fred Hoyle’s Life in Science (Joseph Henry Press, Washington, 2005).
O’Connor, J.J. & E.F. Robertson, The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive
St. John’s College, Fred Hoyle: An Online Exhibition
Wickramasinghe, N.C., Geoffrey R. Burbidge, & Jayant Vishnu Narlikar, eds., Fred Hoyle’s Universe: Proceedings of a Conference Celebrating Fred Hoyle’s Extraordinary Contributions to Science 25-26 June 2002, Cardiff University, United Kingdom (Springer, 2003).
Wickramasinghe, Chandra, A Journey with Fred Hoyle: The Search for Cosmic Life (World Scientific, Singapore, 2005).

Arnett, David D., PASP 114, 262-64 (2002).
BBC, 22 August 2001
Burbidge, Geoffrey, Biographial Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 49, 213-47 (2003).
Burbidge, G. & M. Burbidge, Observatory 122, 133-36 (2002).
Clayton, Donald D., Bull. American Astron. Soc. 33, 1570-72 (2001).
The Times (London), 23 August 2001.
Lovell, Bernard, The Guardian, 23 August 2001
Lynden-Bell, D., Observatory 121, 405-08 (2001).
Maddox, John, “The Hoyle Story,” Nature 417, 603-04 (2002).
Mestel, Leon, Astronomy & Geophysics 42, 5.23-5.24 (2001).
Rees, Martin, Physics Today 54, 11, 75-76 (2001).
Sullivan, Walter, New York Times, 22 August 2001.
Wickramasinghe, Chandra, The Independent, 23 August 2001

AIP Center for History of Physics (several).
Caltech Archives.
Clemson University, Photo Archive in Nuclear Astrophysics [includes many candid shots with others].
Columbus Optical SETI Observatory.
Photo by Lotte Meitner-Graf (courtesy Barbara Hoyle).
Freeman Dyson with Statue of Hoyle at the University of Cambridge (photo by Anna N. Zytkow).
Friedman, Jon R., Portrait Sketch

Named after him
Minor planet #8077 Hoyle
Hoyle Building, Inst. of Theoretical Astronomy, University of Cambridge

More references

The Bruce Medalists

Please send comments, additions, corrections, and questions to