The Bruce Medalists


Portrait Photo ©Royal Astronomical Society, courtesy Peter Hingley
Edward Arthur Milne
14 February 1896 1945 Bruce Medalist 21 September 1950

Arthur Milne was born in Hull, England. His university education consisted of but a year and a half at the University of Cambridge, which he left to engage in important research on the physics of antiaircraft guns during World War I. Afterward he spent five years at Cambridge, where he became assistant director of the solar physics observatory in 1920, and then three as a professor of mathematics at the University of Manchester. In 1929 he was appointed Rouse Ball professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, where he and H.H. Plaskett founded a major school of astrophysics. His research in the 1920s on radiative equilibrium and the theory of stellar atmospheres, much of it with R.H. Fowler, led to the determination of the temperatures and pressures associated with spectral classes, the theory of limb darkening, and improved understanding of line profiles in stellar spectra. Milne also showed how molecules escape from stellar and planetary atmospheres, thus explaining the origin of stellar winds. His later work on stellar structure and on cosmological models in disagreement with general relativity (his “kinematic relativity”) was not as successful, but it stimulated important work by others. He and William McCrea showed how Newtonian physics could yield the cosmological equations appropriate to an evolving universe with zero pressure. He again worked on military problems regarding artillery and rockets during World War II. Milne wrote on philosophy of science and religion as well as mathematics, physics, and astronomy.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Sanford, Roscoe F., PASP 57, 65-68 (1945).

Other awards
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1935, presented by F.J.M. Stratton, MNRAS 95, 421-28 (1935).
Royal Society, Royal Medal, 1941.

Some offices held
Royal Astronomical Society, President, 1943-45.

Biographical materials
Smith, Meg Weston [Milne's daughter], A Scholarship Boy, Sugar, and a Round Square : E.A. Milne's Headstart in Hull (Highgate, Beverley, 1998).
Smith, Meg Weston [Milne's daughter], Beating the Odds (Imperial College Press, London, 2013) [interview of author]
O’Connor, J.J. & E.F. Robertson, The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive
Scott, Douglas, Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers (Springer, NY, 2007), pp. 783-84.
The Times (London), 23 September 1950.
Whitrow, G.J., Dictionary of Scientific Biography 9, 414-16.

McCrea, W.H. & H.H. Plaskett, MNRAS 111, 160 (1951).
McCrea, W.H., Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society of London 7, 420-43 (1950-51).
McCrea, W.H., Observatory 70, 225 (1950).
More obituaries

The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive.
National Portrait Gallery (several).
David Hughes (Royal Astronomical Society), Meg Weston Smith (Milne’s daughter and biographer), and David Elstone (Headmaster, Hymers College) at unveiling of plaque to Milne at Hymers College, September 2013.

Named after him
Lunar crater Milne
Minor Planet #11767 Milne

More references

The Bruce Medalists

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