Edward Arthur Milne

Edward Arthur Milne


Date of Birth
February 14, 1896
Date of Death
September 21, 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


Papers, etc.

Most of Milne’s papers are at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. There is a detailed catalog of his papers and correspondence by Jeannine Alter & Peter Harper. The Niels Bohr Library & Archives, holds an unpublished typescript, “Recollections and Reflections on E.A. Milne” by S. Chandrasekhar. Milne is mentioned in many oral history transcripts there, especially those of S. Chandrasekhar and H.H. Plaskett.

Other References: Historical

Adam, M.G., “The Changing Face of Astronomy in Oxford (1920-1960),” QJRAS 37, 2, 153-79 (1996).

Bhattacharyya, J.C., “Refinements and Applications of Saha Ionization Equation,” in Meghnad Saha Birth Centenary Commemoration Volume, S.B. Karmohapatro, ed. (Saha Institute of Nuclear physics, Calcutta, 1993), p. 27-34.

Chandrasekhar, S.Truth and Beauty: Aesthetics and Motivations in Science (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1987).

Chandrasekhar, S., “The 1979 Milne Lecture—Edward Arthur Milne: His Part in the Development of Modern Astrophysics,” QJRAS 21, 93-107 (1980).

Cowling, Thomas, “The Development of the Theory of Stellar Structures,” QJRAS 7, 121-37 (1966).

Dingle, Herbert, “On E. A. Milne’s Theory of World Structure and the Expansion of the Universe,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 7, 167-79 (1933).

Gale, George & John Urani, “Philosophical Midwifery and the Birthpangs of Modern Cosmology,” American Journal of Physics 61, 66-73 (1993).

Gale, George & John Urani, “Milne, Bondi, and the ‘Second Way’ to Cosmology,” The Expanding Worlds of General Relativity (Einstein Studies, vol. 7), Hubert Goenners, Jürgen Renn, Jim Ritter, & Tilman Sauer, eds. (Birkhäuser, Boston, 1999), 343-75.

Gale, George, “Cosmology: Methodological Debates in the 1930s and 1940s,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta,ed., 2013.

Harder, Allen J., “E.A. Milne, Scientific Revolutions and the Growth of Knowledge,” Annals of Science 31, 351-363 (1974).

Hufbauer, Karl, Exploring the Sun: Solar Science Since Galileo (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore, 1991).

Ionescu-Pallas, N., “Gravitational Theory of Edward Milne - Achievements and Failures,” Stud. Cercet. Fiz. 27, 999 - 1019 (1975).

Kragh, Helge. Cosmology and Controversy: The Historical Development of Two Theories of the Universe (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1996).

Kragh, Helge & Simon Rebsdorf, “Before Cosmophysics: E.A. Milne on Mathematics and Physics,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Science 33, 35-50 (2002).

Lee, Stephen, Cosmology, Special Relativity and the Milne Universe

Lepeltier, Thomas, “Edward Milne’s Influence on Modern Cosmology,” Annals of Science 63, 471–81 (2006).

Rebsdorf, Simon & Helge Kragh, “Edward Arthur Milne — The Relations of Mathematics to Science,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Science 33, 51-64 (2002).

Robertson, H.P., “On E. A. Milne's Theory of World Structure,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 7, 153-66 (1933). The same issue carries Milne’s reply: “Note on H.P. Robertson’s Paper on World Structure, ” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 7, 180-87 (1933).

Roxburgh, Ian W. & Reza Tavakol, “The Gravitational Theories of Poincaré and Milne and the non-Riemannian Kinematic Models of the Universe,” MNRAS 170, 599-610 (1975).

Tayler, R.J., “E.A. Milne (1896-1950) and the Structure of Stellar Atmospheres and Stellar Interiors,” QJRAS 37, 355-63 (1996)Observatory 116, 261-63 (1996).

Urani, John & George Gale, “E.A. Milne and the Origins of Modern Cosmology: An Essential Presence,” in The Attraction of Gravitation: New Studies in the History of General Relativity (Einstein Studies, vol. 5), John Earman, Michel Janssen, John D. Norton, eds. (Birkhäuser, Boston, 1993), pp. 390-419.

Wali, Kameshwar C., Chandra (Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1990).

Weston Smith, Meg, “E.A. Milne and the Creation of Air Defence: Some Letters from an Unprincipled Brigand,1916-1919,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 44, 241-55 (1990).

Weston Smith, Meg, “E.A. Milne: A Nova of the Inter-war Years,” Astronomy Now 19, 82-84 (2005).

Whitrow, G.J., “Theoretical Cosmology in the Twentieth Century,” Human Implications of Scientific Advance, Eric Gray Forbes, ed., Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of the History of Science in Edinburgh 10-15 Aug 1977 (Edinburgh Univ. Press, Edinburgh, 1978), p. 576-93.

Whitrow, G.J., “E.A. Milne and Cosmology,” QJRAS 37, 365-67 (1996)Observatory 116, 263-77 (1996).

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Other References: Scientific

Menzel, Donald H., ed., Selected Papers on the Transfer of Radiation (Dover, NY, 1966).

Milne, E.A., “Radiative Equilibrium in the Outer Layers of a Star,” MNRAS 81, 361-75 (1921).

Milne, E.A., “Spectroscopy, Astronomical, Radiative equilibrium and spectral distribution,” MNRAS 81, 375-88 (1921).

Milne, E.A., “Spectroscopy, Astronomical, Radiative Equilibrium: The Effect of a Strong Absorption Line,” MNRAS 81, 510-15 (1921).

Milne, E.A., “The Temperature in the Outer Atmosphere of a Star,” MNRAS 82, 368-71 (1922).

Milne, E.A., “The Equilibrium of a Rotating Star,” MNRAS 83, 118-47 (1923).

Fowler, R.H. & E.A. Milne, “The Intensities of Absorption Lines in Stellar Spectra, and the Temperatures and Pressures in the Reversing Layers of Stars,” MNRAS 83, 403-24 (1922).

Milne, E.A., “An Astrophysical Determination of the Average Life of an Excited Calcium Atom,” MNRAS 84, 354-63 (1921).

Milne, E.A., “The Sun’s Outer Atmosphere,” Royal Institution Library of Science: Astronomy, p. 296-304.

Milne, E.A., “On the Possibility of the Emission of High-speed Atoms from the Sun and Stars,” MNRAS 86, 459-73 (1926).

Milne, E.A., “The Reflection Effect in Eclipsing Binaries,” MNRAS 87, 43-55 (1926).

Milne, E.A., “Ionization in Stellar Atmospheres, Part I: Generalised Saha Formulæ, Maximum Intensities, and the Determination of the Coefficient of Opacity,” MNRAS 89, 17-49 (1928).

Milne, E.A., “Ionization in Stellar Atmospheres, Part II: Absolute Magnitude Effects,” MNRAS 89, 157-75 (1928).

Milne, E.A., “The Masses, Luminosities and Effective Temperatures of the Stars,” MNRAS 90, 17-54 (1929).

Milne, E.A., “Bakerian Lecture: The Structure and Opacity of a Stellar Atmosphere,” Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. London. Series A 228, 421-61 (1929).

Milne, E.A., “The Analysis of Stellar Structure,” MNRAS 91, 4-55 (1930).

Milne, E.A., “The Thermodynamics of the Stars,” Handbuch der Astrophysik 3, 65-255 (1930).

Milne, E.A., “Theory of Pulsating Variables,” Handbuch der Astrophysik 3, 804-21 (1930).

Milne, E.A., “The Theory of Stellar Structure,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 4, 75-117 (1932).

Milne, E.A., “World Structure and the Expansion of the Universe,” Nature 130, 9-10 (1932).

Milne, E.A., “Note on the Boundary Temperature of a Star,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 4, 328-36 (1932).

Milne, E.A., “The Theory of Stellar Structure II (Energy-generation),” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 4, 337-47 (1932).

Milne, E.A. & S. Chandrasekhar, “Ionization in Stellar Atmospheres, Part III,” MNRAS 92, 150-86 (1932).

Milne, E.A., The White Dwarf Stars (Halley Lecture), (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1932).

Milne, E.A., “World-Structure and the Expansion of the Universe,” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 6, 1-95 (1932).

Milne, E.A., “A One-Dimensional Universe of Discrete Particles,” Quarterly Journal of Mathematics 5, 30-33 (1933).

Milne, E.A., “A Newtonian Expanding Universe,” Quarterly Journal of Mathematics 5, 64-72 (1934). [Reprinted in General Relativity and Gravitation 32, 1939-48 (2000).]

McCrea, W.H. & E.A. Milne, “Newtonian Universes and the Curvature of Space ,” Quarterly Journal of Mathematics 5, 73-80 (1934).

Milne, E.A., “Stellar Kinematics and the K-effect,” MNRAS 95, 560-73 (1935).

Milne, E.A., Relativity, Gravitation and World Structure (Oxford U.P., 1935). [See Robertson, H.P., “Review of Relativity, Gravitation, and World Structure,” Ap.J. 83, 61-66 (1936).]

Milne, E.A., “Kinematics, Dynamics, and the Scale of Time,” Proc. Royal Soc. A 158, 324-48 (1937).

Milne, E.A. & G.J. Whitrow, “On the Meaning of Uniform Time, and the Kinematic Equivalence of the Extra-galactic Nebulae, ” Zeitschrift für Astrophysik 15, 263-98 (1938).

Milne, E.A., “Cosmological Theories,” Ap.J. 91, 129-58 (1940).

Milne, E.A.,“Kinematic Relativity” Journal of the London Mathematical Society s1-15, 44-80 (1940).

Milne, E.A., A. G. Walker, & G.C. McVittie, “Kinematic Relativity—A Discussion,” Observatory 64, 11-25 (1941).

Milne, E.A., “On the Nature of Universal Gravitation (Presidential Address, 1944),” MNRAS 104, 120 (1944).

Milne, E.A., “On the Natural Philosophy of Stellar Structure,” MNRAS 105, 146-162 (1945).

Milne, E.A., “On the Spiral Character of the External Galaxies,” MNRAS 106, 180-99 (1946).

Milne, E.A., Kinematic Relativity: a Sequel to Relativity, Gravitation and World Structure (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1948).

Milne, E.A., “Gravitation and Magnetism,” MNRAS 110, 266-74 (1950).

McCrea, W.H. & E.A. Milne, “Newtonian Universes and the Curvature of Space,” General Relativity and Gravitation 32, 1949-1958 (2000).

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Other Works: Popularizations, Philosophy, Religion, etc.

Milne, E.A., “Some Points in the Philosophy of Physics: Time, Evolution, and Creation,” Smithsonian Institution Annual Report, 1933, 219-238 (1933).

Milne, E.A., “R.H. Fowler,” MNRAS 105, 80-87 (1945).

Milne, E.A., Sir James Jeans: A Biography (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 1952).

Milne, E.A., Modern Cosmology and the Christian Idea of God (Edward Cadbury Lectures, 1950) (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1952).

Milne, E.A., “The Fundamental Concepts of Natural Philosophy,” in Munitz, Milton K., ed., Theories of the Universe: from Babylonian Myth to Modern Science (Free Press, Macmillan, 1957), pp. 354-76.