Twentieth-century winds have blown astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle from radar development projects in WW II England to modern cosmology, where his key contributions include naming the Big Bang theory. His memoirs of his early schooling and family life as the son of a Yorkshire wool merchant are as charming as James Herriot's recollections. Hoyle's career, spent mostly at Cambridge University, spans the watershed years of quantum theory in physics and radio astronomy. Ever the reserved English scientist, he raises no more than a bon mot about the exalted company he has kept--Paul Dirac, Sir Arthur Eddington, Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, among them--who comprise the first generation to work under the assumptions of relativity. Although this is mainly a memoir, Hoyle offers some model general science writing about his work on the synthesis of heavy elements in star formation. His modesty and quirky attraction to various anthropic theories have kept him in the background for much of his later career, but on these pages, seen against his own firmament, Hoyle blazes bright, as human being and scientist. Photos. $25,000 ad/promo. (June)
Published by University Science Books, 20 Edgehill Road, Mill Valley, California, 94941. Mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and cosmologist, Hoyle is best know in scientific circles for his explanation of nucleosynthesis in stars, and developing the steady- state theory of the universe (he coined the term Big Bang, but never endorsed it). Hoyle has become known to the general public through his popular science books and science fiction, written with his son. Includes twenty-four pages of black and white photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In an autobiography of singular depth, a renowned theoretical physicist recounts his efforts to wrest from the universe its profoundest secrets. Although he was born to a family of modest means--he was the son of a World War I machine gunner--Hoyle so distinguished himself at Cambridge for his mathematical prowess that he was subsequently awarded a high place within the British scientific establishment. Hoyle pursued research interests that brought him in contact with such giants as Eddington, Dirac, and Hubble in Britain and Fermi, Chandra, and Pauli abroad. But it was Hoyle's willingness to stand apart from the scientific establishment, his intellectual daring, that enabled him to fathom supernovas and to predict the existence of quasars. Perhaps because he achieved his breakthroughs in cosmology, the most expansive of the sciences, the author has maintained a refreshingly broad perspective: his memoirs are rich with literary allusion, political shrewdness, and philosophical reflection. Concluding with metaphysical speculations that will challenge the atheist and the fundamentalist alike, Hoyle invites his readers to reassess the meaning of life in an expanding cosmos.