AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 58 Stellar Personalities
HAD Oral, Monday, 2:30-4:00pm, January 9, 2006, Maryland C

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[58.08] The Lyttleton-Hoyle correspondence 1939-42

S. Mitton (St Edmund's College, Cambridge)

Fred Hoyle started to collaborate with his older colleague Raymond Lyttleton in 1938. Hoyle's doctoral research had been in nuclear physics, and his supervisors were Rudolph Peierls and Paul Dirac. His first papers were in quantum electrodynamics. When Hoyle decided to change his research field to astronomy, Lyttleton acted as a mentor, and it was he who suggested that Hoyle should look at the physics of accretion. From late-1939, Lyttleton and Hoyle were both scientific civil servants drafted in for war work. They were in different establishments and could communicate only by the postal service. Some 70 letters from Lyttleton to Hoyle have survived, but we do not have any copies of Hoyle's correspondence. Many letters are undated, so it required detective work to assemble them in the correct sequence. The correspondence shows that Lyttleton played the senior role in determining what problems they should tackle, and in what order. Apart from the scientific content, these letters are remarkable for the sharp personal remarks Lyttleton makes of other colleagues, and particularly the Council of the Royal Astronomical Society. I make the suggestion that the poisonous and prolonged nature of the correspondence considerably influenced Hoyle's subsequent attitude to the establishment, to government-employed astronomers, and to the RAS. This was detrimental when Hoyle found, later in his career, that he would have to provide answers to these stakeholders. This research has been supported by St Edmund's College, Cambridge, UK.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: smitton@cambridge.org

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