The first astronomer to publicise his subject on radio and television, Sir Fred Hoyle rose to national prominence in the 1950s as a result of his controversial ideas on the origins of the universe. Famous for his work on the thermonuclear reactions inside stars that made possible the beginnings of life, he developed the 'steady state' theory of the universe, soon challenged by the rival 'big bang' theory, which led to a bitter dispute between Hoyle and his rivals - not only fellow scientists but also archaeologists and palaeontologists whose conclusions he had challenged.
This is a major scientific biography of one of the greatest, and best-known, scientists of the twentieth century, written in an enjoyable and accessible style.
Foreword Paul Davies
1. An end and a beginning
2. Training for cosmology
3. The star makers
4. Hoyle's secret war
5. The nature of the Universe
6. Lives of the stars
7. Clash of Titans
8. Origin of the chemical elements
9. Matters of gravity
10. Mountains to climb
11. The watershed
12. Stones, bones, bugs and accidents
Simon Mitton is a Fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge, and was the astronomy publisher at Cambridge University Press for twenty years. He is the author or editor of several books on astronomy and the history of science, including Cambridge Scientific Minds (2000). The International Astronomical Union designated an asteroid as Mitton 4027 in recognition of the achievements of Simon and his wife Dr Jacqueline Mitton in popularising astronomy through book writing.
"An elegantly written and thoroughly documented biography of a great and immensely influential scientist who was a fascinating personality as well."
- Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society
"This is the first comprehensive exploration of both the science and the man, told by one of the few living writers equally familiar with both. It is a rich and complex story related with confidence and authority, allowing general readers to better understand why science is too fascinating not to be shared more broadly throughout our culture."
- Lawrence M. Krauss, popular science author
"Simon Mitton has thrown new light on Hoyle's life with a biography that is more structured, more balanced, more complete and arguably more insightful than Hoyle's own account."
- Simon Singh, journalist and popular science author
"I read [Fred Hoyle's first book] when at high-school and it inspired me to become an astronomer so I, personally, have much to thank Fred Hoyle for. But I would also like to thank Simon Mitton for making Hoyle's life and work come alive in his book – one that I cannot recommend too highly."
"The word definitive is often overused in book reviews but it is difficult to escape its suitability in describing Simon Mitton's elegant and comprehensive study."
"[...] provides a lively look at the frustrations, failures and triumphs of Hoyle and the people with whom he surrounded himself during his career. Anyone who enjoys reading about larger-than-life characters will enjoy this book."
- Journal of the History of Astronomy