Fred Hoyle

A maverick scientist and prolific author of science fiction and popular books on science, Fred Hoyle (1915-) is best known for deducing how the universe creates heavy elements and for his support of the steady-state theory of the universe’s origin.

       After helping to develop radar for the British effort in World War II, he turned his talents toward astrophysics and cosmology. He was one of the developers of the steady-state theory, which holds that the universe has always existed and has always looked the same. To keep the density of the universe from falling, the theory requires that matter must be created continually. Ironically, he coined the term “Big Bang” to describe the competing theory, while looking for a snappy, memorable phrase for a radio audience.

       His ideas on how the elements formed proved more long-lasting. With his colleague William Fowler, he suggested that all the elements from helium to iron could be built up by nuclear reactions in the interiors of stars. They also hypothesized that the elements heavier than iron could form in supernova explosions triggered by the collapse of a star’s core when it had exhausted its nuclear fuel. Almost every scientist today embraces this scenario of how the atoms in our bodies and in our planet form.

Learn more about:

Steady-State Theory

The Big Bang

Related Topics:

Cosmic Background Radiation

[Home]   [Cosmological Stars]

[PBS Online]   [Thirteen Online]