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Nothing But the Facts About Sir Arthur Eddington

written by: Anurag Ghosh•edited by: George Adcock•updated: 9/7/2010

Sir Arthur Eddington is revered as one of the best astrophysicists in modern astronomy and physics. Here are some important facts about Sir Arthur Eddington including his biography, schooling and college years and notable achievements in the fields of astronomy and physics.

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    Sir Arthur Eddington Facts: Biography

    Name: Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, British AstrophysicistSir Arthur Stanley Eddington Photo--Interesting Facts About Sir Arthur Eddington 

    Birth: December 28th 1882

    Birth Place: Kendal, England

    Religious Inclination: The Religious Society of Friends (Quaker)

    Fields: Astrophysics, cosmology

    Death: November 22nd 1944

    Schooling and College Years:

    • Arthur Eddington attended the Brynmelyn School in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset in 1893. He was brilliant in mathematics and English literature during his school days.

    • At the age of 16, Eddington secured a scholarship to study at the Owens College in Manchester in 1898.

    • In 1902, Sir Arthur Eddington earned a bachelor’s degree in physics with First Class Honors. His performance awarded him a scholarship that helped him pursue his further studies at the Trinity College (University of Cambridge).

    • Eddington was placed as a Senior Wrangler at the Trinity College in 1904. He was the first ever second-year student to complete Part II of the Mathematical Tripos with 1st Class Honors.

    • Sir Arthur Eddington earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1905.

    Notable Honors/Awards:

    • In 1907, Eddington was awarded the Smith’s Prize for his in-depth essay on the motion of stars.

    • Awarded the Henry Draper Medal for his illustrative interpretation of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in 1924. Eddington was also awarded the Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal and Bruce Medal in the same year.

    • Awarded Royal Society’s Gold Medal in 1928

    • Awarded Knighthood in 1930.

    (image, top right: Photograph of Sir Arthur Eddington, courtesy of George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress), Wikipedia)

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    Sir Arthur Eddington Achievements

    • One of the most important astrophysicists of the early twentieth century, Sir Arthur Eddington developed a theory to elucidate the pulsation of Cepheid Variable stars. He studied the interior of the stars and developed his own model to demonstrate the importance of nuclear fusion processes inside a star. Based on F.W. Aston’s accurate measurements of atoms, Eddington was the first to explain that a star obtained energy from nuclear fusion.

    • The Eddington luminosity, popularly known as the Eddington limit, was named after Sir Arthur Eddington. The Eddington luminosity is the natural limit of the star’s luminosity. When the luminosity emitted by the star exceeds the Eddington limit, it ejects intense solar winds from its outer layers.

    • Sir Arthur Eddington was the first to propose the calculation of the number of protons and electrons in the observable universe in the year 1938. In his lecture at the Trinity College, Eddington asserted that there are about 1.57x1079 protons and equal number of electrons in the universe. This calculation was baptized as the Eddington Number (NEdd).

    • He was the first to present the simplified explanation of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to the English world. His Mathematical Theory of Relativity, published in 1923, explained the key concepts of the theory in a lucid manner that was easily understood by the layman and the scientist.

    • He confirmed the veracity of the general theory of relativity using his solar eclipse observations in the island of Principe on 29 May 1919, though the eclipse photographs were of poor quality. Still, it was sufficient to convince contemporary astronomers.

    • Eddington supported the expanding universe concept, but refuted Big Bang cosmologies. He believed that a cosmic constant played a major role in the evolution of the universe.

    • During the late 1920s, Eddington was trying to develop a “fundamental theory” which tried to unify relativity, gravitation and quantum theory. Quite interestingly, his theory was based on numerological analysis of fundamental constants and not on conventional mathematical analysis. However, this attempt was never completed due to his untimely death in 1944. In 1946, two years after his death, a book named The Fundamental Theory was published. The explanation about the theory is very complex and perplexing to scientists.
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    Fascinating Facts about Sir Arthur Eddington

    • During the First World War Eddington was involved in a controversy regarding scientific relationships between Central Powers, especially between Britain and Germany. Being a Quaker Pacifist, Sir Arthur Eddington persuaded British scientists to uphold their scientific relationship with the German scientific community during Wartime, for which he received flak and criticism from the British Scientific communities.

    • Sir Arthur Eddington’s simplified explanations about complex scientific theories made it quite easy for general readers to understand complex scientific concepts. His innumerable lectures, interviews and radio broadcasts were later converted into books such as New Pathways in Science and The Nature of the Physical World.
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