Arthur Stanley Eddington

Born: 28 Dec 1882 in Kendal, Westmorland, England
Died: 22 Nov 1944 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England

[Mathematiker Bild]

Show birthplace location

Previous (Chronologically) Next Biographies Index
Previous (Alphabetically) Next Welcome page

Arthur Eddington's father died before Arthur was two years old and the family moved to Weston-super-Mare. There he attended school and, in 1898, was awarded a scholarship of Pounds60 a year for three years by Somerset County (Weston-super-Mare is now in Avon but it was then in Somerset). Eddington attended Owens College, Manchester from 1898 to 1902. There he studied physics and mathematics, being greatly influenced by one of his mathematics lecturers, Horace Lamb.

He was awarded a Pounds100 a year mathematics scholarship to study at Cambridge where he was taught by E T Whittaker, A N Whitehead and E W Barnes. He became Senior Wrangler (1904), Smith's prize winner and was awarded a Trinity College fellowship (1907). In 1913 he was appointed to the Plumian Professorship of Astronomy and in 1914 he became director of the Cambridge Observatory. In the same year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Eddington came from a Quaker tradition and, as a conscientious objector, he avoided active war service and was able to continue his research at Cambridge during the war years of 1914-18.

Eddington made important contributions to the theory of general relativity. Of his book Mathematical Theory of Relativity (1923), Einstein said

the finest presentation of the subject in any language .
Eddington also led eclipse expeditions to Brazil and Principe Island in West Africa. The results from the Africa expedition provided the first confirmation of Einstein's theory that gravity will bend the path of light when it passes near a massive star. He was knighted in 1930.

In addition to his work in relativity theory Eddington also did important work on the internal structure of stars. He discovered the mass-luminosity relationship for stars, he calculated the abundance of hydrogen and he produced a theory to explain the pulsation of Cepheid variable stars. His early work on this is contained in the important work The Internal Constitution of Stars (1926).

Among his many books were philosophical books such as The Nature of the Physical World (1928), New Pathways of Science (1935) and The Philosophy of Physical Science (1939). Eddington's rather unusual view of the importance of the history of a subject comes over in these works. He believed that familiarity with the history of a subject was a hindrance to creative research in that subject.

Eddington had a fascination with the fundamental constants of nature and produced some surprising numerical coincidences published after his death in Fundamental Theory (1946).

References (14 books/articles)

References elsewhere in this archive:

Arthur S Eddington was elected to the Royal Society of London in 1914. You can see a history of the Royal Society and a list of the members among the mathematicians in our archive.
He was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 1928. You can see a history of the Royal Medal and a list of the winners in our archive.

He was the Royal Society's Bakerian lecturer in 1926. You can see a history of the Bakerian Lectures and a list of the lecturers.

There is a Crater Eddington on the moon. You can see a list of lunar features named after mathematicians.

Previous (Chronologically) Next Biographies Index
Previous (Alphabetically) Next Welcome page
History Topics Index Famous curves index
Chronologies Birthplace Maps
Mathematicians of the day Anniversaries for the year
Search Form Simple Search Form Search Suggestions

JOC/EFR December 1996