Eddington, Sir Arthur Stanley

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Eddington, Sir Arthur Stanley

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, 1882–1944, British astronomer and physicist. He was chief assistant (1906–13) at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and was from 1913 Plumian professor of astronomy at Cambridge, where he was director of the observatory from 1914. Eddington was one of the first physicists to grasp the theory of relativity, of which he became a leading exponent. He organized the expedition to view a total solar eclipse in 1919; his observations of bright objects near the sun confirmed the prediction of general relativity that light rays are bent when subjected to a strong gravitational field. He made important contributions to the study of the evolution, motion, and internal constitution of stars, but rejected the idea that gravitional collapse could produce a black hole. His theory that stars shine from the energy of nuclear reactions is considered the start of modern astrophysics. One of the foremost contemporary expositors of scientific subjects, he was also concerned with the relation of physics to philosophy. He was knighted in 1930. His writings include Mathematical Theory of Relativity (1923), The Internal Constitution of the Stars (1926; his most famous book), and Stars and Atoms (1928).

See biographies by A. V. Douglas (1956) and C. W. Kilmister (1966); study by Sir E. Whittaker (1951); A. I. Miller, Empire of the Stars: Obsession, Friendship, and Betrayal in the Quest for Black Holes (2005).

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