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Edward Arthur Milne

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Title: Edward Arthur Milne  
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Collection: 1896 Births, 1950 Deaths, 20Th-Century Mathematicians, Academics of the Victoria University of Manchester, Alumni of Trinity College, Cambridge, English Astronomers, English Physicists, Fellows of the Royal Society, Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, Fellows of Wadham College, Oxford, Mathematicians from Kingston Upon Hull, People Educated at Hymers College, Presidents of the Royal Astronomical Society, Recipients of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, Rouse Ball Professors of Mathematics (University of Oxford), Royal Medal Winners, Scientists from Kingston Upon Hull, Statutory Professors of the University of Oxford
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Edward Arthur Milne

Arthur Milne
Born (1896-02-14)14 February 1896
Hull, Yorkshire, England
Died 21 September 1950(1950-09-21) (aged 54)
Dublin, Ireland
Institutions Victoria University of Manchester
University of Oxford
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Doctoral students Thomas Cowling

Edward Arthur Milne FRS[1] (; 14 February 1896 – 21 September 1950) was a British astrophysicist and mathematician.[2]


  • Biography 1
  • Relativity, Gravitation, and World Structure 2
  • Honours 3
  • Books by Milne 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7


Milne was born in Hull, Yorkshire, England. He attended Hymers College and from there he won an open scholarship in mathematics and natural science to study at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1914, gaining the largest number of marks which had ever been awarded in the examination. In 1916 he joined a group of mathematicians led by A. V. Hill for the Ministry of munitions working on the ballistics of anti-aircraft gunnery, they became known as ′Hill's Brigands′. Later Milne became an expert on sound localisation.[3] In 1917 he became a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. He was a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1919–1925, being assistant director of the solar physics observatory, 1920–1924, mathematical lecturer at Trinity, 1924–1925, and university lecturer in astrophysics, 1922–1925. He was Beyer professor of applied mathematics, Victoria University of Manchester, 1924–1928, before his appointment as Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics and to a fellowship at Wadham College, Oxford, in 1928. Milne's earlier work was in mathematical astrophysics. From 1932 he also worked on the problem of the "expanding universe" and in Relativity, Gravitation, and World-Structure (1935), proposed an alternative to Albert Einstein's general relativity theory. With McCrea (1934) he also showed that the 3 models which form the foundations of modern cosmology first proposed by Friedmann (1922) using the general theory of relativity, can also be derived using only Newtonian mechanics.[4] His later work, concerned with the interior structure of stars, aroused controversy. Milne was president of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1943–1945. During World War II he again worked on ballistics.

He died of a heart attack in Dublin, Ireland, while preparing to give a set of lectures. These can be found written down in one of his last published books: Modern Cosmology and the Christian Idea of God (1952).

Relativity, Gravitation, and World Structure

The main difference between the Milne model of an expanding universe, and the current (Einstein's) model of an expanding universe was that Milne did not assume a priori that the universe has a homogeneous matter distribution. He did not include the gravitation interaction into the model either.

Milne argued that under the context of Einstein's special relativity, and the relativity of simultaneity, that it is impossible for a nonstatic universe to be homogeneous. Namely, if the universe is spreading out, its density is decreasing over time, and that if two regions appeared to be at the same density at the same time to one observer, they would not appear to be the same density at the same time to another observer. However, if each observer measures its local density at the same agreed-upon proper time, the measured density should be the same. In Minkowskian coordinates, this constant proper time forms a hyperbolic surface which extends infinitely to the light-cone of the event of creation. This is true even when proper time approaches 0, the time of the creation. The universe is already infinite at the creation time!

Milne's model is, therefore, that of a sphere, with an approximately homogeneous matter distribution within several billion light years of the center which then increases to an infinite density. It can be shown that this infinite density is actually the density of the universe when at the time of the big bang. The spherical distribution is unique in that it is essentially the same after a Lorentz transformation, except that a different stationary particle is at the center. As it is the only distribution that has this property, it is the only distribution which could satisfy the cosmological principle of "no preferred reference frame." Based on this cosmological principle Milne created a model that can be described entirely within Euclidean geometry.

As of 1935, using this model, Milne published a prediction of the cosmic background radiation which appears to be of a much different character than that predicted by Eddington. In fact, many passages in Relativity, Gravitation and World Structure are devoted to attacking Eddington's preconceptions.



Named after him

Books by Milne

  • Thermodynamics of the Stars, Berlin: J. Springer, 1930.
  • The White Dwarf Stars, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932.
  • Relativity, gravitation and world-structure, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935.
  • The Inverse Square Law of Gravitation, London: Harrison and Son, 1936.
  • The Fundamental Concepts of Natural Philosophy, Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1943.
  • Kinematic relativity; a sequel to Relativity, gravitation and world structure, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1948.
  • Vectorial Mechanics, New York: Interscience Publishers, 1948.
  • Modern Cosmology and the Christian Idea of God, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952.
  • Sir James Jeans: A Biography, Cambridge University Press, 1952.

See also


  1. ^  
  2. ^  .
  3. ^ Van der Kloot, W.(2011). ″Mirrors and smoke: A. V. Hill, his brigands, and the science of anti-aircraft gunnery in world war I.″ Notes Rec. R. Soc. Lond. 65: 393–410.
  4. ^ McCrea W. H. & Milne E. A: Newtonian universes and the curvature of space, Quarterley J. Math. vol.5 1934 73-80. This Newtonian derivation is sometimes incorrectly also ascribed to Friedmann


  • Beating the Odds: The Life and Times of E.A Milne, by Meg Weston Smith, in June 2013. Published by World Scientific Publishing Co.
  • Gale, George, "Cosmology: Methodological Debates in the 1930s and 1940s," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Milne was a major player in the cosmological controversies described in this article.
Preceded by
Sydney Chapman
Beyer Chair of Applied Mathematics at University of Manchester
Succeeded by
Douglas Hartree
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