Hoyle (The Intelligent Universe, 1983, etc.) is never dull. You may disagree with his latest theories; you may take issue with his interpretation of past events; but he is ever the lively protagonist here, telling the story of a life in which he has seen much of the world and discoursed with the prime movers of science. As if to underscore that the child is father to the man, Hoyle begins his story with details of growing up poor in rural Yorkshire and how he did his best to avoid school while at the same time teaching himself to read and do arithmetic. In due course he won scholarships that eventually led to Cambridge, where he stayed for 39 years, accumulating wonderful stories and numerous colleagues who were the movers and shakers of 20th-century theoretical physics. Hoyle describes the chain of events that led to his major contributions in nucleosynthesis—how the elements are formed in stars and supernovas. He also provides details of his radar work in WW II and later snippets about his mathematical creativity, but these are rather compressed in relation to the life. Hoyle eventually resigned from the chair in astronomy he held because of a dispute that had become a bureaucratic nightmare. By this time the reader is well prepared for the backbiting and partisanship that make government science and academic politics anything but genteel and impartial, and Hoyle is ever ready to tell it like it is. He reserves for a final chapter his cosmology theory, which is no surprise: Down with the Big Bang and up with the continuous creation, with the universe perhaps as the manifestation of God. For readers of Hoyle's science fiction, there is an echo of Consciousness and the Black Cloud about it all...and just as controversial.
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