Edward Arthur Milne Plaque

Hull-born physicist E.A. Milne honoured by city and University of Hull

A Hull-born physicist who became a leading expert on the theory of relativity has been honoured by his home city at the University of Hull.

Edward Arthur Milne, namesake of the University of Hull’s E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics, was a world-renowned cosmologist and mathematician.

A plaque in honour of Professor Milne’s achievements was unveiled at the University, in a ceremony attended by his daughter Meg Weston-Smith, granddaughter Miranda Barlow, the Lord Mayor Councillor Peter Allen and staff and students from the University.

Professor Brad Gibson, Director of the E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics and Head of the Department of Physics & Mathematics at the University, said:

“From a scientific perspective, there is no doubt Professor Milne deserves this honour – not only for his contribution to our understanding of the origins of the Universe but for his commitment to multi-disciplinary research. He was a pioneer in branching out from his scientific niche and that commitment underpins the spirit of our activities within the Milne Centre, here at the University.

“Often over-shadowed by his close friend, Albert Einstein, it is important to celebrate the pioneering contributions made by the professor, one of the truly great astrophysicists and mathematicians of the 20th century.”  

Professor Milne’s legacy has proven invaluable in the University of Hull establishing strong collaborative links with dozens of schools and colleges across East Yorkshire.

Professor Gibson said:

“His commitment to applying mathematics across a spectrum of research areas from astrophysics to military defence matches the present-day mission of the University of Hull – to be both a provider of a skilled workforce for applied technologies, and a world-leader in the exploration of Blue Skies research.” 

“Often over-shadowed by his close friend, Albert Einstein, it is important to celebrate the pioneering contributions made by the professor, one of the truly great astrophysicists and mathematicians of the 20th century.”  

Professor Brad Gibson, Director of the E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics and Head of the Department of Physics and Mathematics, University of Hull

Mrs Weston Smith said: “My father would be absolutely thrilled by his plaque in the city that nurtured him and took him to the forefront of British Science. Hull gave my father a great start.”

Reminiscing about her father’s days at Hymers College, Mrs Weston Smith said: “He read papers to the scientific society and enjoyed the cut and thrust of the debating club. At one debate he led the motion that Hull should have a university, Of course that came about in 1927.”

The ceremony is the latest part of the Lord Mayor’s Centenary Plaque project, which was established to recognise 100 pioneers, ground breakers and campaigners who have made a difference on a local, national and international level but have their roots right here in Hull.

Physics and Astronomy student Kate Womack, a former pupil at Kelvin Hall School and Wyke College, said:

“It is so exciting to be here for the unveiling of the plaque and to find out more about the man behind the EA Milne Centre for Astrophysics – the contribution he made during his lifetime and the legacy he has left.

“I love studying physics – I knew from a very early age that was what I would do. I have been inspired by EA Milne’s work and the fact that he came from Hull. It is an honour to be part of this legacy.”

Edward Arthur Milne Plaque-GW0G0112

During his time at Hymers College, Professor Milne won an open scholarship in mathematics and natural science to study at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1914, gaining the highest marks ever awarded in the entry exam.

In 1916, he joined a group of mathematicians at the Ministry of Munitions working on the ballistics of anti-aircraft gunnery. Later, Professor Milne became an expert on sound localisation and was an academic at both Cambridge and Oxford universities. Much of his earlier work was in mathematical astrophysics. Later in his career, he became a leading expert on the theory of relativity and cosmology. 

In 1936, he was appointed to the University of Hull’s Council and Court of Governors, a post he held until the end of World War Two. After the war, the University had a selection of people to be considered for promotion to Chairs and Readerships and Professor Milne was one of two external assessors brought in to help deal with the applications. Professor Milne was presented with the Royal Medal from the Royal Society and was President of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1943-45. Professor Milne died in 1950.

Honorary Alderman Mary Glew, who came up with the idea for the centenary plaques during her time as Lord Mayor in 2015, paid tribute to the work of the dedicated plaque team, the Lord Mayor, speakers and E.A Milne himself who she described as “a real genius of our time”. She also introduced the poet for the plaque project, David Osgerby, who honoured E.A Milne with the following poem:

Edward Arthur Milne F.R.S. M.B.E

 

Edward Milne was a Hymers boy. He went

Off on a scholarship to Trinity College.

Had a talent to discover and to invent.

He increased the storehouse of human knowledge.

 

For his work in the war, he got the M.B.E.

At the age of twenty two. A true pioneer

The range of his genius, and his ability

Cannot be expressed in the space we have here.

 

Atmospherics, Mathematics and Cosmology.

A leader in all. Just take a look at the moon.

A crater bears his name. Lunar geology.

His death was a loss. And it came far too soon.

 

A polymath from Hull.Kin to Venn and to Gray.

One of the very greatest of minds of yesterday.

 

Copyright David OSGERBY 2018

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