TODAY I complete a series of articles about three Bradford-educated astronomers, each with an international reputation.

The first two stories covered Abraham Sharp, who had a lunar crater named after him, and Sir Frank Dyson, who invented the Greenwich ‘Pips’. Both men were educated at Bradford Grammar School, in the 17th and 19th centuries.

In contrast, our third astronomer, Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) attended an ordinary state grammar school in the 20th century. Hoyle came from Gilstead near Bingley, his father a cloth merchant and mother a piano teacher. He went to Bingley Grammar School, becoming its most famous pupil. He showed an early interest in astronomy and went to Cambridge to read mathematics.

In the early 1950s Fred Hoyle was the world’s leading astrophysicist. He was most famously involved in the debate about the origins of the universe, framed by two opposing theories - ‘big bang’ or ‘steady-state’. He was a strong advocate of the ‘steady-state’ theory that the universe had always existed, and will exist forever; as old galaxies die, they are replaced by new ones, created spontaneously in space. He dismissed the ‘big bang’ theory, even coining the phrase in a 1949 talk on BBC Radio 3: “These theories were based on the hypothesis that all the matter in the universe was created in one big bang at a particular time in the remote past.”

After a war break working in radar at the Admiralty, Hoyle returned to Cambridge as a maths lecturer, but focused mainly on research into the structure and evolution of stars. He was very aggrieved in 1983 to miss out on a Nobel Prize, which went instead to his American collaborator, when they explained how all the materials found on earth and elsewhere have been formed inside stars. Many of Hoyle’s colleagues were mystified that he hadn’t been included.

In 1958 he became professor of astronomy at Cambridge and founded its Institute of Theoretical Astronomy, being director from 1967-72. He collected many honours, including presidency of the Royal Astronomical Society, a knighthood and the Royal Medal at the Royal Society where he was made fellow in 1957. Alongside his research in astronomy, he developed a sideline in writing over 20 books on science fiction, many co-authored with his son, including his most famous The Black Cloud (1957) and A for Andromeda (1962) made into a TV series. Although the ‘steady-state’ theory had been discredited by the time of his death, Hoyle was a very influential, highly respected astronomer.

Pushing frontiers of knowledge, each of these gifted men explored the outer limits of the known universe - a credit to their Bradford education.

* Every Day Bradford by Martin Greenwood is available online and at bookshops including Waterstones and Salts Mill.