Fred Hoyle: An Online Exhibition

Institute of Theoretical Astronomy

Final Resignation

Hoyle's resignation letter, sent to the Vice-Chancellor of the University and Master of Trinity Hall, Professor William Alexander Deer, and copied to seven others concerned with the Institute:

February 14 1972

The Vice-Chancellor
Trinity Hall
Cambridge, ENGLAND

Dear Vice Chancellor:

Following the recent appointment to the Chair of Astrophysics I determined to leave Cambridge. To have done so immediately would have led to a disturbance in which the plight of a considerable number of young people at I.O.T.A. and at the observatories might have been overlooked. Owing to the long delay of the University in gracing the regulations for the new Institute of Astronomy, of the order of fifteen people were left with less than 9 months security of employment. I therefore decided to postpone my personal decision until after a one-year holding grant from SRC had been arranged. Such a grant was recommended by the Astronomy Policy and Grants Committee of the SRC at its meeting on 8 February.

The remaining question has been the length of the notice I should properly give to the University. After considerable thought I have decided to remain at Cambridge for the period of the holding grant, unless it becomes clear that I can responsibly terminate my association with the University at an earlier date. I am therefore resigning the Plumian Chair from 31 July 1973.

It is unnecessary to spell out the reason for my resignation since the reason will readily be understood by the whole astronomical world. Here I would simply point out that for a substantial block of electors manifestly to have discussed a name in advance without reference to me, the present Head of I.O.T.A. and the senior professor in the proposed new Institute, was a truly monumental discourtesy.

Yours sincerely,

Fred Hoyle
Department of Education and Science
Canberra A.C.T.

An accompanying statement sent by Hoyle with his resignation letter:

Institute of Theoretical Astronomy
University of Cambridge

When the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy (I.O.T.A.) was founded in 1966, there was an informal understanding that the future of the Institute beyond 1972 would be thoroughly discussed in 1970. This understanding was not kept because the University became concerned instead with the future of the Observatories.

As an outcome of the latter discussions it was represented to me that the Observatories would be suppressed unless I agreed to the creation of a joint organisation, the Observatories and I.O.T.A. together. Although the arrangement was not helpful to I.O.T.A., if only because it was certain to involve delay, I agreed to the proposed merger. I did so because I had no wish to have optical astronomy die in Cambridge. I did so in the expectation that the University would seek to appoint an astronomer with a distinguished record in optical astronomy to the Chair of Astrophysics.

It has become clear over recent months that there are forces within the University who have seen the arrangements for the new Institute as an opportunity to downgrade I.O.T.A. The Institute emerged in the years 1969-1971 as an organisation with an international reputation which some people have found embarrassingly high. The present arrangements will ultimately imply a downgrading from real international status to the level of an ordinary department of astronomy.

Fred Hoyle
14 February 1972

Final Resignation

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