Catalogue description Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of EDWARD ARTHUR MILNE, FRS (1896-1950)

This record is held by Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections

Details of CSAC 102.6.84
Reference: CSAC 102.6.84
Title: Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of EDWARD ARTHUR MILNE, FRS (1896-1950)



CSAC 102.6.84/A.1 - CSAC 102.6.84/A.4 Obituary notices and tributes


CSAC 102.6.84/A.5 - CSAC 102.6.84/A.21 Personal and family




SECTION C NOTES AND DRAFTS CSAC 102.6.84/C.1 - CSAC 102.6.84/C.58


CSAC 102.6.84/C.1 - CSAC 102.6.84/C.27 Thermodynamics


CSAC 102.6.84/C.28 - CSAC 102.6.84/C.51 Statistical Mechanics


CSAC 102.6.84/C.52 - CSAC 102.6.84/C.57 Relativity


CSAC 102.6.84/C.58 Milne's statistical problem




Milne died suddenly, away from home, in 1950 at the relatively early age of fifty-four. He had been twice widowed and had three still young children. In these circumstances there were more urgent tasks than the care of his papers, and the present collection assembled after considerable lapse of time has many gaps. In particular, there is little record of Milne's overseas travel for research and conferences or of his committee and editorial work, while the surviving correspondence, interesting though it is, is clearly no more than a fraction of the original corpus.


The lecture notes and drafts in Sections B and C indicate the range of Milne's mathematical and astrophysical interests reasonably well, if not as fully as could be wished. Perhaps the main interest is to be found in the correspondence. The letters to his parents and brother in Section A are revealing of his personality as well as of his work as a young man in the First World War. The letters to Chandrasekhar in Section D, while mainly on technical subjects and especially Milne's growing belief in his theory of kinematic relativity also contain many insights into his family life, bereavements, and daily struggles. There is clearly to be seen in both these sequences of correspondence Milne's deep love for Trinity College, Cambridge, whose traditions and ceremonies he accepted wholeheartedly and took part in whenever he could.


Compiled by Jeannine Alton and Peter Harper


The work of the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre, and the production of this catalogue, are made possible by the support of the following societies and institutions:


The Biochemical Society


The Charles Babbage Foundation for the History of Information Processing


The Institute of Physics


The Institution of Electrical Engineers


The Institution of Mechanical Engineers


The Nuffield Foundation


The Rhodes Trustees


The Royal Society of London


The Wolfson Foundation




Professor D.G. Kendall, FRS, and Dr. J. Hendry gave helpful advice on the identification and description of some of Milne's notes and drafts.


Professor K. Hufbauer kindly made available his own reference list of locations of additional correspondence now included at CSAC 102.6.84/D.1.

Related material:

A fuller account of Milne's career can be found in the memoir by W.H. McCrea, Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, 7, 1950-51, pp.421-443.


A little correspondence remains in family hands.


The manuscript of Milne's Edward Cadbury Lectures, 'Modern Cosmology and the Christian Idea of God', is held in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge (Ref.: Add. Ms. a.228). The lectures were to have been given in the University of Birmingham in 1950 but Milne died in September of that year. The manuscript was edited by G.J. Whitrow and published in 1952.


Six letters by Milne to Sir Joseph Larmor written between 1930 and 1933 are held in the Royal Society, London.


A list of additional locations of letters by and to Milne can be found at 1916 - 1978

Held by: Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Milne, Edward Arthur, 1896-1950, scientist, mathematician and theoretical astrophysicist

Physical description: 11 boxes, ca 160 items
Immediate source of acquisition:

The collection has been assembled from several sources.


The personal letters at CSAC 102.6.84/A.6 - CSAC 102.6.84/A.20 and the note on Geoffrey Milne at CSAC 102.6.84/A.21 are the gift of Mrs. M.K. Milne, widow of Geoffrey and sister-in-law of Arthur Milne.


The correspondence at CSAC 102.6.84/D.58 - CSAC 102.6.84/D.61 is the gift of Professor and Mrs. Theodore Dunham, friends with whom Milne's daughters stayed during the Second World War.


The photocopies of letters to H. Davenport at CSAC 102.6.84/D.53A were made available by Mrs. Anne Davenport.


The remainder of the material was assembled and given by Mrs. Margaret (Meggie) Weston-Smith and Miranda Weston-Smith (daughter and grand-daughter), who were also responsible for obtaining the photocopied documents and transcripts at CSAC 102.6.84/D.2 - CSAC 102.6.84/D.50, CSAC 102.6.84/D.51 - CSAC 102.6.84/D.53, CSAC 102.6.84/D.63 - CSAC 102.6.84/D.68.

Administrative / biographical background:

Milne was a distinguished mathematician and one of the founders of modern theoretical astrophysics.


Educated at Hymers College, Hull, and Trinity College, Cambridge, he became Assistant Director of the Solar Physics Observatory, Cambridge (1920), Beyer Professor of Applied Mathematics at Manchester (1925-28) and the first holder of the Rouse Ball Professorship at Oxford (1928-50). Milne served in both World Wars, on ballistics and sound-ranging at the Anti-Aircraft Experimental Station at Portsmouth 1916-18 (holding an R.N.V.R. Commission), and for the Ministry of Supply at the Ordnance Board as a 'Key Scientist' for much of the Second World War (1939-44).


W.H. McCrea, in his memoir of Milne for the Royal Society, distinguishes three principal phases in Milne's work: atmospheric problems in astrophysics (1920-29), stellar structure (1929-35) and the discovery and development of kinematic relativity (from 1932). Other topics on which he wrote and lectured include thermodynamics, statistical mechanics and pulsating stars.


An annual Milne lecture was founded under the auspices of Wadham College, Oxford, the first being given in 1978.

Link to NRA Record:

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