Re: Hoyle

From: Gordon Simons <>
Date: Wed Feb 11 2004 - 08:38:18 EST

About Fred Hoyle, Glenn wrote:
> Yeah and he thought that disease came from space ...

In this regard, Martin Rees of Cambridge University wrote of Fred Hoyle
(obituary published in Physics Today, November 2001):

".... A regrettable dispute led to Hoyle's premature retirement from
Cambridge in 1972. He thereafter based himself for many years in a remote
part of England's Lake District (hill-walking being one of his lifelong
enthusiasms) before moving to the more sedate environs of Bournemouth. His
consequent isolation from the broad academic community was probably
detrimental to his own science; it was certainly a sad deprivation for the
rest of us. His later scientific writings, which continued throughout the
1980s and 1990s, dealt, often controversially, with topics as disparate as
Stonehenge, panspermia, Darwinism, paleontology, and viruses from space.

Several years ago I read a strange book by Fred Hoyle (containing many
full-color pictures, but no index, and no references), entitled "The
Intelligent Universe" (publisher: Michael Joseph, 1983). Hoyle, during his
post-Cambridge years, had written this book to forcefully argue for
panspermia, the theory that microorganisms or biochemical compounds from
outer space are responsible for originating life on Earth -- and other
parts of the universe where suitable atmospheric conditions exist. While
most of the book focuses on establishing plausible reasons why life on
earth had to have come from elsewhere in the universe, the only real data
presented centers on some micrometeorites found in Minnesota, which,
according to Hoyle, showed, under microscopic examination, to contain
fossilized microbial life. Included in the book is a picture of the very
biologist -- together with his microscope -- who had discovered these
microscopic fossils from outer space.

Intrigued, I decided to trace down -- if I could -- a professional article
written by this biologist, discussing his findings -- to see what he had
to say. But, alas, despite a hard search, I came up with absolutely

At this point, my quest developed a truly bizarre twist. Since the
biologist I was seeking had German-sounding first and second names, out of
frustration, I asked a German (born and trained) biologist (my cousin's
wife) whether she had ever heard of this fellow -- and I showed her the
picture from the book. Indeed she had, and she immediately began to
laugh. It seems that, as a young man, this star witness for Hoyle's case,
was at the University of Gissen, working in her father's lab. (Her father
was also a biologist -- of considerable reputation.) And then she told me
of an amusing incident -- of when this young man discovered something very
unusual in his microscope, which, excitedly, he reported to her father.
After some investigation, it turned out that this "important discovery"
was nothing more than a piece of lint.

Well, I asked, could it have been the case that, after more experience, he
became more proficient with his microscope, and with his scientific
prowess? She thought not. According to her, he never accomplished
anything of merit in Germany. He later took a position in South Africa,
but, professionally, he came to nothing. So it seems that Hoyle's
compelling data for panspermia has evaporated into nothing. Surely if
microfossils within micrometeorites were a reality, there would be a
clearly visible paper trail documenting such an important find.

Gordon Simons
Received on Wed Feb 11 08:38:52 2004

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