Review of Beating the Odds: The Life and Times of E. A. Milne by Meg Weston Smith

Phillip Helbig

The Observatory, 134, 1238, 35–37 (February 2014)


This is a book review of Beating the Odds: The Life and Times of E.  A. Milne by Meg Weston Smith. This is not a scientific biography like Pais's of Einstein or Moore's of Schrödinger. In the preface, the author quotes Chandrasekhar: "Tell us about the man; don't worry about the science", and this advice is basically followed, though of course Milne's scientific work figured largely in his personal life and the author, a daughter of Milne, provides about the right amount of information about this. The book is well written and provides not only a description of Milne's life but also of academic life in general during the first half of the twentieth century, when married dons were treated as "honourary bachelors" and an Oxford classicist claimed that anyone with a good knowledge of the classics could master physics in a fortnight. Despite some inaccuracies in the description of Milne's science, I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in astronomy, academia or their history; it was a very enjoyable read.


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