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McVittie, George Cunliffe

MCVITTIE, GEORGE CUNLIFFE

(b. Izmir, Turkey, 5 June 1904; d. Canterbury, United Kingdom, 8 March 1988),

astronomy, applied mathematics.

McVittie mathematically explored cosmological models, drawing out consequences to match against observations. His 1956 book General Relativity and Cosmology was for years the major mathematical presentation of relativistic cosmology. He built the astronomy department at the University of Illinois into a significant research and teaching program, and as secretary of the American Astronomical Society shaped its programs.

Early Life . McVittie’s birth was followed by that of a brother in 1906 and a sister in 1908. His maternal grandfather, Georg Weber, a native of Alsace, taught French at the Evangelical School in Izmir and wrote archaeological books on Ephesus and Smyrna (as Izmir was named when it was an ancient Greek city). George’s father, Francis, born in Blackpool, went out from England around 1890 as secretary to a licorice importer, married in 1903, lost his job in 1905, obtained an agency to import American rolltop desks in 1907, developed his own primitive department store by 1914, and after World War I prospered buying up British Navy stores in the Aegean Islands and reselling them in Smyrna (as Izmir again was named, after the Greeks took it from the Turks in 1919). George later remembered his father as a hardheaded Victorian businessman whose only idea was that life was about making money.

Francis could not afford to send his sons to public school in England, from which they were cut off anyway by World War I. Nor did he want his sons mixing with the natives, so they were tutored at home. George first encountered relativity theory in an engineering journal, after which his father imported a book on the theory, which George found unintelligible. Francis also bought a 3-inch naval telescope in 1919. Late in life, George would claim that he had never made an astronomical observation, other than detecting with a radio antenna from the top of a tall building the passage of Sputnik. Nor would he ever take more than a single astronomy course, a graduate one on stellar structure.

Home tutoring was successful; George passed the Cambridge University entrance examinations with distinction in 1921. School fees and the cost of living were lower in Edinburgh, however, and George arrived there in August 1922 to find lodging and enter the university, in civil engineering, a practical subject his father approved of.

The rest of the family was on vacation in London in September when the Turks retook Izmir, and in the process destroyed much of the city and the McVittie business. Francis found employment in London as secretary of a relief committee for British who had fled Smyrna, and George joined him there, typing and copying letters. Francis soon built a small business in London importing and repairing oriental carpets.

In their relief work the McVitties impressed an Edinburgh businessman, who raised a subscription of six hundred pounds as a loan to Francis, repayable, if he ever recovered his business in Izmir, and if not, a gift, to see George through university. George also won a small scholarship, and entered Edinburgh University in 1923, a year after his earlier, aborted attempt.

His heart was set on a master of arts in mathematics and natural philosophy, which he received in 1927, with first-class honors. His now impoverished father had less influence over George and his choice of studies. University regulations required taking two subjects in the humanities, and years later George would attribute the origin of his uncompromising empiricist attitude perhaps to a series of lectures on Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume.

Cosmological Studies . Most physicists and astronomers then were perplexed by Einstein’s relativity theory, while mathematicians could more readily participate, through theory if not observation, in the exciting new quest to know the structure of the universe. Edmund Whittaker, professor of mathematics at Edinburgh, contributed perhaps more to the development of relativity theory than any other British mathematician. He was an outstanding teacher who explained his subject clearly. Although it was unusual then even for junior staff, let alone students, to be invited to professors’ homes, Whittaker hosted tea parties for students at his house on Sundays and sometimes informal dances in his drawing room.

In 1927 McVittie won a scholarship of 200 pounds for three years of graduate study. Other than in Oxford, it was expected that anyone showing promise in mathematics would finish off at Cambridge. McVittie stayed in less-expensive Edinburgh for another year, collecting a second fellowship involving some teaching and learning more from Whittaker, before he moved to Cambridge to study with Arthur Eddington, the professor of astronomy there. Eddington, when praised as one of only three persons who understood Einstein’s relativity theory, is said to have thought a moment before asking who was the third.

Twice a term McVittie cycled out to the Cambridge observatory, where he was shown by a maid into Eddington’s study. Eddington would look up from his desk, giving the impression that he was wondering who this young man was and why had he come. Eddington seemed distant, unapproachable, and unintelligible. Compared with Edinburgh, McVittie found the atmosphere at Cambridge suffocating.

Also there were philosophical incompatibilities. Eddington pursued mathematically elegant theories, and he was trying to reconcile quantum mechanics and relativity theory. McVittie preferred to pin down things with observations. He hoped to develop mathematically possible cosmological models of the universe and then use observations to choose among them.

In 1929 the American astronomer Edwin Hubble announced his discovery of an empirical relation between red shifts of spectral lines in light from spiral nebulae and the apparent brightness of the nebulae. The red shifts could be interpreted as Doppler shifts, implying motions of the nebulae, and apparent brightness was taken as an indicator of distance. Greater velocities for more distant nebulae suggested an expanding universe. In Edinburgh, Whittaker suggested to a student that he should look into the possibility of interpreting Hubble’s red shifts in the context of general relativity. In Cambridge, however, it seemed, at least to McVittie, that no one other than himself had much interest in Hubble’s new velocity-distance relationship. A large gulf existed between mathematical physics and observational cosmology.

At the beginning of 1930 Eddington did put McVittie to work on the problem of whether Albert Einstein’s static model of the universe is stable. The problem, however, had already been studied by Georges Lemaître, a Belgian astrophysicist, a Catholic priest, and a student with Eddington in 1923–1924. Indeed, Lemaître had sent Eddington a reprint of his 1927 paper on a homogeneous universe of constant mass and increasing radius accounting for the radial velocity of the extragalactic nebulae. But by 1930 Eddington had forgotten about Lemaître’s work. Published in a relatively minor journal, Annales de la Société Scientifique de Bruxelles, Lemaître’s paper was easily overlooked by astronomers (although it was listed in the 1927 Astronomischer Jahresbericht, the annual survey of scientific papers on astronomical topics). A talk by Eddington in London at the end of January 1930 caused Lemaître to realize that Eddington did not remember his earlier work on an expanding universe. Lemaître wrote to Eddington, reminding him of the 1927 paper. Somewhat shamefacedly, Eddington showed Lemaître’s letter to McVittie. Seeing that the problem of the stability of the static model had already been solved, McVittie became very discouraged, and temporarily abandoned research in cosmology.

Dropping the question of the stability of Einstein’s mathematical model of the universe after only a few weeks’ diversion allowed McVittie to complete in 1930 his PhD thesis on unified field theories. Einstein had proposed unifying electromagnetism and gravitation, and McVittie worked out several possible solutions. None, however, survived comparison with observations. This failure produced in McVittie a skeptical attitude toward unified field theories and a belief that the meaning of any set of field equations was best obtained by working out particular exact solutions. McVittie published his first three scientific papers on this topic, one in 1929 and two in 1930.

Early Career . McVittie obtained a position in 1930 as assistant lecturer in mathematics at Leeds, where he gave nine hours of lectures a week to undergraduates. The salary of 350 pounds per year sufficed during the Great Depression. In 1934 he married Mildred Bond Strong. They would have no children. Her father, John, was a professor of education in Leeds, and her brother, Kenneth, would become in 1964 the first director general of intelligence, Ministry of Defense.

Promotions normally were obtained by moving to another university, and McVittie moved up to lecturer in applied mathematics at Liverpool, with a salary of 450 pounds, in 1934, and to reader (equivalent to associate professor in the United States) in mathematics at King’s College, University of London, in 1936. He could now attend meetings of the Royal Astronomical Society at Burlington House in London more regularly, and he became more interested in astronomy.

McVittie published nine more papers between 1930 and 1934, two jointly with William McCrea, who at the beginning of 1930 was a lecturer with Whittaker at Edinburgh. McVittie and McCrea examined what would happen to an Einstein universe were it given a prod: would condensations cause it to begin expanding or collapsing? On his own, McVittie showed mathematically that the Lemaître universe, departing from the equilibrium Einstein state, can expand or contract, and an initial contraction can be started by the formation of condensations. He went on to develop the mathematics necessary to tackle the problem of whether the universe would expand or contract when a condensation formed, but he did not answer the question.

McVittie grew skeptical of Hubble’s observations and their interpretations, and by the mid-1930s he felt muddled. Nonetheless, in his Cosmological Theory of 1937 he calculated astronomical observables, hoping to select a particular universe in agreement with observation. But the mathematical methods he developed would prove more important than any cosmological conclusion. McVittie’s dissatisfaction with Hubble’s interpretation of his observations became the central theme of what had been intended as a review of the observational situation in cosmology that McVittie prepared for a joint meeting in 1939 between the Royal Astronomical Society and the Physical Society of London. Hubble had assumed corrections to his observed magnitudes of spiral nebulae for the dimming effect of the red shifts of the nebulae. McVittie argued in considerable mathematical detail that Hubble’s assumptions were not valid in an expanding universe of general relativity, and concluded that it was impossible to advance beyond a few very tentative conclusions without introducing arbitrary and unjustified hypotheses.

Also during the 1930s McVittie debated Edward Arthur Milne, an astronomer at Oxford. At this time, philosophy professors at Oxford knew a priori that space was Euclidean, and they were equally convinced that the theory of relativity was false. Particularly bothersome to Milne was the contention that we probably would never know why space is expanding rather than contracting, both being equally probable in relativity theory. In his commonsense explanation, Milne rejected the notions of curved space and expansion of space, and proposed instead a group of nebulae moving in Euclidean space in random directions with different velocities. Such a model would soon acquire the appearance of an expanding group, the nebulae with highest velocities naturally having receded farthest from the starting point. McVittie found Milne’s mathematics very interesting, differing as it did from that of relativistic cosmology, but he thought Milne’s philosophy was silly. A strict empiricist, McVittie was quite content to let observations determine whether the universe was expanding or contracting; he felt no need, as had Milne, for theory to explain either expansion or contraction.

War Intervenes . As threat of war grew, McVittie registered with the Royal Society in 1938 for mathematical meteorological work, since obviously no astronomy would be involved in the war. While reading up on meteorology, he realized that relativity theory provided a mathematical apparatus applicable to the study of fluids, and into the 1950s he published several papers on gas dynamics.

In November 1939 McVittie was sent to the Government Communications Headquarters at Bletchley Park to decipher German weather messages and help prepare weather forecasts for air operations over German-held territory. Also, deciphered weather reports from locations in the Atlantic Ocean revealed positions of German submarines and helped reduce shipping losses. McVittie began the work single-handedly, but by 1943 headed a staff of sixty. He received the Officer of the Order of the British Empire for wartime contributions.

McVittie later recalled that World War II was a discontinuity in his scientific interests, but that is an exaggeration. He had continued to pursue his interest in cosmology during the early 1940s, in debates with Milne and with Arthur Geoffrey Walker, Milne’s student. Indeed, there had been periods when McVittie had thought he would go crazy if he kept on dealing with ciphers, and his cosmological quarrels with Milne were welcome relief.

McVittie returned to King’s College in 1945, and in 1948 he became professor of mathematics and head of the department at Queen Mary College, University of London. At King's, McVittie tutored Arthur C. Clarke in applied mathematics. Clarke later collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on the script for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which the computer reported: “I am a HAL nine thousand computer Production Number 3. I became operational at the HAL Plant in Urbana, Illinois, on January 12, 1997.” Clarke’s choice of Urbana, home of the University of Illinois, for HAL’s birthplace is explained by McVittie’s presence there as chair of the astronomy department. How an English mathematician ended up in another field of study on another continent also calls for explanation.

McVittie in America . The 1950 meeting of the International Union of Mathematicians was to be held at Harvard University. British currency regulations allowed McVittie to take very little money out of the country, and he cast about for lecture engagements in America to pay his way. He obtained invitations to the Michigan Summer School for astronomers and to Harvard’s astronomy department for the entire fall semester. McVittie and the head of Queen Mary College were “temperamentally unsuited to produce a fruitful collaboration,” so McVittie later recalled in an oral interview for the American Institute of Physics—they were not “simpatico”—and both welcomed a temporary separation.

There were few American astronomers then; the large group of post–World War II students was just beginning to graduate. And even fewer were equipped to deal with cosmology. McVittie made a very favorable impression at Harvard, where his lectures were the beginning of his important role in introducing the study of relativity into the astronomy and physics graduate school curricula in the United States. Furthermore, Mrs. McVittie, a meticulous and conscientious housekeeper, found America a welcome change from Britain, where rationing and shortages after the war made it hard for women to run households.

In the fall of 1950 the dean of liberal arts and sciences at the University of Illinois asked Harlow Shapley, director of the Harvard College Observatory, if Illinois should revive its astronomy department—its only professor had recently retired—and with whom. (The correspondence is preserved at the university, under Staff Appointments Papers.) Initially Shapley recommended several American astronomers, but on 27 October 1950 wrote that he had just learned that McVittie, “a man of considerable ability and accomplishments, one of the best remaining in England, which is going into an astronomical slump,” wanted to stay in America. Shapley added that Mrs. McVittie was a very attractive personality, had appreciable social interests, as did her husband, and both would be bright additions to the social life of any university.

Further praise for McVittie came from Leo Goldberg at the University of Michigan Observatory. He had tried to find a way to keep McVittie at Michigan, but his budget would not allow for the addition of another senior staff member. The mathematics department at Michigan was also interested in McVittie, but suffered the same budget limitation. Goldberg wrote on 3 May 1951, “As I understand it, you have no very extensive observational facilities at Illinois, and a theorist like McVittie would be ideally suited to your situation.… One reason for Dr. McVittie’s success as a lecturer is his great personal charm and warm personality.… If you get McVittie, you will be adding a really distinguished man to your faculty.”

More guarded was Martin Schwarzschild at the Princeton University Observatory. He had been struck by McVittie’s “lack of astronomical background,” but also

by his eagerness to get more thoroughly acquainted with a larger body of astronomical facts. I rather think that this limitation in his acquaintance with astronomical data and observations has rather seriously hampered his effectiveness in theoretical astronomy and astrophysics. I could, however, well imagine that a position in this country with the many possibilities here to get in contact with astronomical observations and with its probable necessity of undergraduate teaching in astronomy might soon fill up Dr. McVittie’s astronomical knowledge and then give him the possibility to apply his mathematical ability to astronomical problems with full effectiveness.

McVittie was offered and accepted the position at Illinois, beginning in the fall of 1952. Meanwhile, Queen Mary College obtained a new head and with him a new spirit. By the summer of 1952 McVittie was regretting leaving. Politicians in Illinois had opposed hiring yet another foreigner at the university, and the university president was fired a year later partly for his hiring policies. McVittie, however, never encountered any animosity. With his acerbic wit and pithy comments on the foibles of institutions and their constituents, Mac, as McVittie was called, enlivened faculty and professional society meetings. He was always critical, always usefully, always wittily, never hurtfully.

At Illinois, McVittie set up courses in astronomy, a master’s degree program, and eventually a PhD program. He taught mathematical topics: relativity, cosmology, celestial mechanics, and dynamics. By 1956 the department had expanded to four astronomers, including Stanley P. Wyatt Jr., who wrote an outstanding astronomy textbook, at the expense of research McVittie wished he might otherwise have done. By 1969 the department had nine senior faculty members, three research associates, two dozen PhD students, and many undergraduate students taking elementary astronomy courses.

McVittie’s work in mathematical aspects of cosmology led, in 1952, to his demonstration that a continuous creation process could exist in a suitably chosen general relativity model of the universe. This model might have bridged the gulf between relativistic cosmologists and proponents of the new steady state theory, who insisted that the universe will always appear the same to any observer. (First proposed in 1948 in England, steady state theory featured an expanding universe with constant density because new mass was being created out of nothing.) Most opponents of steady state cosmology, however, ignored McVittie’s mathematical demonstration and continued to view relativistic cosmology and the continuous creation of matter as irreconcilable. It was not hard to set aside McVittie’s conclusion, inasmuch as he, himself, had noted that the method employed in his paper was that of a priori cosmology, in which a model universe is developed not from observational data but from certain principles to which the universe purportedly conforms. These principles, believed reasonable because they were in agreement with the investigator’s epistemological or philosophical views, really were restrictions imposed by the investigator on possible universes.

McVittie was opposed to steady state theory and its rationalistic fancies, as he termed them. Given a lack of reliable data, it was especially tempting in cosmology to substitute logic for observation. McVittie, however, strongly resisted. He rejected the hypothesis of continuous creation of matter as an unnecessary hypothesis. It was also a violation of energy conservation and basic rules of scientific reasoning. McVittie limited himself to what little could be determined about the universe from observation alone. He later remembered that he had been glad to get away from England and the hullabaloo, as he characterized it, about the new revelation of steady state theory.

At Illinois, Edward C. Jordan, in the Electrical Engineering Department and soon to be its chairman, encouraged McVittie to take up radio astronomy. In 1956 they jointly appointed George W. Swenson Jr., an electronics expert specializing in antenna design, to build a radio telescope, with funding from the Office of Naval Research.

Radio telescopes could detect objects farther away than could optical telescopes, and counts of radio sources at successive limits of brightness were more accurate than for optical sources, because the flux density of radio sources was comparatively more easily measured. McVittie worked out mathematically a formula for the predicted number of radio sources to successive limits of brightness

(i.e., distance) for several model universes. Then he examined observations from radio telescopes in Australia and in England, only to infer from the data that changes occurred in the strengths of radio sources over time. Furthermore, the reported observations from Australia and England were not in harmony with each other. So, characteristically, McVittie called for further observations before a meaningful choice could be made between different cosmological models.

The required observational work would not be done at Illinois. Swenson, more interested in making instruments than in making use of data they produced, was often on leave at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory between 1964 and 1968. Furthermore, funding was reduced during the shift of federal support for science from the military to the National Science Foundation.

More successful than his radio astronomy research program at Illinois was McVittie’s effort to have set aside from human-made interference a frequency band for radio astronomy. In 1963 the Federal Communications Commission declared television channel 37 a silent zone for ten years—to facilitate listening for little green men on Mars, so rumor said. Protection was extended to the whole world by resolution of an Extraordinary Administrative Radio Conference held in Geneva that same year; Swenson was scientific advisor to the U.S. delegation.

McVittie published General Relativity and Cosmology in 1956, and a second edition in 1965. For years it was the major mathematical presentation of relativistic cosmology. McVittie understood science as a method of correlating as much apparently disconnected sense data as possible into a rational scheme of thought: a theory. Newtonian mechanics was one such scheme, quantum mechanics a second, and general relativity a third means of interpreting data supplied by observation. McVittie mathematically developed consequences of the theory to match against observations. For McVittie in the 1950s, cosmology was an exercise in detection with a few elusive clues and some cautious preliminary conclusions, but no finality was then possible.

McVittie also wrote Fact and Theory in Cosmology, a popular account for readers without mathematical knowledge, published in 1961. Again he welded together astronomical observations with cosmological theories, but without the detailed mathematical proofs in General Relativity and Cosmology. In addition to general relativity, McVittie also included steady state theory and Milne’s model in his study. Again, theories provided interpretations of data. And again, McVittie doubted that observational proof of any highly specific model of the universe would be forthcoming in the foreseeable future.

McVittie served as secretary of the American Astronomical Society from 1961 to 1969 and was influential in shaping its programs at a time of rapid growth in astronomy. He served as secretary (1958–1964), vice president (1964–1967), and president (1967–1970) of Commission 28 (Galaxies) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). He chaired a 1961 IAU symposium and edited the resulting book: Problems of Extra-Galactic Research (1962).

Return to England . McVittie retired from the University of Illinois in 1972 and returned to England, where he became honorary professor of theoretical astronomy at the University of Kent. He was active there teaching colorfully and enthusiastically, supervising research students, and doing research until a year before his death. Under his influence a research group on relativity grew up in the mathematics department.

McVittie also was active in the Canterbury Archaeology Trust and the excavation in the city center of a Roman theater and temple precinct. Only then did he learn the history of his maternal grandfather and his work in archaeology.

McVittie was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Royal Meteorological Society; Morrison Lecturer at the Lick Observatory in 1956, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow in 1962 and 1970, and Chaire Georges Lemaître at the University of Louvain in 1974. Asteroid 2417 McVittie is named in his honor.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

McVittie prepared a thirty-page autobiographical sketch around 1976 at the request of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of which he was a fellow. A copy is in the George C. McVittie Papers, 1928, 1935, 1938–1975, 0.3 cubic feet, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Archives. The sketch includes descriptions of his researches and a list of scientific publications to 1975. Copies of the autobiographical sketch are also at the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the American Institute of Physics. At Illinois see also Staff Appointments Papers (2/5/15) box 660, folder George C. McVittie, for correspondence from astronomers appraising McVittie’s qualifications for the position he took up at the University of Illinois. Amplifying the autobiographical sketch is: George McVittie. Oral history interview by David DeVorkin. 1978. Niels Bohr Library, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD.

WORKS BY MCVITTIE

With W. H. McCrea. “The Contraction of the Universe.” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 91 (1930): 128–133. Derives mathematically that an Einstein universe containing a single condensation would start contracting.

“The Problem of n Bodies and the Expansion of the Universe.” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 91 (1931): 274–283. Shows mathematically that the Lemaître universe, departing from the equilibrium Einstein state, can expand or contract, and an initial contraction can be started by the formation of condensations (particles of greater density than the surrounding matter).

“The Mass-Particle in an Expanding Universe.” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 93 (1933): 325–339. Develops the mathematics necessary to tackle the problem of whether the universe will expand or contract when a condensation forms, but does not answer the question.

“Milne’s Theory of the Expansion of the Universe.” Nature 131 (1933): 533–534. Both Milne’s theory and relativistic cosmology were in accordance with observation, and it seemed impossible to decide definitely for or against either theory solely on the basis of the recession of spiral nebulae.

“The Spiral Nebulae and the Expansion of the Universe.” Physical Society of London Reports 1 (1934): 24–29. McVittie concluded that observations could not, at that time, discriminate between relativistic cosmology and E. A. Milne’s cosmological model, and that the choice was thus almost entirely a matter of personal taste.

Cosmological Theory. London: Methuen, 1937. 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley, 1949.

“Observation and Theory in Cosmology.” Proceedings of the Physical Society of London 51 (1939): 529–537. Ostensibly a review of the observational situation in cosmology prepared for a joint meeting in 1939 between the Royal Astronomical Society and the Physical Society of London, but primarily a critique of assumptions made by Edwin Hubble in correcting his observed magnitudes for the dimming effect of red shifts.

“A Model Universe Admitting the Interchangeability of Stress and Mass.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences 211 (1952): 295–301. A relativistic cosmological model with continuous creation of matter.

General Relativity and Cosmology. London: Chapman & Hall, 1956. 2nd ed. London: Chapman & Hall, 1965, and Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965. For years the major mathematical presentation of relativistic cosmology.

“Model Universes Derived from Counts of Very Distant Radio Sources.” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 70 (1958): 152–159. Based on counts from Sydney and Cambridge.

Fact and Theory in Cosmology. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode; New York: Macmillan, 1961. A popular account for readers without mathematical knowledge.

“Rationalism versus Empiricism in Cosmology.” Book review of The Universe at Large, by H. Bondi; Rival Theories of Cosmology, by H. Bondi, W. B. Bonnor, R. A. Lyttleton, and G. J. Whitrow; The Nature of the Universe, by F. Hoyle; and Towards a Unified Cosmology, by R. O. Kapp. Science 133 (1961): 1231–1236.

Editor. Problems of Extra-Galactic Research. New York: Macmillan, 1962.

“An Anglo-Scottish University Education.” In The Making of Physicists, edited by Rajkumari Williamson. Bristol, U.K.: Adam Hilger, 1987.

OTHER SOURCES

Chisholm, Roy. “George McVittie: Honorary Professor, University of Kent.” Vistas in Astronomy 33 (1990): 79–81.

Davidson, D. “George McVittie’s Work in Relativity.” Vistas in Astronomy 33 (1990): 65–69.

Gale, George. “Cosmology: Methodological Debates in the 1930s and 1940s.” Available in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmology-30s/. On the cosmological debate during the 1930s and 1940s and McVittie’s role in it, especially in England from 1935 to 1937.

Hide, Raymond. “Brief Comments on George McVittie’s Meteorological Papers.” Vistas in Astronomy 33 (1990): 63–64.

Knighting, E. “War Work, 1940–1945.” Vistas in Astronomy 33 (1990): 59–62.

Lemaître, G. “Un univers homogéne de masse constante et de rayon croissant, rendant compte de la vitesse radiale des nebuleuses éxtra-galactiques.” Annales de la Société Scientifique de Bruxelles 47 (1927): 49–56. Translated and reprinted as “A Homogeneous Universe of Constant Mass and Increasing Radius Accounting for the Radial Velocity of Extra-Galactic Nebulae.” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 91 (1931): 483–490.

MacCallum, M. A. H. “George Cunliffe McVittie (1904–1988).” Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 39 (1989): 119–124.

McCrea, William. “George Cunliffe McVittie (1904–88) OBE, FRSE. Pupil of Whittaker and Eddington: Pioneer of Modern Cosmology.” Vistas in Astronomy 33 (1990): 43–58. An appreciation by McVittie’s early collaborator.

Osterbrock, Donald E., Laurence W. Fredrick, Frank K. Edmondson, et al. “McVittie and the American Astronomical Society.” Vistas in Astronomy 33 (1990): 75–77.

Runcorn, S. K. “George McVittie: His Breadth of Scientific Interest.” Vistas in Astronomy 33 (1990): 39–42.

Sánchez-Ron, José M. “The Reception of General Relativity among British Physicists and Mathematicians (1915–1930).” In Studies in the History of General Relativity, edited by Jean Eisenstaedt and A. J. Kox. Boston, Basel, and Berlin: Birkhäuser, 1992.

_____. “George McVittie: The Uncompromising Empiricist.” In The Universe of General Relativity, edited by Jean Eisenstaedt and A. J. Kox. Boston, Basel, and Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2006.

Swenson, George W., Jr. “George McVittie.” Physics Today 42, no. 3 (March 1989): 128–132. Obituary notice by McVittie’s radio telescope colleague at the University of Illinois.

_____. “Building a Department of Astronomy.” Vistas in Astronomy 33 (1990): 71–73.

Norriss Hetherington

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