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The white dwarf affair: Chandrasekhar, Eddington and the limiting mass.

Gooneratne, S.; (2005) The white dwarf affair: Chandrasekhar, Eddington and the limiting mass. Doctoral thesis , University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

A thesis describing and analysing the controversy between Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and Arthur Stanley Eddington over the limiting mass of white dwarf stars. The aim of the thesis is to discover why the controversy occurred and to analyse the reasons behind Eddington's rejection of relativistic degeneracy and the limiting mass. The ultimate reason behind Eddington's attack on relativistic degeneracy was found to be Eddington's severe objection to singularities which was apparent long before Chandrasekhar's discovery of the limiting mass and occurred in three separate areas of research undertaken by Eddington during this period: astrophysics, cosmology, general relativity and Dirac's relativistic equation of the electron which led to Eddington's fundamental theory. The thesis will focus on the problem of the limiting mass of white dwarfs between 1929 and 1935 but will use the problem to analyse Eddington's view of singularities within the three different research areas spanning two decades from 1916 to 1936. The Chandrasekhar-Eddington controversy is set within Eddington's earlier controversies with James Jeans and Edward Arthur Milne who together with Eddington founded theoretical astrophysics during the 1920s. The thesis will examine the problem of white dwarfs within the context of the earlier controversies on stellar structure. As well as the technical analysis of the controversy, the thesis will also analyse the social dynamics and interactions within the astronomical community and their impact on the controversies. The aim of this thesis is to create a more complete picture of the Chandrasekhar-Eddington controversy by analysing Eddington's arguments for rejecting relativistic degeneracy, the limiting mass of white dwarfs and singularities not just within the context of astrophysics, but also cosmology, general relativity and quantum mechanics and to provide some new explanations as to why Eddington opposed relativistic degeneracy.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The white dwarf affair: Chandrasekhar, Eddington and the limiting mass.
Identifier: PQ ETD:592031
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1444722
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