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Donald Lynden-Bell: A Biographical Memoir

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Evans, NW 


Donald Lynden-Bell's many contributions to astrophysics encompass general relativity, galactic dynamics, telescope design and observational astronomy. In the 1960s, his papers on stellar dynamics led to fundamental insights into the equilibria of elliptical galaxies, the growth of spiral patterns in disc galaxies and the stability of differentially rotating, self-gravitating flows. Donald introduced the ideas of violent relaxation' and the gravothermal catastrophe' in pioneering work on the thermodynamics of galaxies and negative heat capacities. He shared the inaugural Kavli Prize in Astrophysics in 2008 for his contributions to our understanding of quasars. His prediction that dead quasars or supermassive black holes may reside in the nuclei of nearby galaxies has been confirmed by multiple pieces of independent evidence. His work on accretion discs led to new insights into their workings, as well as the realisation that the infrared excess in T Tauri stars was caused by protostellar discs around these young stars. He introduced the influential idea of monolithic collapse of a gas cloud as a formation mechanism for the Milky Way Galaxy. As this gave way to modern ideas of merging and accretion as drivers of galaxy formation, Donald was the first to realise the importance of tidal streams as measures of the past history and present day gravity field of the Galaxy. Though primarily a theorist, Donald participated in one of the first observational programs to measure the large-scale streaming of nearby galaxies. This led to the discovery of the `Great Attractor'. The depth and versatility of his contributions mark Donald out as one of the most influential and pre-eminent astronomers of his day.



physics.hist-ph, physics.hist-ph, astro-ph.CO, astro-ph.GA

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Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society

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The Royal Society


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