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Bell, Donald Lynden, 1935-2018 (theoretical astrophysicist)



Lynden-Bell attended Marlborough College and studied the Mathematical Tripos at Clare College, Cambridge completing his PhD with Leon Mestel in 1960. With collaborators, he published on the origins of the Milky Way, quasars and black holes and developed theories of ‘violent relaxation’ of systems of particles in changing potential fields affecting the orbits of star clusters and galaxies, ‘gravothermal catastrophe’ leading to the collapse of star clusters, and T-Tauri Stars, postulating the existence of the ‘Great Attractor’ resulting in the observed motion of galaxies. After a summer course at the Royal Greenwich Observatory in 1956, Lynden-Bell worked there from 1965 to 1972. In 1972, he was appointed the first director of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. Lynden-Bell received many honours and awards including the Karl Shwarzschild Medal (1983), The Eddington Medal (1984), the Brouwer Award of the American Astronomical Society (1991), the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1993), the Bruce Medal (1998) National Academy of Sciences, John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science Henry Norris Russell Lectureship (2000), the first Kavli Prize for Astrophysics (2008) and was a Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. He was one of four astronomers featured in the 2015 documentary, Starmen.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:


Donald Lynden-Bell: scientific and administrative papers

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.10284
Dates: c.1960-2018
Conditions Governing Access: Restricted. The collection is uncatalogued.

Requests for astronomical information from North America (special), Sep. 1968 – Sep. 1973

Reference Code: GBR/0180/RGO 83/3/2
Scope and Contents Contents of a file so titled; ‘closed 19-9-73’. Letters and postcards from the public and schoolchildren requesting information about the Observatory, the Prime Meridian, time and astronomy. Includes requests for specific information on planets, constellations, comets, tides, temporary computers at the Observatory, telescopes, equinoxes, observations of the 1970 solar eclipse, women in astronomy/the appointment of Margaret Burbidge, solar diameter observations, the history of the...
Dates: Sep. 1968 – Sep. 1973
Conditions Governing Access: From the Management Group: Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

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ARCHON code (for CUL materials)
Archives and MSS Dept. (GBR/0012) 1
Royal Greenwich Observatory (GBR/0180) 1
Archival Object 1
Collection 1