Royal Society Publishing

William Hunter McCrea. 13 December 1904 — 25 April 1999

Leon Mestel, Bernard E. J. Pagel

Elected FRS 1952


Sir William Hunter (‘Bill’) McCrea (1904–99), astrophysicist and relativist, was born on 13 December 1904 in Dublin, the elder son and eldest child of Robert Hunter McCrea (1877–1956), a schoolmaster, and Margaret née Hutton (1879–1962). His parents, of Irish stock, were brought up as strict nonconformists, but by the age of 18 years, while at Cambridge, Bill had become a confirmed Anglican, a faith he retained all his life. By 1907 the family had moved to Chesterfield, Derbyshire, where Bill attended first the Central (elementary) School and then the Grammar School, from which he won an entrance scholarship in mathematics to Trinity College, Cambridge. He read for the Mathematics Tripos, becoming a Wrangler in 1926. He specialized in those branches of mathematical physics that were stimulating exciting research at Cambridge, and after graduating he began research as one of the many pupils of R. H. (later Sir Ralph) Fowler FRS (to whom he paid warm tribute on his centenary in 1989).