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Fellows Directory

Donald Lynden-Bell

Professor Donald Lynden-Bell CBE FRS


Elected: 1978


Donald Lynden-Bell was an astrophysicist who applied new techniques to the study of stellar dynamics and made significant contributions to the theory of galactic structure. He was perhaps best known for proposing that galaxies such as ours contain massive black holes at their centre, formed from the collapse of dead quasars.

Donald’s theories on the origins of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, have also been widely influential, as has his work on the structure and formation of spiral galaxies as a whole. His later area of interest was the study of Mach’s principle, which claims a connection exists between local physical laws and the structure of the Universe on the largest scales.

A former President of the Royal Astronomical Society, Donald received many prestigious awards for his scientific work including the 2008 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics. In the 2000 Queen’s Birthday Honours, he received a CBE for his services to astronomy. His wife, chemist Ruth Lynden-Bell, is also a Fellow of the Society.

Professor Donald Lynden-Bell died on 6 February 2018.

Professional positions

Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics, University of Cambridge
Former Director, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge

Interests and expertise

Subject groups


Galaxies, Gravitation, Magnetohydrodynamics, Relativity


  • Kavli Prize

    In the field of astrophysics for their seminal contributions to understanding the nature of quasars.