Born in Dublin on December 13, 1904, he attended Trinity College, Cambridge and was later appointed a lecturer of mathematics at Edinburgh University. He also served as reader and assistant professor at Imperial College, London. In 1936 he became head of the mathematics department at Queen's University, Belfast and after serving in the war he joined Royal Holloway. In 1965 created the astronomy centre of the physics department at the University of Sussex. He was president of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1961 to 1963 and president of Section A of the British Association for the Advancement of Science from 1965 to 1966. He was knighted in 1985.