(UC Santa Cruz)
The existence of a mass limit for white dwarfs is usually attributed solely to S. Chandrasekhar, and this limit is now named after him. But as is often the case, the history of this discovery is more nuanced. Actually, the existence of a maximum mass was first established by Edmund C. Stoner, who a few years earlier had played an important role in Pauli's formulation of the Exclusion Principle in quantum physics. Stoner's interest in dense stars was aroused by Ralph Fowler's application of this principle to solve the puzzle of the origin of the extremely high density of white dwarfs, which could not be explained by classical physics. Subsequently, Stoner developed a novel minimum energy principle to determine the equilibrium properties of such dense stars, and after obtaining the relativistic equation of state of a degenerate (zero temperature) electron gas for arbitrary densities, he discovered the white dwarf mass limit. The mystery why Stoner's important contributions have been consigned to oblivion will be explained.