Michael Hoskin started academic life in Classics, and switched to mathematics on entering London University. In 1952 he came to Peterhouse for a PhD in algebraic geometry, in which his two fellow-students have since become Sir Michael Atiyah, OM, FRS, and Sir Roger Penrose, OM, FRS. Disillusioned in consequence with mathematics despite being elected a Research Fellow of Jesus College in 1966, the following year he applied for a newly-established Lectureship in History of Science at Leicester, and was appointed despite knowing nothing about the subject.
Two years later he was appointed to the corresponding lectureship in Cambridge, and helped build up what is now the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. In 1965 he was invited to become a foundation Fellow of St Edmund’s, and was for five minutes the only Fellow. He served as Vice-Master, Senior Tutor, and secretary of the Trustees.
In 1969 he was invited by Churchill College to build the proposed new Archives Centre. He returned to St Edmund’s in 2002 on election as Emeritus Fellow. Michael Hoskin is primarily an historian of stellar astronomy with a particular interest in the Herschel family. In 1970 he founded the Journal for the History of Astronomy and has edited it ever since. He also works in astronomy in prehistory, and has personally measured the orientations of some two thousand European and African dolmens. The International Astronomical Union has designated asteroid 12223 as 12223 Minor Planet HOSKIN in his honour.