Edwin HubbleEdwin Powell Hubble (November 20, 1889 – September
28, 1953) was an American astronomer, noted for his discovery of galaxies
beyond the Milky Way and the cosmological redshift. Edwin Hubble was
one of the leading astronomers of modern times and laid down the foundation
upon which physical cosmology now rests.
Edwin Hubble was born to an insurance executive in Marshfield, Missouri
and moved to Wheaton, Illinois in 1889. In his younger days, he was
noted more for his athletic abilities rather than his intellectual genius,
although he did earn good grades in every subject, except for spelling.
He won seven first places and a third placing in a single high school
track meet in 1906. That year he also set a state record for high jump
His studies at the
University of Chicago concentrated on mathematics and astronomy[citation
needed] which led to a BS degree in 1910.Hubble also became a member
of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity and in 1948 was named Kappa Sigma "man
of the year". He spent the next three years as one of Oxford's
first Rhodes Scholars, where he originally studied jurisprudence, before
switching his major to Spanish and receiving the MA degree, after which
he returned to the United States. Some of his British mannerisms and
dress stayed with him all his life, occasionally irritating his more
Returning to the
United States he worked as a high school teacher and a basketball coach
at New Albany High School in New Albany, Indiana (near Louisville),
and practiced law in Kentucky. He served in World War I and quickly
advanced to the rank of Major. He returned to astronomy at the Yerkes
Observatory of the University of Chicago, where he earned a PhD in 1917
with a dissertation entitled "Photographic Investigations of Faint
In 1919 Hubble was
offered a staff position by George Ellery Hale, the founder and director
of Carnegie Institution's Mount Wilson Observatory, near Pasadena, California,
where he remained until his death. He also served in the US Army at
the Aberdeen Proving Ground during World War II. For his work there
he received the Legion of Merit. Shortly before his death, Palomar's
200-inch Hale Telescope was completed; Hubble was the first to use it.
He died of a cerebral
thrombosis on September 28, 1953, in San Marino, California. His wife,
Grace, did not have a funeral for him and never revealed what was done
with his body - it was apparently Hubble's wish to have no funeral service
and be buried in an unmarked grave, or that he wanted to be cremated.
As of 2007, the whereabouts of his remains are unknown.
Galaxies exist beyond
the Milky Way
Hubble's arrival at Mount Wilson in 1919 coincided roughly with the
completion of the 100-inch Hooker Telescope, then the world's largest
telescope. Using the Hooker Telescope Hubble identified Cepheid variables
(a kind of star; see also standard candle) in several nearby "nebulae"
(including the Andromeda Galaxy). His observations in 1923–1924
conclusively proved that these objects were much more distant than previously
thought and hence galaxies themselves rather than constituents of the
Milky Way. Announced on January 1, 1925, this discovery fundamentally
changed mankind's view of the universe.
Hubble also devised
a classification system for galaxies, grouping them according to their
content, distance, shape, size and brightness
The 100 inch Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory that Hubble
used to measure galaxy redshifts and discover the general expansion
of the universe.Hubble was generally incorrectly credited with discovering
the redshift of galaxies. These measurements and their significance
were understood before 1917 by James Edward Keeler (Lick & Allegheny),
Vesto Melvin Slipher (Lowell), and Professor William Wallace Campbell
(Lick) at other observatories. Combining his own measurements of galaxy
distances with Vesto Slipher's measurements of the redshifts associated
with the galaxies, Hubble and Milton L. Humason discovered a rough proportionality
of the objects' distances with their redshifts. Though there was considerable
scatter (now known to be due to peculiar velocities), Hubble and Humason
were able to plot a trend line from the 46 galaxies they studied and
obtained a value for the Hubble-Humason constant of 500 km/s/Mpc, which
is much higher than the currently accepted value due to errors in their
distance calibrations. In 1929 Hubble and Humason formulated the
empirical Redshift Distance Law of galaxies, nowadays termed simply
Hubble's law, which, if the redshift is interpreted as a measure of
recession speed, is consistent with the solutions of Einstein’s
equations of general relativity for a homogeneous, isotropic expanding
space. Although concepts underlying an expanding universe were well
understood earlier, this statement by Hubble and Humason led to wider
scale acceptance for this view. The law states that the greater the
distance between any two galaxies, the greater their relative speed
This discovery was
the first observational support for the Big Bang theory which had been
proposed by Alexander Friedmann in 1922. The observed velocities of
distant galaxies, taken together with the cosmological principle appeared
to show that the Universe was expanding in a manner consistent with
the Friedmann-Lemaître model of general relativity. In 1931 Hubble
wrote a letter to the Dutch cosmologist Willem De Sitter expressing
his opinion on the theoretical interpretation of the redshift-distance
"... we use
the term 'apparent velocities' in order to emphasize the empirical feature
of the correlation. The interpretation, we feel, should be left to you
and the very few others who are competent to discuss the matter with
Today, the 'apparent velocities' in question are considered to be artifacts
of a coordinate transformation that occurs in an expanding space. Light
traveling through stretching space will experience a Hubble-type redshift,
a mechanism different from the Doppler effect.
In the 1930s Hubble
was involved in determining the distribution of galaxies and spatial
curvature. This data seemed to indicate that the universe was flat and
homogeneous, but there was a deviation from flatness at large redshifts.
According to Allan Sandage,
that his count data gave a more reasonable result concerning spatial
curvature if the redshift correction was made assuming no recession.
To the very end of his writings he maintained this position, favouring
(or at the very least keeping open) the model where no true expansion
exists, and therefore that the redshift "represents a hitherto
unrecognized principle of nature."
There were methodological problems with Hubble's survey technique that
showed a deviation from flatness at large redshifts. In particular the
technique did not account for changes in luminosity of galaxies due
to galaxy evolution.
Earlier, in 1917,
Albert Einstein had found that his newly developed theory of general
relativity indicated that the universe must be either expanding or contracting.
Unable to believe what his own equations were telling him, Einstein
introduced a cosmological constant (a "fudge factor") to the
equations to avoid this "problem". When Einstein heard of
Hubble's discovery, he said that changing his equations was "the
biggest blunder of [his] life".
] Other discoveries
Hubble discovered the asteroid 1373 Cincinnati on August 30, 1935. He
also wrote The Observational Approach to Cosmology and The Realm of
the Nebulae around this time.
Hubble spent much of the later part of his career attempting to have
astronomy considered an area of physics, instead of being its own science.
He did this largely so that astronomers - including himself - could
be recognized by the Nobel Prize Committee for their valuable contributions
to astrophysics. This campaign was unsuccessful for a long time. The
Nobel Prize Committee eventually decided that astronomical work would
be eligible for the physics prize. Unfortunately for Hubble, this occurred
in 1953 some months after his death. The Nobel Prize is never awarded
DATE OF BIRTH 20
PLACE OF BIRTH Marshfield, Missouri
DATE OF DEATH 28 September 1953
PLACE OF DEATH San Marino, California
Edwin Powell Hubble
was born in the small town of Marshfield, Missouri, USA, on November
29th, 1889. In 1898, His family moved to Chicago, where he attended
high school. Young Edwin Hubble had been fascinated by science and mysterious
new worlds from an early age, having spent his childhood reading the
works of Jules Verne (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, From the Earth to
the Moon), and Henry Rider Haggard (King Solomon's Mines), Edwin Hubble
was a fine student and an even better athlete, having broken the Illinois
State high jump record. When he attended University, Hubble continued
to excel in sports such as basketball and boxing, but he also found
time to study and earn an undergraduate degree in mathematics and astronomy.
Edwin Hubble went
to Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship, where he did not continue
his studies in astronomy, but instead studied law. At this point in
his life, he had not yet made up his mind about pursuing a scientific
In 1913, Hubble
returned from England and was admitted to the bar, setting up a small
practice in Louisville Kentucky; but it didn't take long for Hubble
to realize he wasn't happy as a lawyer, and that his real passion was
astronomy, so he studied at the Yerkes Observatory, and in 1917, received
a doctorate in astronomy from the University of Chicago.
Following a tour
of duty in the first World War, Hubble took a job at the Mount Wilson
Observatory in California, where took many photographs of Cepheid variables
through 100 inch reflecting Hooker telescope, proving they were outside
our galaxy, and determining the existence of several other galaxies
such as our own milky way, which had until then been believed to be
Hubble had also
devised a classification system for the various galaxies he observed,
sorting them by content, distance, shape, and brightness; it was then
he noticed redshifts in the emission of light from the galaxies, seeing
saw that they were moving away from each other at a rate constant to
the distance between them. From these observation, he was able to formulate
Hubble's Law in 1929, helping astronomers determine the age of the universe,
and proving that the universe was expanding.
It is interesting
to note that In 1917, Albert Einstein had already introduced his general
theory of relativity, and produced a model of space based on that theory,
claiming that space was curved by gravity, therefore that it must be
able to expand or contract; but he found this assumption so far fetched,
that he revised his theory, stating that the universe was static and
immobile. Following Hubble's discoveries, he is quoted as having said
that second guessing his original findings was the biggest blunder of
his life, and he even visited Hubble to thank him in 1931.
Edwin Powell Hubble's
observations had revolutionized astronomy, not only did we realize there
were other galaxies in the universe besides our own, we also were able
to determine that if the universe was expanding outwards, it must have
been coming from a central point, and that something must have caused
that expansion to begin with, giving birth to the Big Bang Theory.
Edwin Hubble left
Mount Wilson in 1942, determined help fight the Nazis in World War II;
at first he wanted to join the armed forces as he had done during the
first World War, but he realized he could do more for his country by
offering his services as a scientist. In 1946, he was awarded the Medal
of Merit, for exceptional conduct in providing outstanding services
This was not the
last of the honors bestowed upon Hubble, as in 1948, he was also elected
Honorary Fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford, for his notable contributions
After the war ended,
Hubble resumed his work at Mount Wilson, where he had little trouble
convincing his employers of the need for an even greater telescope than
the current 100 inch reflector model, so they could further explore
the universe outside our galaxy. Hubble was instrumental in the design
of the Hale Telescope, which was set up at the Mount Palomar Observatory.
Edwin Hubble had
the honor of being the first to use it.
When asked what
he hoped to find with the new telescope by the BBC, Hubble replied "We
hope to find something we hadn't expected."
Edwin Powell Hubble
continued his work at both the Mount Wilson and Mount Palomar observatories
until his death from from a cerebral thrombosis, on September 28, l953.
He will forever be remembered as the father of observational cosmology
and as a pioneer of the distant stars.