Many times the seeds of late life greatness could be seen in retrospect by studying a person’s childhood. Over and over there are biographies that show many of the great men in history showed a natural curiosity, amazing intelligence, and strong gifts early on in their lives. A clear examination of the Edwin Hubble early years continues that trend. There is no question that the impact he made on astronomy changed the field forever.
Edwin Hubble Early Years: The Very Beginning
Edwin Hubble was born in 1889, and was the middle class son of an insurance executive.His family moved to Chicago when he was nine years old and this is a city, not to mention the university, that would have a major affect on the direction the rest of his life took.
A Brilliant High School Student
Edwin Hubble was seen as a brilliant high school student from the beginning, although not necessarily driven. There is a famous story about his principal making of a comment that in four years of watching him achieve top grades as a student, he had never seen the boy study for even 10 minutes at a time. This seemingly natural brilliance would pave the way for him to be able to attend college and eventually go much further than undergraduate classes.
A Scholarship To College
Given a partial scholarship out of high school, Edwin Hubble worked to make his way through college before getting a second scholarship in the field of physics while at school. In fact, he would graduate in 1910 from the University of Chicago with a double major in mathematics and physics.
Because of a promise made to his father Edwin studied law and literature at Cambridge as a Rhodes Scholar instead of following his natural love for astronomy. Coming back to the United States he spent a little bit of time as a lawyer, but his heart was never in it. This was probably especially obvious when he left from any attempt to practice law or business and instead took a job as a local high school teacher who taught physics, mathematics, and even Spanish while also taking a job as a basketball coach.
He was beloved as a local high school teacher and in 1914 he started on his PhD in astronomy from the University of Chicago, finally deciding to follow his passion and not knowing he would become one of the great names in the field.
World War I would interrupt many of the opportunities that seemed to be opening to him, as he went over and served very honorably in Europe, ending up at the rank of Major by the time he came home. The then Major Hubble had the opportunity to work at a new observatory at Mount Wilson and he leaped at the chance.
A Scientific Rival
Most scientific stories seem to involve a bitter rival who is often brilliant but wrong when defending the conventional wisdom of the time. This story is no exception as Harlow Shapley proved to be a major scientific rival to Edwin Hubble. The powerful Hooker Telescope was available to him and he spent many extremely cold nights looking for signs that his theories on the universe were correct.
During that time he would make one of the most important discoveries in astronomical history. While studying what was thought to be a nebula, now famously named M31, he realized while seeing a flareup that it was not a nebula but actually a Cepheid Star
and by doing some math that even used Shapley’s own data, he realized that the star had to be in entirely different galaxy than the Milky Way proving that the Milky Way was not the entire universe but that there is actually so much more.
This was an amazing discovery, and one of the most important in the field since it completely redesigned all working models of the universe.
An early examination of the Edwin Hubble early years shows plenty of hints of the amazing scientist who would emerge. His discoveries for the field of astronomy, and for science in general, cannot be overstated. There is a reason the Hubble Space Telescope was named after this brilliant man of science.