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 career.
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 the universe.
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.
The Big Bang Theory
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 to citizens.
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 to Astronomy.
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, 1953.
He will forever be remembered as the father of observational cosmology and as a pioneer of the distant stars.