Edwin Hubble: The Astronomer Who Discovered the Expanding Universe

Since his groundbreaking observation of galaxies beyond the Milky Way, Edwin Hubble has become one of the most recognized figures in astronomy. Through his research and studies, Hubble developed the concept of the expanding universe, which revolutionized the field and greatly increased our understanding of our place in the universe. Hubble’s work inspired many other astronomers and physicists to develop theories about the universe’s origin, its structure, and its future.

Early Life and Education

Edwin Hubble was born in Marshfield, Missouri on November 20, 1889 to a family of agricultural lawyers and bankers. His family moved to Wheelwright, Kentucky when he was still young, and he attended public schools there.

In 1906, he enrolled at the University of Chicago in pursuit of a degree in mathematics and astronomy; he later went on to receive a degree in law at Oxford University in 1910. Hubble subsequently returned to America, where he taught at the University of Chicago until 1919. During this period, he became passionate about astrophysics and began to make observations of nebulas, galaxies, and other celestial bodies.

Early Career

Throughout his career, Hubble showed a particular interest in cosmology – the study of the origins and evolution of the universe. Working at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California, Hubble’s early observations made a major contribution to the understanding of our universe. He was the first to recognize galaxies outside the Milky Way and was the first to accurately calculate astronomical distances using what is known as the Hubble Diagram.

Hubble Theory of an Expanding Universe

Having observed distant galaxies shifting away from ours, Hubble proposed the revolutionary theory of an expanding universe. His crucial finding suggested that the universe was once compact and had gradually cooled and stretched over billions of years; this theory later became known as the Big Bang Theory. It also explained why the colors of galaxies shifted to the red end of the spectrum over time.

In 1929, Hubble co-authored a paper on the expanding universe with Georges Lemaître, which further solidified their observations and theories. This paper helped to convince the scientific community that an expanding universe was real, and it created a scientific basis for the Big Bang Theory.

The Hubble Constant

In order to determine the size of the universe’s expansion, Hubble devised a method of measuring the speed of receding galaxies. This method relied on the assumption that the universe was homogeneous, meaning that galaxies everywhere in the universe were similar in age and size. This ultimately led to what came to be known as the Hubble Constant, the ratio between a galaxy’s measured speed and its distance from our own.

Hubble’s Legacy

Today, much of our understanding of the universe can be attributed to Edwin Hubble and his groundbreaking discoveries. His theory of the expanding universe dramatically impacted theories of cosmology, forever changing our conception of the universe and its evolution.

In honor of Hubble’s contributions, an orbiting telescope was launched and named after him in 1990. The Hubble Space Telescope has continued Hubble’s work, offering tremendous insight into the structure of and evolution of the universe.

List of Awards and Recognitions

Throughout his extraordinary career and discoveries, Edwin Hubble was honored with numerous awards and accolades:

  • the Bruce Medal in 1938
  • the Franklin Medal in 1937
  • the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1939
  • the Bruce Prize in 1933
  • the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964.

Edwin Hubble’s work and discoveries have made a lasting impact on the scientific understanding of the universe. His observations and theories changed the way astronomers and physicists view our expanding universe for decades to come, and his name will remain inextricably linked to the history and evolution of the cosmos.