Edwin Powell Hubble was an astronomer who lived between 1889 and 1953. He was born in Missouri and later moved to Illinois in 1953. He was one of the top astronomers in the 20th century when astronomy was in its most exciting era in history. His contributions in Astronomy in particular and science in general are exceptional. His personal life was also an exemplary one, full of exciting events and encouraging activities. Apart from science, Hubble was also an excellent sports person. He coached high school basketball team for a short time before he started his professional career in science (Allan, 1989). In his early years, he was well known for his athletic abilities than intellectual abilities. He played football, basketball and baseball. He was part of the 1907 University of Chicago’s basketball team that won their first conference title that year. In athletics, he was good in field and track events. He managed to secure a high school record in high jump in Illinois.
Hubble studied Mathematics and Astronomy at the University of Chicago, leading to a bachelor’s degree of science in 1910. He also studied Law at Oxford University, hence becoming the one of the few and first Rhodes Scholars at the University. Hubble served shortly in the First World War and later returned to Chicago to take his doctorate degree course at the University of Chicago which he earned in 1917.He died of heart attack in Swan Marino, California on September 28, 1953 after a long career at Mount Wilson Observatory.
Edwin Hubble began his science career in 1919 when he secured a staff position in one of USA’s science companies referred to as Mount Wilson Observatory (Millis, 2011). This company carried a 100-inch Hooker telescope which was the largest telescope in the world at that time. Hubble used the Hooker telescope to make various discoveries, one of the most discoveries being the discovery that there are other galaxies different from the Milky Way Galaxy. His discovery of other galaxies led him to classify them into elliptical, barred spirals and spirals. This system was then called Hubble Turning Fork diagram. This diagram is still used until today, although in an evolved way.
One of his most notable contributions to the study of the universe was his discovery in 1920s that there are more countless galaxies in the universe than the ones known to the scientists of that time – the Milky Way galaxy (Christianson, 1997). This led to the establishment of the field of extragalactic astronomy. This discovery set pace for studies by astronomers and changed human understanding about science and the universe. It has changed the scientific view of the universe significantly. The discovery enables human beings of the past, the present and the future to understand their place in the universe. Apart from this discovery, Hubble also made other contributions in the field of astronomy. For instance, he is well known for being a significant observational cosmologist. Another contribution of Hubble to the study of the universe is that he demonstrated that the recessional velocity of a galaxy increases as its distance from the earth increases. This discovery indicates that the universe is expanding, and is referred to as Hubble’s law. Hubble also confirmed by giving substantial evidence that most of the nebulae were galaxies that existed beyond the Milky Way. He also discovered that the Redshift that was earlier discovered by Slipher increases as distance increases.
Hubble’s law states that if the distance between any two galaxies increases their relative speed of separation increases. This demonstrates the Redshift discovery and supports the Big Bang theory that was proposed by Georges Lemaitre in 1927. Hubble suggested that the cosmological principle together with the velocities of distant galaxies indicate that the universe is actually expanding in such a manner that corresponds to the general relativity model suggested by Freidman Lemaitre. Hubble also wrote a letter to Willem de Sitter who was then a Dutch cosmologist. In his letter, he expressed his view on the theory that explained the relationship between the redshift and distance. He said that Mr. Humason and he prefer to use the term “apparent” velocities to demonstrate the empirical features of the correlation between redshift and distance (Michael, 1999). This view of Hubble is still applicable to date as the apparent velocities are known as an increase distance as a result of space expansion. Mr. Humason was his colleague at Mount Wilson Observatory.
Apart from the above discoveries that helped to shape the view and understanding of the universe, Hubble also discovered the asteroid 1373 in 1935 and wrote science books to explain various aspects of astronomy (Fox, 1997). One of the books was referred to as “Observational Approach to Cosmology” and another one was referred to as “The realm of the Nebulae”. These books have been used by many people to understand the universe within which human life exists, and has also enabled other scientists to study and explain the universe more successfully. Many of the technologies which exist today in the study of the universe resulted from the efforts of Edwin Hubble. The astronomer is also associated with the inclusion of astronomy as part of physics that are eligible of physics prize in the Nobel Prize Committee.
Hubble spent most of his last moments as an astronomer fighting for astronomy to be considered as an area of physics so that it may be included in the Nobel Prize. Although this did not happen during his lifetime, the Nobel Prize Committee decided to include astronomy in the physics prize shortly after the death of Edwin Hubble. Because he did not win the Nobel Prize, he was honored through the release of a 41-cent stamp to honor him. Hubble won various awards in his lifetime including the Bruce Medal in 1938, Franklin medal in 1939, and Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical society (Kirshner & Carroll, 2013). There are also many things and events named after him such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Edwin Hubble Medal of initiative, Edwin Hubble Highway, and Hubble Middle School.
Allan, S. (1989). Edwin Hubble 1889 – 1953. The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 83, 6.
Christianson, G. E. (1997). Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the nebulae. Bristol: Institute of Physics Pub.
Fox, M. V. (1997). Edwin Hubble: American astronomer. New York: Franklin Watts.
Kirshner, R. P., & Carroll, S. M. (2013). The realm of the nebulae. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Michael, D.L. (1999). Edwin Hubble. Time Magazine.
Millis, J.P. (2011). Edwin Hubble. Accessed on September 20, 2013 from http://space.about.com/od/astronomerbiographies/a/EdwinHubble.htm.