Astronomy

Biography of Edwin Hubble



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Edwin P. Hubble (1889-1953) is one of the most important historical American astronomers. He was responsible for the confirmation that stars and other galaxies existed far beyond our own Milky Way Galaxy, and - using the principle of the red shift, or the effects on light similar to the Doppler effect of sound - that many of them were rapidly speeding away from our own. NASA named the successful, long-lasting Hubble Space Telescope after him in honour of his historic achievements.

- Early Life and the Army -

Hubble was born in Missouri to a father whose career could not have been more different than his son's would be: an insurance officer. The family relocated to Illinois wen he was young, and he grew up there, excelling in academics and track at field at school. In 1910, Hubble earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Chicago, then went to graduate school, studying at Oxford in Britain.

Initially, Hubble showed relatively little interest in astronomy. His Oxford degree started in legal studies, and ended in Spanish. When he returned to the U.S., he spent a brief time as a high school teacher and amateur sports coach, then enlisted in the U.S. Army when the First World War broke out, in which he served as an officer.

- Into Astronomy -

The army offered Hubble his first major entrance into astronomy. Returning from military service to the University of Chicago, Hubble completed another degree in 1917, this one a PhD in astronomy. He found a position under George Hale at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California (the home of what was then the newly constructed, record-setting Hooker Telescope), where he stayed for the remainder of his career. It was an historic appointment.

When Hubble arrived at the Observatory, current astronomic theory still held that the Milky Way Galaxy was synonymous with the universe: that is, there were no other comparable formations of stars anywhere in existence. Within several years he had demolished this theory, proving that several formations previously identified as nebulae were actually galaxies like our own, but extremely far away. These included our nearest intergalactic neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy.

- Later Years and Death -

Hubble returned to military service as a researcher during World War II, working at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. He continued his astronomical research until 1953, when he died of a blood clot in his home state, California.

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