It’s the birthday of astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble

Born in Marshfield, Missouri (1889). He was a gifted athlete, and for a while, it looked as if he might make a name for himself that way. He ran track and played baseball, football, and basketball. And — with the exception of spelling — he was a bright student as well. At his high school graduation in 1906, the principal said, “Edwin Hubble, I have watched you for four years and I have never seen you study for 10 minutes.” He paused, and then said, “Here is a scholarship for the University of Chicago.” In 1907, he led his college basketball team to their first conference title. Three years later, he earned his degree in mathematics and astronomy.

He was one of Oxford University’s first Rhodes Scholars, but he didn’t study astronomy there — he studied law, to please his father. He came home in 1913 and passed the bar, but his heart wasn’t in the law practice and he quit after a year. He taught high school Spanish, math, and physics, and coached the basketball team, and the students loved him. But when the term ended, Hubble went back to school himself: this time to earn his Ph.D. in astronomy at Chicago University.

After World War I, Hubble joined the staff of the Mount Wilson Observatory, where he studied nebulae. During his work, he discovered that the Andromeda Nebula was actually another galaxy, far away from our own Milky Way, which scientists had long believed was the only galaxy in the universe. He discovered 22 more galaxies, and he also proved that the universe was actually expanding, which supported the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. Stephen Hawking called Hubble’s discovery “one of the great intellectual revolutions of the 20th century.”

Taken from Writewr’s Almanac.

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