Hubble, Edwin

Hubble, Edwin (Powell)

(1889–1953) astronomer; born in Marshfield, Mo. A high school athlete in Wheaton, Ill., he lettered in basketball and track at the University of Chicago. A Rhodes scholar at Oxford, he read law and boxed in an exhibition match against the French champion, George Carpentier. After one year of practicing law in Louisville, Ky. (1913), he went back to the University of Chicago and took up astronomy. In 1917 George Ellery Hale, attracted by Hubble's observational skill, offered him a post at the Mt. Wilson Observatory at Pasadena, Calif.; but with the American entry into World War I, Hubble enlisted in the infantry. After serving as a ballistician in France, he joined Hale at Mt. Wilson and began observing with the newly installed 100-inch telescope (1919). By 1924 he had established that there are galaxies other than the Milky Way. In 1929, he was able to demonstrate that the galaxies were receding from ours, thus proving that the universe was still expanding. (The numerical relationship between a galaxy's distance and the speed of recession is known as "Hubble's Constant.") These and other of his findings had major impact on the study of cosmology. By 1948 he shifted to the still larger (200-inch) telescope on Mt. Palomar, where he worked until his death. The Hubble Space Telescope, deployed in space in 1990, was named after him.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.