Edwin Hubble

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Edwin Hubble

Edwin Powell Hubble (November 20, 1889September 28, 1953) was an American astronomer. He profoundly changed our understanding of the universe by demonstrating the existence of other galaxies besides the Milky Way. He also discovered that the degree of redshift observed in light coming from a galaxy increased in proportion to the distance of that galaxy from the Milky Way. This became known as Hubble's law, and would help establish that the known universe is expanding.


  • Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.
    • Hubble, Edwin (May 1929). "The Exploration of Space". Harper's Magazine 158: 732.
  • Science is the one human activity that is totally progressive.
    • The Realm of the Nebulae (1936)
  • Eventually, we reach the utmost limits of our telescopes. There, we measure shadows and search among ghostly errors of measurement for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial.
    • The Realm of the Nebulae (1936)
  • The whole thing is so much bigger than I am, and I can't understand it, so I just trust myself to it; and forget about it.
    • Hubble's reply when asked about his beliefs from a friend, as quoted in Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the Nebulae (1996) by Gale E. Christianson, p. 183.
  • "We do not know why we are born into the world, but we can try to find out what sort of a world it is — at least in its physical aspects."
    • Quoted in Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the Nebulae (1996) by Gale E. Christianson, p. 183.
  • Such a condition would imply that we occupy a unique position in the universe, analogous, in a sense, to the ancient conception of a central earth. The hypothesis cannot be disproved but it is unwelcome and would be accepted only as a last resort in order to save the phenomena. Therefore, we disregard this possibility and consider the alternative, namely, a distribution which thins out with distance.
    A thinning out would be readily explained in either of two ways. The first is space absorption. If the nebulae were seen through a tenuous haze, they would fade away faster than could be accounted for by distance and red-shifts alone, and the distribution, even if it were uniform, would appear to thin out. The second explanation is a super-system of nebulae, isolated in a larger world, with our own nebula somewhere near the centre. In this case the real distribution would thin out after all the proper corrections had been applied.
    Both explanations seem plausible, but neither is permitted by the observations. The apparent departures from uniformity in the World Picture are fully compensated by the minimum possible corrections for redshifts on any interpretation. No margin is left for a thinning out. The true distribution must either be uniform or increase outward, leaving the observer in a unique position. But the unwelcome supposition of a favoured location must be avoided at all costs....Such a favoured position, of course, is intolerable … Therefore, in order to restore homogeneity, and to escape the horror of a unique position, the departures from uniformity, which are introduced by the recession factors, must be compensated by the second term representing effects of spatial curvature. There seems to be no other escape."


  • I chucked the law for astronomy, and I knew that even if I were second-rate or third-rate, it was astronomy that mattered.
    • as quoted by N. Y. Mayall (1970). Biographical memoir. Volume 41, Memoirs of the National Academy of sciences, National Academy of Sciences (U.S.). National Academy of Sciences. p. 179. 

Quotes about Hubble[edit]

  • If the apparent magnitudes of the nebulae are corrected merely for the effect of the red-shift in diminishing the energy of their observed light, we have seen that Hubble claims that the system is uniformly spread out in space. If, however, the nebulae are receding, an additional dimming factor arises, and the corresponding correction for distance when incorporated in the calculation destroys the homogeneity. Instead, the number of nebulae per unit volume of space now appears to increase as we recede towards the confines of the visible universe. Rightly or wrongly, Hubble maintains that such a picture would imply that we were in a privileged position in the unverse, being in the region lease densely populated with nebulae. On these, and other grounds, he is inclined, therefore, to reject the Doppler-interpretation of the red-shifts and to regard the nebulae as stationary.

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