Linda Hall Library
Science Engineering Technology

Edwin Hubble, an American astronomer, was born Nov. 20, 1889, in Marshfield, Missouri. Hubble is best known for announcing (on New Year’s Day, 1925), that the Andromeda nebula is actually an external galaxy, as big as our Milky Way Galaxy, and for publishing in 1929 what has come to be called Hubble’s law, which states that the more distant a galaxy, the larger its redshift. Since a galactic redshift might be caused by a galaxy’s motion away from us (and that is how Hubble’s law is now commonly understood), it is often said that Hubble discovered the expansion of the universe in 1929–perhaps the greatest cosmological discovery of the century. But in fact Hubble did no such thing, and he never claimed to have done so. It was only after his death in 1953 that astronomers started to credit the expansion to Hubble and began to call his distance-redshift law, “Hubble’s law.” But even without the expanding universe in his portfolio, Hubble is one of the most important astronomers of the 20th century, and he well deserved to have the Hubble Space Telescope named in his honor.

The first four images show: Hubble at the eyepiece of the 100” telescope at Mount Wilson, which opened in 1918; a detail of a photograph of the Andromeda galaxy, taken by the 100” telescope; Hubble and staff entertaining a visitor (Hubble is once removed from Einstein, at the far right); and Hubble as he appeared on the cover of Time Magazine on the occasion of the opening of Mount Palomar Observatory.

Hubble left Missouri before he was 10 years old and rarely came back. Nevertheless, he now has a bust in the Hall of Famous Missourians on the third floor of the State Capitol in Jefferson City (fifth image), very near that of Missouri’s beloved regional artist, Thomas Hart Benton.

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to ashworthw@umkc.edu.