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Paper: The Day We Found the Universe: The Little-Known History of How We Came to Understand the Expanding Universe
Volume: 443, Earth and Space Science: Making Connections in Education and Public Outreach
Page: 25
Authors: Bartusiak, M.
Abstract: This will be an overview of the birth of modern cosmology in the 1920s, when the true nature and startling size of the universe was at last revealed. While today Edwin Hubble gets most of the credit, the story is far more complex, involving battles of wills, clever insights, and wrong turns made by a number of investigators before Hubble. The Hubble Space Telescope could easily have had another name if certain events had turned out differently: if Lick Observatory director James Keeler had not prematurely died in 1900 and solved the mystery of the spiral nebulae years earlier; if Lick astronomer Heber Curtis had not taken a promotion in 1920, taking him out of the game; or if astronomer Harlow Shapley, Hubble's nemesis, was not mulishly wedded to a flawed vision of the cosmos. Half the work to prove the universe was expanding was actually performed by Lowell Observatory astronomer Vesto Slipher; Hubble used Slipher’s data in 1929 to establish what came to be known as the Hubble Law without citation or acknowledgment, a serious breach of scientific protocol. Even then, Hubble was never a vocal champion of the idea that the universe was expanding. Hubble always coveted an unblemished record: the perfect wife, the perfect scientific findings, the perfect friends. Throughout his life, Hubble claimed that the galaxies fleeing outward were apparent velocities. He wanted to protect his legacy in case a new law of physics was revealed that changed that explanation.
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