Jonathan LunineCornell University
Free and open to the public. Cosponsored by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Georges Lemaître—a Belgian priest and cosmologist—proposed what came to be known as the “Big Bang” model of the origin of the cosmos. What is less well known is that Lemaître discovered and published Hubble’s law—the first observational basis for the expansion of the universe—in 1927—well before Edwin Hubble did. Lemaître also treated Einstein’s cosmological constant as a vacuum energy, in 1933, foreshadowing work done a half-century later. Lemaître is less well known as a pioneering cosmologist than as a chimeric figure with both a scientific and religious career. Thus he has been treated by historians differently from other scientists. In this talk Lunine will argue that renaming the “Hubble law” the “Hubble-Lemaître law” (resolution B4 2018 of the International Astronomical Union) is a reasonable solution to the dilemma posed by history’s treatment of the Belgian cosmologist.