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Hubble

Entry 306, on 2006-03-30 at 19:27:15 (Rating 3, Science)

This morning, I was reading about the history of astronomical research, and read an interesting section on Edwin Hubble, the astronomer who discovered a lot of new fundamental evidence for the nature of our Universe. For example, he proved that most nebulae were actually galaxies outside our own (a hotly debated topic at the time), and produced observational evidence that the Universe was expanding.

Two parts of his story struck me as particularly significant. First, that he very nearly became a lawyer instead of an astronomer, because of his father's wish for him to have a well-paid career. Pursuing a career in law isn't a bad thing in itself, but in the end, law doesn't really matter much compared with the work he would eventually do in astronomy.

The second aspect of his life which amazed me was his incredible dedication and resilience in the most demanding conditions. His work using the 100 inch telescope for example, demanded huge attention to detail, working without sleep for significant periods of time, and in freezing conditions which made operating the giant telescope potentially dangerous.

Maybe at times when he was half frozen from operating the telescope all night, he wished he had stuck with law, but on reflection I doubt it. Even my limited experience with observing as an amateur astronomer tells me that nothing law could offer would ever beat the experience of using a great instrument to observe the magnificence of the Universe. Frozen, tired, and poorly paid as he was, Hubble was a very lucky person!

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