Edwin Hubble

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Overview

Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the Nebulae is both the biography of an extraordinary human being and the story of the greatest quest in the history of astronomy since the Copernican revolution. The book is a revealing portrait of scientific genius, an incisive engaging history of ideas, and a shimmering evocation of what we see when gazing at the stars.

Born in 1889 and reared in the village of Marshfield, Missouri, Edwin Powell Hubble-star athlete, Rhodes Scholar, military officer, and astronomer- became one of the towering figures in twentieth-century science. Hubble worked with the great 100-inch Hooker telescope at California's Mount Wilson Observatory and made a series of discoveries that revolutionized humanity's vision of the cosmos. In 1923 he was able to confirm the existence of other nebulae (now known to be galaxies) beyond our own Milky Way. By the end of the decade, Hubble had proven that the universe is expanding, thus laying the very cornerstone of the big bang theory of creation. It was Hubble who developed the elegant scheme by which the galaxies are classified as ellipticals and spirals, and it was Hubble who first provided reliable evidence that the universe is homogeneous, the same in all directions as far as the telescope can see.

An incurable Anglophile with a penchant for tweed jackets and English briars, Hubble, together with his brilliant and witty wife, Grace Burke, became a fixture in Hollywood society in the 1930s and 40s. They counted among their friends Charlie Chaplin, the Marx brothers, Anita Loos, Aldous and Maria Huxley, Walt Disney, Helen Hayes, and William Randolph Hearst. Albert Einstein, a frequent visitor to Southern California, called Hubble's work "beautiful" and modified his equations on relativity to account for the discovery that the cosmos is expanding.

The first astronomer to offer observational evidence supporting the theory of the expanding universe--Hubble's Law--and to demonstrate the existence of galaxies far beyond the Milky Way, Edwin Hubble stands as a towering figure in the history of astronomy. This first major biography of Hubble reveals his scientific genius and provides an engaging explanation of his ideas. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
A readable, entertaining life of the brilliant astronomer whose work, fundamental to modern theories of the universe, never interfered with his self-promotion, pretension and vanity.
New Scientist
The story of Hubble's greatest breakthrough and what it led to is told with great style. Not only a masterly summary of Hubble's scientific achievements, but also a fascinating account of Hubble the man.
The Daily Telegraph
Gale E. Christianson has written an exciting Life of Edwin Hubble, filled with splendid descriptions and anecdotes. Only a first-class biographer would tell us that the two favourite books of his eminent scientist hero were 'King Solomon's Mines' and 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'.
Australian & New Zealand Physicist
A large telescope bearing Hubble's name now circles above our heads every 100 minutes. That, and this volume, serve as eloquent testimony to the achievements of the man. A book that deserves a place on many a bookshelf.
Modern Astronomer
The story of this man [Hubble], and his work, is told beautifully in this timely and thoroughly researched biography.
ASLIB Book Guide
This is a fine biography of the outstanding astronomer of our time. Anyone interested in scientific matters will enjoy reading it.
Astronomy Now
There was nothing dull about Hubble and there is nothing dull in this thoroughly researched biography. This is one of the most readable scientific biographies of recent years. Buy it.
The Observatory
Christianson has done an excellent job putting together this biography, full of illuminating sidelights and with copious references to further reading. This is an enjoyable read and at the very reasonable price should be in the personal collection of anyone with an interest in the recent history of astronomy.
Gnomon
I reccomend this book to all who are interested in the history of astronomy and the personal lives and conflicts of the great scientists who made the exciting discoveries that form the basis of so much of modern astronomy and cosmology. It is well written, with a detailed bibliography and a detailed index. The low price and attractive sturdy binding of this volume should put it within the reach of even the modestly supported school library; it would make an ideal present for the individual with a liking for scientific biography. If no one buys it for you, pick up a copy for yourself.
The Library Journal
Christianson's work is a pleasure to read. Jargon-free and requiring no mathematics, it reads more like a novel than a biography and reveals the man behind the scientist.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Son of an overbearing Missouri insurance agent, astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) revolutionized our conception of the universe. Working at Mount Wilson Observatory in California, he proved by the early 1930s that galaxies beyond the Milky Way are rapidly moving away from us. His observational evidence led Albert Einstein to endorse the model of an expanding universe. Catapulted to fame, Hubble, a dashing, formidable figure, hobnobbed with Anita Loos, William Randolph Hearst, Charlie Chaplin and Aldous Huxley. In an exciting biography of a scientific giant who was a very fallible human being, Christianson portrays Hubble as an egotistical, hot-tempered striver who feuded bitterly with colleagues, an antinuclear activist who advocated world government and a prevaricator who claimed to practice law and to have boxed prizefighters to win over his future wife. Biographer of Isaac Newton and Loren Eiseley, Christianson provides close-ups of well-known scientists and astronomers such as Einstein, Harlow Shapley, Percival Lowell and Vesto Slipher. Photos. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Thanks to the space telescope bearing his name, nearly everyone has heard of Edwin Hubble. Unfortunately, few people know about "Hubble's Constant" or his work on the velocity-distance relationship, which, along with his observational data, solidified the concept of the expanding universe. This knowledge allowed us to determine the age of the universe and thus the time of the Big Bang. A professor at Appalachian State University in North Carolina whose earlier works include biographies of Isaac Newton (In the Presence of the Creator, 1984) and a collection of essays on modern astronomers (The Wild Abyss, 1978), Christianson received a Guggenheim Fellowship to write this book. The foundation's money was well spent. Christianson's work is a pleasure to read. Jargon-free and requiring no mathematics, it reads more like a novel than a biography and reveals the man behind the scientist. Tall, handsome, and athletic (he was an accomplished boxer), Hubble led a most interesting life. His circle of friends included Hollywood celebrities as well as men and women of letters. Highly recommended.-James Olson, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib., Chicago
Booknews
A biography of Hubble (1889-1953), who confirmed the existence of other galaxies besides our own, provided the first reliable evidence that the universe is pretty much the same in all directions from here, and demonstrated that the universe is expanding, thus setting the stage for the Big Bang theory. He catapulted his stature as an astronomer into social status, hobnobbing in Hollywood and with the rich and famous elsewhere. Christianson, who has already written biographies of Newton and Eiseley, describes him as egotistical and hot-tempered, but deserving of a better memorial than a crippled space telescope. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Gilbert Taylor
ubble, the first astronomer to offer observational evidence supporting the theory of an expanding universe, was lionized by the public in his lifetime (18891953) but considered an irksome personality by his colleagues. Christianson, the author of a well-regarded biography of Newton, fully explores the traits that provoked such diverse reactions in this wonderfully perceptive narrative. He begins with a colorful, empathetic portrait of Hubble's origins in Missouri, his adolescence under a stern, abstemious father, and schooling in England. There, he affected the anglicisms in speech and dress that bemused many who later worked with him, but his excellence as an observational astronomer they could not deny. Scanning the skies with the Mt. Wilson telescope, the world's largest in the 1920s, Hubble vied with others to solve the mystery of the fuzzy nebulae: were they inside or outside the Milky Way? Hubble's resounding answer--that they were galaxies of stars billions of light-years distant--consigned his rivals to historical oblivion; but Christianson's account ably revives the feeling and stakes of that professional contest for glory and renown. After such a coup, the winning astronomer's succeeding years seem inevitably anticlimactic, but Christianson chronicles Hubble's schmoozing with celebrities, war work, and administrative jockeying with the thoroughness that marks the entire work. The first cradle-to-grave biography of Hubble, Christianson's story should endure.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780750304238
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 3/27/1997
  • Pages: 220
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Table of Contents

Marshfield
An Awful Moment
A Thing So Outlandish
A Son of Queen's
Heavens's Gate
Reconnaissance
The Cosmic Archipelago.
Uncharted Waters
Mariner of the Nebulae
Your Husband's Work Is Beautiful
Almost a Miracle
Now Whom Do We Want to Meet?
Landlocked
Dark Passage
Home Is the Sailor
Epilogue
Notes and Abbreviations of Frequently Used sources
Bibliography
Acknowledgments
Index

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