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Edwin Hubble in translation trouble

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Amateur historians say famed astronomer may have censored a foreign rival.

Did Edwin Hubble conspire to remove a key variable from the English translation of a rival paper?

Amateur historians and astronomers are buzzing with intrigue over allegations that the legendary US astronomer Edwin Hubble, after whom NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is named, may have actively censored the work of a competitor to advance his own career.

Professional historians are demanding further evidence, but advocates of the position are already urging NASA to name a future space mission after the slighted researcher.

Hubble is credited with a discovery that paved the way for modern astronomy. In 1929, he published a paper1in which he reported on a correlation between the distance of galaxies from Earth and their velocities. Later dubbed Hubble’s law, the correlation shows that the further away a galaxy is, the more its light shifts towards the red end of the spectrum. This redshift implies that galaxies are moving away from the Earth, and later astronomers interpreted it as evidence that the Universe seems to be expanding.

But Hubble was not the first to notice this correlation. In 1927, the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître published a paper in French, which gave a theoretical description of the same relationship2. Lemaître also used data from others to derive the constant governing the expansion, known today has Hubble’s constant. “If you wanted to pick one person who probably deserves most credit for [discovering] the expanding Universe, it would be Lemaître,” says Robert Smith, a historian of science at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

Historians have long been aware of Lemaître’s work, but now claims have emerged that Hubble — or someone sympathetic to him — may have taken active steps to misrepresent Lemaître’s contribution to the English-speaking world…. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by physicsgg

June 28, 2011 at 8:03 pm