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A Biography of Georges-Henri Lemaitre

The universe is one of the greatest mysteries to all mankind. Since time immemorial, we have been asking the question: how did the universe came to be? Many theorist had dared to answer the seemingly unfathomable question, only one has stood the test of time and doubt of critics. His name is Georges-Henri Lemaitre, he proposed the Big Bang Theory–a theory that many people accept as the origin of the universe. Georges Lemaitre is a great testament to the optimist that believes science and religion could complement each other. Georges-Henri Lemaitre drew first breath on July 17, 1894.

He was born in Charleroi, Belgium. At seventy-two years of age he died on June 20, 1966. Ever since he was a child, he exuded an insatiable curiosity. This trait of his paved the way for his inquiries about the great mystery of the universe. It should be noted that Lemaitre was not only a man of science, but also of religion. He studied humanities at a Jesuit school. After that he went to the Catholic University of Leuven to study civil engineering. He had to stop studying during college when the war broke. He volunteered to join the Belgian Army as an artillery officer.

Even though he suffered a mild “shell shock” from the terrible war, Lemaitre pursued his passion, science and theology. After his service in the army, he pursued his education. While preparing to become a priest, he took up physics and mathematics. He got his doctorate from Universite Catholique de Louvain. He became a priest on 1923 when he went to Malines seminary where he was ordained. He went back to the Catholic School of Leuven to teach part-time. Ironically, the place where Lemaitre begun studying was also the place where he would catapult his name to be one of the most famous name in science.

It was the findings of a another famous scientist who fascinated Lemaitre, Albert Einstein. Lemaitre studied Einstein’s laws of gravitation which was published in 1915. He published his famous report in 1927 originally given the title “Un Univers homogene de masse constante et de rayon croissant of Brussel” (which translates to “A homogeneous universe of constant mass and growing radius accounting for the radial velocity of extragalactic nebulae. ” This report of grand proportions by Lemaitre attempted to present his fresh idea that the universe was expanding.

It would be important to note that the idea of an expanding universe was not new at that time. Lemaitre supported his claims by deriving from another big name in science, Edwin Hubble. The Hubble law played a significant part in Lemaitre’s studies because it provided the first observational Hubble constant. Georges Lemaitre did not convince everyone on his first try. His proposal understandably still on its development stage. Lemaitre proposal needed a few more tweaks and adjestments. But admirably he showed unceasing determination to finish what he had started.

He had exuded his determination by taking in the criticism of Albert Einstein nonetheless. Einstein was not convinced of Lemaitre’s proposal. Einstein was still skeptical of the idea of an expanding universe. Einstein commented to Lemaitre “your math is correct, but your physics is abominable” (Deprit 6). It was not cleared whether Lemaitre was offended or not by Einstein’s words. But what the proponent of the theory of relativity said were undeniably strong words. But Lemaitre was firm in his findings. He pursued doing more research to back up his theory. But the reception that Lemaitre received were not all negative.

He started to gain the attention of the scientific community. Arthur Eddington supported Lemaitre and used his influence to make sure that Lemaitre got the chance to be heard by other scientist. Eddington also wrote a lengthy article in which he commended Lemaitre’s work as a “brilliant solution” to the inquiries of cosmology (Eddington 7). During this time, Lemaitre and his proposal was already creating a buzz in the world of science. And from this point on, the humble life of the priest who loves knowledge will catapult to worldwide recognition. He was invited by the British Association to come to London.

It was then that he proposed that it was from an initial point that the universe had expanded. This initial point is what Lemaitre called the “primeval atom. ” A critic named Fred Hoyle was sarcastically making his comment when he called Lemaitre’s proposal as the “Big Bang. ” This sarcastic comment stuck to the minds of the public and became the term that we even use today. But one of the most significant comments that Lemaitre received was from Albert Einstein who stood and applauded during Lemaitre’s presentation. Einstein described the theory as “the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened.

” He devoted all his life to knowledge. He was during the last years of his life that he started working with computers. After learning of the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation, which be further evidence to the Big Bang theory, he died. It is quite ironic that the proponent of the Big Bang theory, probably the most influential theory in science, lead his life under the radar. Lemaitre did share worldwide popularity as Einstein and Hubble. Many biographers attributed this to Lemaitre not being an American. However, Georges Lemaitre left a theory that created the loudest “bang” in the world of science.

Works Cited Commission of Celestial Mechanics and Cosmology. Big Bang and Georges Lemaitre. NY: Reidel, 1984 Deprit, A. “Monsignor Georges Lemaitre”. A. Barger (ed) The Big Bang and Georges Lemaitre. NY: Reidel. (1984) Eddington, A. S. “On the instability of Einstein’s spherical world”, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 90, p. 668-688, May 1930 Mason, James Frederick. Harvitt, Helene Josephine . The French Review. CA: University of California. 1953 Silk, Joseph. The Big Bang: Third Edition. Chicago: Henry Holt & Company, 2000

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