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Lemaître, Georges Edouard (Abbé)

universe bang’ ‘big theory

[luhmaytruh] (1894–1966) Belgian astronomer and cosmologist: originator of the ‘Big Bang’ theory for the origin of the universe.

Lemaître studied at the University of Louvain, and afterwards trained and was ordained as a Catholic priest. He then spent some time at the Cambridge and Harvard observatories before becoming professor of astronomy at Louvain in 1927, where he remained for the rest of his career.

Lemaître was an originator of the ‘Big Bang’ theory for the origin of the universe. In 1927 he found a solution to equations of relativity that resulted in an expanding universe (Einstein’s own solution was a static one), and 2 years later showed observationally that this was indeed the case. Independently, the Russian came to similar conclusions. However, Lemaître further suggested that, by backward extrapolation, the universe must at one time have been small and highly compressed, which he referred to as the ‘primal atom’. He conjectured that radioactive decay had resulted in an explosion, the ‘Big Bang’ (so named, disparagingly, by in the 1950s). Although the importance of Lemaître’s work was not fully appreciated at the time, the ‘Big Bang’ theory is now accepted as the best model for the origin of the universe.

Lemmons, Kasi (1959–) [next] [back] Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm

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