The Bruce Medalists


  portrait Photo courtesy Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington
Edwin Powell Hubble
20 November 1889 1938 Bruce Medalist 28 September 1953

A native of Missouri, Edwin Hubble earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Chicago, won a Rhodes scholarship, and earned a law degree at the University of Oxford. He taught high school for a year in Indiana and then returned to Chicago’s Yerkes Observatory and astronomy. After obtaining his doctorate he spent his career, aside from army service in both world wars, at Mt. Wilson Observatory, which became Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories in 1948. In 1923 - 25 he identified Cepheid variables in “nebulae” NGC 6822, M31, and M33 and proved conclusively that they are outside the Galaxy, thus demonstrating that our Galaxy is not the Universe. His investigation of these and similar objects, which he called extragalactic nebulae and which astronomers today call galaxies, led to his now-standard classification system of elliptical, spiral, and irregular galaxies, and to proof that they are distributed uniformly out to great distances. (He had earlier classified galactic nebulae.) Hubble measured distances to galaxies and with Milton L. Humason extended Vesto M. Slipher’s measurements of their redshifts, and in 1929 Hubble published the velocity-distance relation which, taken as evidence of an expanding Universe, is the basis of modern observational cosmology.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Babcock, H.D., PASP 50, 87-96 (1938).

Other awards
Franklin Institute, Benjamin Franklin Medal, 1939.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1940, presented by H.C. Plummer, MNRAS 100, 342-50 (1940).

Some offices held
Astronomical Society of the Pacific, President, 1933.

Biographical materials
Christianson, Gale E., Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the Nebulae (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996).
Christianson, Gale E., “Mastering the Universe,” Astronomy 27, 2, 60 (1999).
Christianson, Gale E., “Edwin Hubble: A Biographical Retrospective,” in Carnegie Observatories Astrophysics Series, Vol. 2: Measuring and Modeling the Universe, ed. W.L. Freedman (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 2004).
Club Astronomique du Val de Loir [in French]
Glass, Ian, Revolutionaries of the Cosmos: The Astro-Physicists (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, UK, 2005).
Mayall, N.U., Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Science 41, 175-214.
Osterbrock, Donald E., Ronald S. Brashear, & Joel A. Gwinn, “Self-made Cosmologist: the Education of Edwin Hubble,” in Richard G. Kron, ed., Edwin Hubble Centennial Symposium, Univ. of California, Berkeley 1989 (A.S.P. conference series v. 10), pp. 1- 18.
Sandage, Allan, JRASC 83, 351-62 (1989).
Sharov, Alexander S. & Igor Dmitrievich Novikov, Edwin Hubble, the Discoverer of the Big Bang Universe (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1993).
Space Telescope Science Institute
Wands, David, The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive
Whitrow, G.J., Dictionary of Scientific Biography 6, 528-33.
Hubble, Humason, and Hubble's Constant

Adams, W.S., Observatory 74, 32-35 (1954).
Humason, M.L., MNRAS 114, 291-95 (1954).
London Times, 30 September 1953
Robertson, H. P., PASP 66, 120-25 (1954).
More obituaries

AIP Center for History of Physics Caltech Archives [many, also at STScI site]
Friedman, Jon R., Portrait Sketch
Life Magazine, 8 November 1937
1914 New Albany High School yearbook—dedicated to Hubble, who taught Spanish and physics and coached basketball that year
Public Broadcasting System
Time magazine cover, 9 February 1948
University of St. Andrews

Named after him
Lunar crater Hubble
Minor Planet #2069 Hubble
Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Law, Hubble Constant, Hubble Time, Hubble Flow, etc.
Hubble sequence of galaxy types [Hubble’s original paper]
Hubble’s Variable Nebula, NGC 2261

More references

The Bruce Medalists

Please send comments, additions, corrections, and questions to