Edwin Powell Hubble

Edwin Powell Hubble


Date of Birth
November 20, 1889
Date of Death
September 28, 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, AllanJRASC 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


Papers, etc.

Hubble’s Papers are at the Huntington Library with a microform copy at the AIP Center for History of Physics. Hubble is discussed in many oral history interviews at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives. See also Hubble, Edwin P., The Edwin Hubble Papers; previously unpublished manuscripts on the extragalactic nature of spiral nebulae, edited, annotated, and with an historical introduction by Norriss S. Hetherington (Pachart Pub. House, Tucson, 1990).

Other References: Historical

Berendzen, R., R. Hart, & D. Seeley, Man Discovers the Galaxies (Science History Pubs., NY, 1976).

Bertotti, B., et al, eds., Modern Cosmology in Retrospect (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990).

Brashear, R.W. & N.S. Hetherington, “The Hubble-van Maanen Conflict over Internal Motions in Spiral Nebulae: Yet More New Information on an Already Old Topic,” Vistas in Astronomy 34, 4, 415-23 (1991).

Chapman, David M.F., “Edwin P. Hubble and the Extragalactic Nebulae,” JRASC 93, 258 (1999).

Christianson, Gale E., “Edwin Hubble: Reluctant Cosmologist,” in Historical Development of Modern Cosmology, ASP Conference Proceedings Vol. 252, ed. by Vicent J. Martínez, Virginia Trimble, and María Jesús Pons-Bordería (Astronomical Society of the Pacific, San Francisco, 2001), pp.145-56.

Christianson, Gale E., “Edwin Hubble: A Biographical Retrospective,” Carnegie Observatories Astrophysics Series, Vol. 2: Measuring and Modeling the Universe, ed. W. L. Freedman (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 2004), pp. 9-21.

Crowe, M. J., Modern Theories of the Universe: From Herschel to Hubble (Dover, NY, 1994).

Edmunds, M.G., “Origin of the Hubble Sequence,” Nature 337, 600-01 (1989).

Gingerich, Owen, “Shapley, Hubble, and Cosmology,” in Edwin Hubble Centennial Symposium, U. of California, Berkeley 1989, ed. by Richard G. Kron, A.S.P. conference series v. 10 (Astron. Soc. Pacific, San Francisco, 1999), p. 19-21.

Gingerich, Owen, “The Scale of the Universe: A Curtain Raiser in Four Acts and Four Morals,” PASP 108, 1068-72 (1996).

Goldsmith, Donald, “Edwin Hubble and the Universe Outside our Galaxy,” in Neyman, Jerzy, ed., The Heritage of Copernicus: Theories “Pleasing to the Mind” (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1974).

Hetherington, Norriss S., “Edwin Hubble and a Relativistic, Expanding Model of the Universe,” Leaflets of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 10, 509, 473-80 (1971).

Hetherington, Norriss S., “Edwin Hubble on Adriaan van Maanen’s Internal Motions in Spiral Nebulae,” Isis 65, 390-93 (1974).

Hetherington, Norriss S., “Edwin Hubble’s Examination of Internal Motions of Spiral Nebulae,” QJRAS 15, 392-418 (1974).

Hetherington, Norriss S., “Philosophical Values and Observation in Edwin Hubble’s Choice of a Model of the Universe,” Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 13, 41-67 (1982).

Hetherington, N., “Edwin Hubble: Legal Eagle,” Nature 319, 189-90 (1986).

Hetherington, N., “Edwin Hubble’s Cosmology,” in Edwin Hubble Centennial Symposium, Univ. of California, Berkeley 1989, ed. by Richard G. Kron (A.S.P. conference series v. 10), p. 22-24.

Hetherington, N., “Hubble’s Cosmology,” Amer. Scientist 78, 2, 142 (1990).

Hetherington, Noriss S. & Ronald S. Brashear, “Walter S. Adams and the Imposed Settlement Between Edwin Hubble and Adriaan van Maanen,” JHA 23 Pt. 1, 53-56 (1992).

Hetherington, Norriss S., Ed., Encyclopedia of Cosmology (Garland Publishing, NY, 1993).

Hetherington, Norriss S., Hubble’s Cosmology; A Guided Study of Selected Texts (Pachart, Tucson, 1996).

Hodge, Paul, “Hubble’s Distance Indicators,” The Extragalactic Distance Scale, Proceedings of the ASP 100th Anniversary Symposium, Victoria, Canada, June 29-July 1, 1988, ASP Conference series, v. 4 (Astron. Soc. Pacific, San Francisco, 1988) p. 1-5 ).

Hubble, Edwin Powell, The Nature of Science, and Other Lectures (Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, 1954).

Jones, Brian, “The Legacy of Edwin Hubble,” Astronomy 17, 12, 38-44 (1989).

Kippenhahn, R., “Edwin Powell Hubble and Cosmology,” Mem. Soc. Astron. Italy 62, 533-552 (1991) [in Origin and Evolution of the Universe. A Hubble Centenary Conference. Proceedings. 3. Venice Conference on Cosmology and Philosophy, Venice (Italy), 15-16 Dec 1989].

Kirshner, Robert P., “Hubble’s Diagram and Cosmic Expansion,” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 101, 8-13 (2004).

Kragh, Helge, Cosmology and Controversy: The Historical Development of Two Theories of the Universe (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, NJ, 1996).

Kragh, Helge & Robert W. Smith, “Who Discovered the Expanding Universe?” History of Science 41, 141-62 (2003).

Munitz, Milton K., ed., Theories of the Universe: from Babylonian Myth to Modern Science (Free Press, Macmillan, 1957).

Nemiroff, Robert & Jerry Bonnell, Hubble, Humason, and Hubble’s Constant

Nussbaumer, Harry & Lydia Bieri, Discovering the Expanding Universe (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2009).

Osterbrock, Donald E., “The Appointment of a Physicist as Director of the Astronomical Center of the World, JHA 23, 155 (1992).

Osterbrock,Donald E., Joel A. Gwinn, & Ronald S. Brashear, “Edwin Hubble and the Expanding Universe,” Scientific American 269, 1, 84-89 (1993).

Parker, Barry, “Discovery of the Expanding Universe,” Sky & Telescope 72, 227 (1986).

Sandage, Allan, “Beginnings of Observational Cosmology in Hubble’s Time: Historical Overview,” in M. Livio, S.M. Fall and P. Madau, eds., The Hubble Deep Field (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 1998 ).

Sandage, Allan, “The First 50 Years At Palomar: 1949 –1999 The Early Years of Stellar Evolution, Cosmology, and High-Energy Astrophysics,” Ann. Rev. Astron. & Astrophys. 37, 445-86 (1999).

Smith, Robert, The Expanding Universe (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 1982).

Smith, Robert, “Edwin P. Hubble and the Transformation of Cosmology,” Physics Today 43, 4, 52-58 (1990).

Trefil, James & Margaret Hindle Hazen, Good Seeing: A Century of Science at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1902-2002 (Joseph Henry Press, Washington, DC, 2001).

Trimble, Virginia, “H0: The Incredible Shrinking Constant 1925-1975,” PASP 108, 1073-1082 (1996).

Trimble, Virginia, “Extragalactic Distance Scales: H0 from Hubble (Edwin) to Hubble (Hubble Telescope),” Space Science Reviews 79, 793-834 (1997).

Van Den Bergh, Sidney, “Golden Anniversary of Hubble’s Classification System,” Sky & Telescope 52, 410-14 (1976).

Van Den Bergh, Sidney, “Shapley and Hubble: Different Views Brought Galaxies Into Focus” [letter], Physics Today 57, 9, 15 (2004).

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Other References: Scientific

Hubble, E.P., “The Variable Nebula NGC 2261,” Ap.J. 44, 190-97 (1916) [Discovery of what is now called Hubble’s Variable Nebula].

Hubble, E.P., “Recent Changes in the Variable Nebula NGC 2261,” Ap.J. 45, 351-53 (1917).

Hubble, Edwin Powell, Photographic Investigations of Faint Nebulae (Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1920). [Ph.D. dissertation]

Seares, Frederick H. & Edwin P. Hubble, “The Color of the Nebulous Stars,” Ap.J. 52, 8-22 (1920).

Hubble, Edwin, “A General Study of Diffuse Galactic Nebulae,” Ap.J. 56, 162-99 (1922).

Hubble, Edwin, “The Source of Luminosity in Galactic Nebulae,” Ap.J. 56,400-438 (1922).

Hubble, Edwin, “NGC 6822, a Remote Stellar System,” Ap.J. 62, 409 (1925).

Hubble, Edwin P., “Cepheids in Spiral Nebulae,” Pubs. Amer. Astr. Soc. 5, 261-64 (1925); reprinted in Observatory 48, 139-42 (1925).

Hubble, Edwin, “A Spiral Nebula as a Stellar System: Messier 33,” Ap.J. 63, 236-74 (1926).

Hubble, Edwin, “Extragalactic Nebulae,” Ap.J. 64, 321-69 (1926).

Hubble, E.P., “The Classification of Spiral Nebulae,” Observatory50, 276-81 (1927).

Hubble, E., “A Spiral Nebula as a Stellar System, Messier 31,” Ap.J. 69, 103-58 (1929). [reprinted in Ap.J. 525, 150 (2000) with commentary by Arthur D. Code.]

Humason, Milton L., “The Large Radial Velocity of N.G.C. 7619,” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 15 167-68 (1929).

Hubble, E., “A Relation between Distance and Radial Velocity among Extra-Galactic Nebulae,” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 15, 168-73 (1929) [also here with Commentary by Robert Kirshner, 2003]

Hubble, E., “Distribution of Luminosity in Elliptical Nebulae,” Ap.J. 71, 231-76 (1930).

Hubble, Edwin and Milton L. Humason, “The Velocity-Distance Relation among Extra-Galactic Nebulae,” Ap.J. 74, 43-80 (1931) [reprinted in Ap.J. 525, 214 (2000) with commentary by Allan Sandage.]

Hubble, E., “Nebulous Objects in Messier 31 Provisionally Identified as Globular Clusters,” Ap.J. 76, 44 (1932).

Hubble, Edwin., “The Distribution of Extra-Galactic Nebulae,” Ap.J. 79, 8-76 (1934).

Hubble, Edwin and Milton L. Humason, “The Velocity-distance Relation for Isolated Extragalactic Nebulae,”Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 20, 264-68 (1934).

Hubble, Edwin, “The Distribution of Extra-galactic Nebulae,” Ap.J. 79, 8-76 (1934).

Hubble, E., Redshifts in the Spectra of Nebulae, (The Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK, 1934). [Halley Lecture]

Hubble, Edwin, “Angular Rotations of Spiral Nebulae,” Ap.J. 81, 334-35 (1935).

Hubble, E., and Richard C. Tolman, “Two Methods of Investigating the Nature of the Nebular Red-shift ,” Ap.J. 82, 302-37 (1935).

Hubble, E., “The Luminosity Function of Nebulae. I. The Luminosity Function of Resolved Nebulae as Indicated by Their Brightest Stars,” Ap.J. 84, 158-79 (1936).

Hubble, E., “The Luminosity Function of Nebulae. II. The Luminosity Function as Indicated by Residuals in Velocity-Magnitude Relations,” Ap.J. 84, 270-95(1936).

Hubble, E., “Effects of Red Shifts on the Distribution of Nebulae,” Ap.J. 84, 517-54 (1936).

Hubble, E., “Red-shifts and the Distribution of Nebulae,” MNRAS 97, 506 (1937).

Hubble, Edwin P., The Observational Approach to Cosmology (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1937). [Rhodes Memorial Lectures delivered at Oxford in 1936.]

Hubble, Edwin, “The Direction of Rotation in Spiral Nebulae,” Ap.J. 97, 112-18 (1943).

Hubble, Edwin, “First Photographs with the 200-inch Hale Telescope,” PASP 61, 121-24 (1949).

Hubble, E., “The Law of Red Shifts,” MNRAS113, 658 (1953). [George Darwin Lecture]

Hubble, Edwin & Allan Sandage, “The Brightest Variable Stars in Extragalactic Nebulae. I. M31 and M33,” Ap.J. 118, 353-61 (1953).

Humason, M.L., N.U. Mayall, & A.R. Sandage, “Redshifts and Magnitudes of Extragalactic Nebulae,” Astronomical Journal 61, 97-162 (1956).

Sandage, AllanThe Hubble Atlas of Galaxies (Carnegie Inst. of Washington, Washington, DC, 1984).

Search ADS for works by Hubble

Other Works: Popularizations, History, etc.

Hubble, Edwin, “Novae or Temporary Stars,” Leaflets of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 1, 55-58 (1928) [Leaflet #14].

Hubble, Edwin, “A Clue to the Structure of the Universe,” Leaflets of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 1, 93-96 (1929) [Leaflet #23].

Hubble, Edwin P., The Realm of the Nebulae (Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1936, 1982).

Hubble, Edwin, “Adventures in Cosmology,” Leaflets of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 3, 120-23 (1938) [Leaflet #115].

Hubble, Edwin, “The Nature of the Nebulae,” PASP 50, 97-110 (1938) [public lecture on receiving the Bruce medal].

Hubble, Edwin, “The 200-Inch Telescope and Some Problems It May Solve,” PASP 59, 153-67 (1947) [Morrison lecture, 1947].