Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian astronomer and physicist, was born on this day in 1894. On his 124th birth anniversary, Google honoured Lemaitre with a doodle on its homepage.
The Big Bang is, perhaps, the most widely accepted theory about the origin of the universe. However, not many would be aware of the man who came up with this hypothesis. In 1927, Lemaitre proposed that the universe is expanding and that it originates from a single primordial atom, which he called the ‘Cosmic Egg’.
Lemaitre studied physics at Cambridge, Harvard, and MIT and also got ordained as a local priest. In 1927, he published a paper on the origin of the universe based on the calculations derived from Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, which was substantiated by Edwin Hubble in 1929. At first, Einstein dismissed Lemaitre’s work.
“Your calculations are correct, but your physics is atrocious,” he had said. However, in a series of lectures organised at California Institute of Technology in 1933, Einstein was among the individuals who stood up and appreciated Lemaitre’s lecture on his theory about the universe’s origin.
Lemaitre successfully estimated a numerical unit to measure the universe’s rate of expansion, which is now called the Hubble’s constant. Though Edwin Hubble received wider recognition for this work, Lemaitre too was awarded for his contribution towards space science. In 1934, he received the prestigious Francqui prize, the highest scientific accolade in Belgium; one of his nominators being Einstein himself. He received many other international scientific awards, with a crater on the moon also being named after him in 1970.