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News Release 19 of 85

November 9, 2011 01:00 PM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2011-36

Was the Real Discovery of the Expanding Universe Lost in Translation?

November 9, 2011: Writing in the Nov. 10 issue of the journal Nature, Space Telescope Science Institute astrophysicist Mario Livio solves the mystery of why paragraphs disappeared during the 1931 translation of Belgian cosmologist Georges Lemaître's remarkable 1927 paper showing that the universe is expanding. For nearly a century, American astronomer Edwin Hubble has held the fame for this landmark discovery, which would recast all of 20th century astronomy. After going through hundreds of pieces of correspondence of the Royal Astronomical Society, as well as minutes of the RAS meetings, and material from the Lemaître Archive, Livio has discovered that Lemaître omitted the passages himself when he translated the paper into English!

This illustration shows Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) on the right and Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) on the left. The telescope on the left is the 100-inch Hooker Telescope on Mt. Wilson in California. The Hubble Space Telescope is on the right.

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Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio (STScI)

Illustration Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)