Our cosmos has a beginning and is expanding, which is the most significant revelation of our time. However, the person who made this finding is essentially unknown. And there's a purpose behind it, as you'll see.

Georges Lemaître was a Belgian priest who theorized that the expansion of the universe began with the explosion of a single particle at a definite point in time faster than the speed of light.

Today, practically all astronomers embrace the Big Bang Theory. However, in the 1930s, the idea that the entire observable cosmos originated with a bang was considered absurd. Even Albert Einstein thought it was ridiculous. So, how did Lemaître arrive at this theory?

Let's Start From the Beginning.

Lemaître was born in 1894 in Charleroi, Belgium, to a wealthy, devoutly Catholic family. When he was nine years old, he knew he wanted to be a priest and a scientist. He grew up in a coal-producing district and studied civil mining engineering at the Catholic research university in the Belgian city of Louvain, only to have his studies cut short when Germany invaded Belgium in 1914. He dropped out of university to serve as an artillery officer. He was awarded the Belgian War Cross for his gallantry on the battlefield.

He was already pondering about the genesis of the cosmos in the context of his Christian beliefs at the time. 

While in the trenches, he wrote to a friend, "I have realized the 'Fiat Lux' as the reason of the cosmos." "Fiat looks" is Latin for "let there be light," referring to Genesis 3:3: "God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."

He resumed schooling after the war but switched to mathematics and physics, graduating in 1920. He then entered seminary and was ordained as a priest three years later.

During this time, he was fascinated with Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which explained how gravity could warp space and time. Lemaître then pursued post-graduate studies at the University of Cambridge with renowned English astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington, who proved Einstein's theory by observing how gravity bent the light from a star passing toward the sun.

After Eddington provided Lemaître with a good recommendation, he spent time at Harvard before being admitted into a PhD. program at MIT. Because of recent discoveries that rattled people's concept of the universe, it was an excellent time to be a scientist in the United States.

The Milky Way, which encompasses our solar system, was previously assumed to be the whole cosmos. However, stronger telescopes revealed that this was not the case. Edwin Hubble, an American astronomer, announced that he found proof that the Milky Way was one of many galaxies in the universe. He discovered that the spiral-shaped Andromeda galaxy was a galaxy.

Vesto Slipher, an American astronomer, found that Andromeda was bluer in color than other galaxies. Slipher could tell Andromeda was approaching because when the light comes toward you, the waves become more compressed, making the light bluer. It stretches out as it moves away from you, making the light waves appear redder.

The light from distant galaxies appeared to shift toward the red end of the color spectrum, indicating that they were moving away from Earth. In a static universe, galaxies were thought to be drifting away. Lemaître, on the other hand, interpreted the redshift differently. He concluded that galaxies were not moving away from each other in a static world but that the universe was expanding, which stretched out the lightwaves.

Here's another angle to consider.


Consider this balloon to be the universe. And the dots represent galaxies. As the balloon increases, so does the distance between the dots. And, from the perspective of each dot or galaxy, the others appear to be moving away from it. The concept of an expanding universe severely demolished Einstein's firm belief that the world was static. However, an unchanging cosmos was incompatible with his theory of relativity.

The cosmos would collapse if gravity were the only active force in a static universe. To get around this, Einstein introduced a cosmological constant, which is probably a type of substance or energy that opposes gravity. Lemaître's expanding cosmos, on the other hand, would satisfy Einstein's theory of relativity.

Einstein, though, remained unconvinced. He was adamantly opposed to the idea of an expanding cosmos.

“Your calculations are correct, but your physics is atrocious". Lemaître recalled Einstein telling him.

Einstein would take a long time to come around. He eventually abandoned his cosmic constant, calling it his "biggest blunder." Lemaître returned to Europe in 1925 to teach at the Catholic University of Louvain, where he had previously studied.

In 1927, he published his case for an expanding cosmos in a Belgian scientific publication in French. This should have shook the entire planet. But it didn't work. Nobody paid much attention to it. The public didn't take note until two years later, when Hubble released his discoveries about an expanding cosmos. Hubble calculated galaxies' distances and built on the work of Slipher, who measured redshifts.


In iconic graph, he charted the space between galaxies and their velocities, demonstrating that more distant galaxies traveled away from us quicker than closer galaxies. It also made sense if the cosmos was expanding. Hubble's law was named after him. He had the same thought as Lemaître. However, Lemaître received no attention and plaudits given to Hubble since his discoveries were published in French in an obscure Belgian journal that was not generally read outside his nation. His mentor Eddington is claimed to have assisted in arranging an English translation two years after Hubble's work was published in 1931.

The report, however, left out Lemaître's critical words describing Hubble's law. As it turns out, Lemaître chose to leave this out on purpose. He reasoned that Hubble's computations had already outperformed his previous efforts.

He didn't seem to care that he came up with the expansion idea before Hubble. He was a modest man who didn't mind that Hubble got all the attention. Instead, Lemaître continued his research and released a new paper in 1931, arguing that if the cosmos expanded, it also had a beginning.

In his first atom idea, he proposed this.

A primitive atom consisted of a single particle. He argued that the universe began with the explosion of this single particle that gave birth to our entire cosmos and concluded that a creation-like event had occurred. The catastrophe occurred more than 13.8 billion years ago, according to researchers.

He did not refer to it as the Big Bang. Sir Fred Hoyle, an astronomer, during the talk in a BBC presentation. Hoyle believed the theory was ridiculous. Many scientists, including Einstein, were suspicious.

When Lemaître and Einstein flew together to California in 1933 to attend a series of seminars, and Lemaître had the opportunity to discuss his theory in detail. 

Einstein commented, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened."

For his prediction of the expanding cosmos, Lemaître was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1954. Two years later, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his primal atom theory. He also did not win.

Strongest Evidence Supporting Big Bang Theory

A decade later, in 1964, American physicists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, working for Bell Laboratories, the research, and development branch of what is now Nokia, discovered the best evidence supporting the Big Bang by mistake. They were perplexed by a weird signal noise picked up by this antenna and attempted to decipher it. They even got rid of some pigeons who were nesting there. This was when they discovered cosmic microwave background radiation. Ancient light thought to be left over from the Big Bang.

Cosmic Microwave Background

Lemaître lived to witness their discovery. His theories were finally validated.


He died of leukemia two years later, in 1966, at 71. Despite not being as well-known as his colleagues, he is finally receiving more attention.

The Hubble law was renamed the Hubble-Lemaître Law in 2018. Lemaître may have contributed to the discovery of the universe's secrets. However, the more we learn, the stranger it becomes.

Scientists predicted the universe's expansion would slow gradually over time when gravity applied the brakes. Surprisingly, they discovered the opposite. The universe's growth appears to be accelerating.

Some unfathomable force is tearing our universe apart. And we have no idea why. Perhaps, in time, this riddle will be solved as well.

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