Birth of Astronomer Edwin Hubble

U.S. #4226 from the American Scientists issue.

On November 20, 1889, one of the world’s most renowned astronomers, Edwin Hubble, was born.

Edwin Powell Hubble was born in Marshfield, Missouri and later moved to Illinois. As a child, he was a gifted athlete with an interest in science, though his grades didn’t always reflect his brilliance.

Click this image to get all the stamps and covers on this page in one convenient order.

Hubble concentrated on mathematics and astronomy at the University of Chicago before studying at The Queen’s College in Oxford, England, as a Rhodes Scholar. He nearly gave up a career in science when he changed his academic focus to law, at his father’s request.

After graduating, Hubble came back to the United States and took a job teaching Spanish, physics, and mathematics. Following his father’s death, Hubble decided to pursue his real passion – astronomy. He then worked at the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin as a graduate student, and earned his PhD. As the U.S. entered World War II, Hubble joined the Army and reached the rank of lieutenant colonel, though he never saw combat.

U.S. #4226 – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

After spending a year in Cambridge studying astronomy, Hubble was offered a position at the Mount Wilson Observatory near Los Angeles, California. It was here that he made one of his greatest discoveries while using a 100-inch reflecting telescope to study nebulae. Originally considered part of our own Milky Way galaxy, Hubble discovered these nebulae were actually galaxies beyond our own. He created a classification of these galaxies, known as the Hubble tuning fork diagram, which sorted them by shape and distance.

U.S. #3409e honors the Mount Wilson Observatory.

Hubble’s studies also revealed that galaxies move away from each other, creating an expanding universe, an observation known as Hubble’s Law. This led to Hubble’s Constant, which stated that the greater the distance between the galaxies, the faster they move away from each other. His work provided the evidence supporting the Big Bang theory of how the universe was formed.

U.S. #3409a – First Day Cover picturing the Hubble Space Telescope.

Hubble spent much of his later career trying to get astronomy considered an area of physics for Nobel Prize consideration.  Hubble died on September 28, 1953, shortly before the Nobel Committee decided to include astronomy in their considerations for the physics prize.  Unfortunately, the prize couldn’t be awarded posthumously.

U.S. #3384-88 pictures images captured by the Hubble telescope. The selvage features a photograph of Hubble standing next to the Schmidt telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California.

However, Hubble’s name lives on in perhaps an even more enduring way – the Hubble Telescope.  Launched in 1990, the Hubble telescope gives incredibly clear images of the objects in deep space. It was named to honor the man who discovered the breadth of our cosmos. The Hubble orbits 380 miles above the Earth, beyond the atmosphere which would blur the images. It can detect objects 50 times fainter than those observed from Earth-bound telescopes.

Click here to view images captured by the Hubble Telescope.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
Share this Article


  1. Very interesting article. 🙂 Astronomy continues to baffle and stimulate our curiosity for all things far and distant.

  2. Just askin’. Did Professor Hubble join the army in World War II or WW I? His science education would be very useful either way – but, he would have been in his fifties in WW II. Thanks.

    1. Paul,

      According to, “Hubble worked at Mount Wilson Observatory until 1942, when he left to work at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland during World War II. For his service during the war, in 1946, Hubble received the Medal of Merit.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *