Chris Peterson wrote: Dick Henry wrote:
I never met Hubble, but from what I've heard about him, he was a snob and social climber - and he never believed in the expansion of the universe. And now there is a credible claim that Hubble was NOT the discoverer of the expansion of the universe: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110627/ ... 1.385.html
Well, many discoverers that get credit for something are not the first on the scene, or there are many others who are very close. Newton used his influence to suppress work by Halley; had Newton never been born we'd have had pretty much the same theory at the same time. Likewise for Copernicus and Kepler. And with more modern science, things move even faster and easier. If Einstein didn't exist, we'd still have had General Relativity at about the same time- lots of people were homing in on it. Likewise for quantum mechanics.
New discoveries in science and technology are really not driven by individuals, but by the inertia of the scientific community itself. You'd be hard pressed to come up with many examples in modern science or technology, which are associated with specific people, that wouldn't have happened without them.
Hubble gets the credit here because he did some of the work and had the loudest and most persuasive voice. Often, that's how it works.
Chris, I could not agree more. I was really just struck by the incredible coincidence of someone making me aware for the first time of the Lemaitre thing, and the next day APOD coming up with the Hubble thing! Further to your excellent point, someone once asked Heisenberg who was greater, Heisenberg or Beethoven. Heisenberg replied "without me, there still would be quantum mechanics; without Beethoven, his glorious works would never, ever, have appeared." I was very struck by a remark by a young astronomer a couple of weeks ago, when she presented her excellent work across the street at the Space Telescope Science Institute. She and her colleagues for a time had felt they'd made a discovery "and were looking forward to 15 minutes of fame," but on further investigation it went away. I admired her attitude immensely.