George Lemaitre, Encyclopædia Britannica

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(1894-1966) Georges Lemaître was born in Charleroi in 1894 and died in Louvain in 1966. He was a Belgian astronomer and cosmologist. He studied mathematics and physics at the University of Louvain. In 1923 he entered the priesthood. In 1927 he was appointed professor at the University of Louvain. His work was founded on the theories of Albert Einstein icona_biografia (general relativity), Alexander Friedmann icona_biografia , de Sitter icona_minibiografia (expanding universe) and Edwin Hubble icona_biografia (galaxies) . Lemaître laid out the basis of his theory about the expanding universe in a note dating from 1927. In 1931 Arthur Eddington icona_biografia (British astronomer) published the English translation of this note along with a lengthy commentary.

Lemaître was invited by the British Association to come to London. There he exposed his original theory of the expanding universe and launched his idea about the "Primitive Atom". He published an extensive account of his theory in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, explaining that the further one goes back in time, the closer the galaxies become, eventually compressing the universe into a single atom. The explosion of this gigantic primitive atom causes the universe to expand. His proposition is known as the Big Bang theory as nomed by Wyler In 1933, Lemaître developed his theory further, reaching the high point of his fame. He was considered by his peers as the leader of new cosmological physics. In 1934 he received the Francqui Award (Prix Francqui) from the hands of his nominators, 'Einstein' (whom he met several times between 1931 and 1935), 'de la Vallée Poussin' and 'de Hemptinne'.

In 1941 Lemaître became a member of the Royal Academy for Sciences and Fine Art of Belgium. He was awarded the Belgian Government's highest distinction for scientific achievement in 1950. In 1936 he became member of the newly created "Pontifical Academy of Sciences". He presided this assembly from 1960 till his death. Besides the 1927 note, his major works are entitled "Discussion on the evolution of the universe" (1933) and "Hypothesis of the primitive atom" (1946). To commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1994, his home town of Charleroi named the main road to the airport in his honour, the Belgian Post Office portrayed him on a stamp, various lectures were held in his university and a biography was published. The University of Louvain-la-Neuve named its astronomical institute and an avenue after him.