This theory suggests that the universe began with a huge explosion of a small ‘super-atom.’
Lemaître described the beginning of the universe as a ‘burst of fireworks’, and believed that the big bang was the beginning of time, taking place on a ‘day without yesterday.’
While Lemaître sadly passed away 1966, many scientists still base their research on his theory, and his legacy lives on.
Who was Georges Lemaître?
After the war, he was ordained a priest, and studied physics at the University of Cambridge and then at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
It was during his time at MIT that he became acquainted with the findings of Edwin Hubble and Harlow Shapley on the expanding universe.
In 1927 he became professor of astrophysics at the Catholic University of Leuven.
What is the Big Bang Theory?
In 1927, Lemaître came up with a family of solutions to Albert Einstein ’s equations of relativity, which described an expanding universe, rather than a static one.
These were confirmed in 1929 by Edwin Hubble, who discovered that the redshift in light coming from distant galaxies is proportional to their distance, suggesting that the universe is expanding.
Then, in 1931, Lemaître voiced his theory that the universe had expanded from an initial point, which he called the ‘primeval atom’ or the ‘Cosmic Egg.’
He argued that if matter everywhere is expanding, it’s logical that in the past it was closer together, and if we go far back enough, that it was once a single super-atom.
He added that radioactive decay of this super-atom was enough to cause a huge explosion that led to the expansion of the universe.
The theory later became known as the “Big Bang” theory.
His theory was initially mocked by fellow scientists.
Albert Einstein is said to have told Lemaître: “Your math is correct, but your physics is abominable”.
However, by 1933, the theory had become more widely accepted, and Lemaître was awarded the Francqui Prize – a Belgian science award – in 1934.