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Vol 83 No6 December 1989 Whole No 621 The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution Pasadena California USA Hubbles role This year marks the centennial of the birth of Edwin Hubble There can be no doubt that future historians writing about the scientific advances of this age will describe the 20th century as epoch-changing in giving us the first correct view of how the universe is organized The principal cosmological problem of discovering the large scale content of the universe was solved observationally between 1920 and 1936 Hubble was a major figure in this development Knowledge that galaxies mark the space and provide the means to measure it was gained by the first convincing analysis of new data on the nature of the nebulae - knowledge that came directly from the sky rather than by dialectic discussion or revelation In Hubbles time the centre of observational work on the new astrophysics and later on what we know as cosmology was the Mount Wilson Observatory The two largest telescopes in the world were there and could be regularly used on these problems With his appointment to the Mount Wilson staff in 1919 Hubble had continuing access to both the 60-inch and the 100-inch Hooker reflectors He also had a most remarkable ability to cut to the core of unsolved problems concerning the nature of the nebulae He would invariably proceed to the essence of a problem without stopping at the many lovely resting places that usually accompany the road to solutions becoming the leading astronomer in the 1920s concerned with problems of the nebulae In the 12 years from 1824 to 1936 he had set down the foundations upon which observational cosmology rests From his central role in the solution of so grand a problem Hubble has become a legend But because part of his life has also become a myth it is only from a study of his published papers that can we obtain a reasonable
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