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Telescopes from the Ground Up
Portrait of Edwin Hubble Courtesy Huntington Library

Edwin Hubble received his first telescope — a gift built by his grandfather — when he was only 8 years old. One of seven children born to a family in Missouri, Hubble developed an early passion for astronomy but put off pursuing his dream because his father, an insurance agent, wanted him to study law.

So in college, Hubble quietly studied astronomy and physics, along with law. He went to school in Britain, and returned to the United States to teach high school and coach basketball. Yet he continued to pursue astronomy studies, and in 1915 earned time on one of the Yerkes Observatory telescopes, launching his new career. Hubble was quick to invent a new life for himself and eventually separated himself from his family. Few knew anything about his background.

Using the Hooker 100-inch reflector on Mount Wilson, Hubble found that the Andromeda nebula, a cloudy patch in the sky, was so far away it could not be within our own galaxy. This illustrated that the universe is vast, and the Milky Way is just a small object within it. Later, by examining the light of distant galaxies, he showed that the universe is expanding, and that everything in it is moving away from everything else. Hubble’s discoveries would change the way we viewed the universe.

Hubble, with his enthusiasm for astronomy and recognition, would be pleased to know how his fame lives on: The Hubble Space Telescope was named in his honor.

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