Georges Lemaître and Stigler’s Law of Eponymy

  • David L. BlockEmail author
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Library book series (ASSL, volume 395)


One of the greatest discoveries of modern times is that of the expanding Universe, almost invariably attributed to Hubble (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 15:168, 1929). What is not widely known is that the original treatise by Lemaître (Annales de la Société Scientifique de Bruxelles, Sèrie A 47:49, 1927) contained a rich fusion of both theory and of observation. The French paper was meticulously censored when published in English: all discussions of radial velocities and distances, and the very first empirical determination of H 0 , were suppressed. Stigler’s law of eponymy is yet again affirmed: no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer (Merton, American Sociological Review 22(6):635, 1957). An appeal is made for a Lemaître Telescope naming opportunity, to honour the discoverer of the expanding universe.


Radial Velocity Royal Astronomical Society Trigonometric Parallax Homogeneous Universe Branch Star 
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First and foremost, I thank my co-author of Shrouds of the Night, K. C. Freeman, for his invaluable insight, encouragement and support. I am indebted to Harry Nussbaumer, Robert Smith and Sidney van den Bergh for their detailed comments on the manuscript. I warmly thank Dominique Lambert, Piet vd Kruit, Maarten Schmidt and the Director General of ESO, Tim de Zeeuw for their insight and interest. Profound appreciation goes to my sponsors AVENG and AECI for financial support and to archivist Mrs. Liliane Moens at the Lemaître Archives.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Computational and Applied MathematicsUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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