The priest who first came up with what was to become known as the Big Bang Theory has been honoured by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for his “contribution to a key astronomical principle.”
Georges Lemaître, a Belgian mathematician, scientist and Catholic priest, was the first person to described the effect by which objects in an expanding universe move away from each other with a velocity proportionally related to their distance.
His theory was published in 1927, but confirmed two years later by the observations of Edwin Hubble, who gave his name to Hubble’s Law and after whom the Hubble Space Telescope is named.
Following an electronic vote among all members of the IAU, which represents more than 13,500 professional astronomers from more than 100 countries, Hubble’s Law is to be renamed the Hubble-Lemaître Law.
Seventy-eight per cent of those voting were in favour of the change.
Lemaître was a devout Christian who became a priest in 1923, after service in the Belgian army during World War One and studies in physics and mathematics.
He described his theory of the creation of the universe in an article in 1932, referring to ‘the Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation’. Scientists at the time – including Einstein – were sceptical, but it has become the accepted mechanism for the creation of the universe.