As an earlier Astronotes article reported on, during its XXX General Assembly in Vienna, held in August 2018, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) put forward a draft resolution to rename the Hubble law as the “Hubble–Lemaître law”. The resolution was proposed to recognise Lemaître’s research on the expansion of the Universe, and to pay tribute to both Lemaître and Hubble for their fundamental contributions to the development of modern cosmology.

Portrait of George Lemaitre. Credit: Wikipedia

Edwin Huddle looking through a telescope. Credit: NASA

This resolution has now been put to all IAU Junior and Individual Members via an electronic vote. IAU members have until October 26 to register their vote.  After then the IAU will announce the decision.  See this link for further details on the vote.

Michael Burton


Stephen Kent · October 21, 2018 at 22:10

This resolution presumably will be passed by the IAU. Unfortunately, if the intent is to clarify the historical record, it will have failed. Let us not forget that the “Hubble law” for an exanding universe was first derived by Hermann Weyl in 1923 (Phys. Zeitschr, 24, 230,) and that Lemaitre’s approximate formula for the velocity-distance relation (conclusions, item 3) is identical to Weyl’s equation in the linear approximation. Weyl (1923, Raum, Zeit, Materie) also derived a value for the Hubble radius, equivalent to a Hubble constant of about 900 km/s/Mpc (assuming that I have read the references correctly.) Also, although not well known, Lunmark (1925, MNRAS, 85, 865) made a linear fit to his velocity and distance data (Table 1, line 20), although he did not favor it or draw attention to it.

Lemaitre’s real contribution was making a complete, self-consistent model of an expanding universe that incorporated both matter and a cosmological constant, starting with an Einstein and ending with a de Sitter universe, and tying that model to observations (the Hubble constant, for which Lemaitre derived his own value, and the mean density of matter, which had been derived by Hubble in 1926). It was a major step forward. It is much more than what can be captured by the name of some “law”. Shame on the IAU.

    admin · November 12, 2018 at 09:52

    Hi Stephen, thanks for the comment. I passed your comment on to the author of this article and when he searched for the paper referenced it didn’t exist. There is no paper by Wehl at that date in Phys. Zeitschr and he couldn’t find it any others papers in years around then either.Would you be able to provide us with this paper if you have it available to you?

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