The Day Without Yesterday: Lematre, Einstein, and the Birth of Modern Cosmology

John Farrell, Author
John Farrell, Author . Thunder's Mouth $24 (262p) ISBN 978-1-56025-660-1
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Few people realize that the Belgian scientist Georges Lemaître (1894–1966) played a seminal role in the development of our current understanding of the Big Bang and black holes. Lemaître was also a Roman Catholic priest, rising to monsignor, but he carefully maintained a firewall between his two vocations, even reacting with horror when Pope Pius XII described the Big Bang as the biblical moment of creation. Science writer Farrell recounts that Einstein dismissed Lemaître's ideas at their first encounter, in 1927; later, the great man regarded him as a valuable colleague. Lemaître believed at first that the universe expanded from an initial static state; only later did he arrive at his theory of a "primeval atom," which George Gamow and others developed into the Big Bang theory. Farrell explains how Lemaître determined that what we now call a black hole is a singularity where the radius of the sphere collapses to zero. Lemaître also stuck with the cosmological constant after Einstein had abandoned it, a stance validated in the 1990s when scientists discovered that the universe's expansion is accelerating. Science buffs will enjoy this nicely written biography of a little-known but towering figure in modern cosmology. B&w illus. Agent, Susan Schulman . (Oct. 5)

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