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21 July 2014

Herbert H. Highstone Reviews… no. 2

Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the Nebulae by Gale E. Christianson


Edwin Hubble holding Nicolas Copernicus to which "endless pages" are devoted


A Few Points That Interested Me Concerning Hubble Bio
Three Stars

One wonders why Hubble didn't have any children. He was basically a country boy deep inside, and it seems likely to me that he would have wanted children. So who stopped that from happening? I suspect that his wife Grace played a part in that situation. If she didn't want kids, she had ways to prevent pregnancy.

The book contained a number of derogatory comments about Hubble's British accent and fancy clothes. But that's what got him access to the 100-inch telescope. The American astronomers who controlled the 100-inch were bowled over by Hubble's elegant facade. He did what he had to do in order to use the world's largest telescope (at that time).

No one has commented about Grace's bizarre decision to cremate her husband and then bury his ashes in a secret location. THis is a classic symptom of a hyper-controlling wife who has secret issues with her husband and denies him the grand funeral that he must have wanted. It's like Grace wanted to erase Edwin from the surface of the earth. Such a hostile thing to do!

A prophet is not without honor except in his own country. There is a Russian bio of Hubble that praises him in totally unrestrained language. But here in the USA, we seem to have the "tall poppy"principle at work, where the excellent is the enemy of the good and must therefore be cut down to size.

One reviewer mentions the fact that dear Grace had access to the Hubble files after her husband's death, and had ample opportunity to destroy anything that she didn't like. I'll bet that she kept the good old incinerator pretty busy. If she prevented Edwin from even having a decent funeral, I'm sure that her need for control was total.

Any good biography must be selective. I wasn't reading a bio of a famous astronomer to gain access to endless pages about his wife's cats. The entire episode of his WWII work should have been cut down to 3 pages maximum.

The Russian bio of Hubble also contains the long-suppressed details about how a gang of younger astronomers formed a cabal to deny Hubble the access he wanted to the new 200-inch telescope. Those little rats did a real number on Ed. Hubble's trusted confidant, the mule driver that he turned into a famous astronomer, also seems to have played both sides of the fence. Such gratitude!

The upshot was that Hubble's speech at the 200-inch dedication ceremony was canceled, and he wasn't even officially invited. He came anyway and stood in the shadows, watching silently. The frosting on the cake came when Hubble wasn't selected at the director of Palomar. When the hyenas really gang up on you, they don't stop until nothing is left.

I mentioned a Russian biography of Hubble. It's much shorter than "Mariner" but it contains a lot of information that "Mariner" leaves out. The moral to this story is simply the following: You need more than one biography to discover the whole truth about anyone!

Note from EEE: HHH's review brought to mind the recent Pope Francis controversy about childless couples (or single women) and cats.  For a completely different reading of Hubble's relationship with his (rather than his wife's) cat, visit the Huntington Library's blog here.  

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