37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 5 Cosmology
HAD Oral, Monday, September 5, 2005, 11:00am-12:30pm, Umney Theatre, Robinson College

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[5.01] The Discovery of the Finite-Age Universe

H. Kragh (University of Aarhus)

Although the notion of a beginning of the universe can be found earlier, still in the late 1920s, almost all cosmologists believed that the universe had always existed. A. Friedmann discussed in 1922 the idea of a created universe, but in a mathematical sense only, and without attracting any interest. It was only in 1931 that G. LemaƮtre questioned the traditional paradigm and suggested the first big-bang model ever. What were his reasons? The suggestion was met with a mixture of scepticism and neglect. For example, the Einstein-De Sitter model of 1932 is clearly of the big-bang type, yet the authors suppressed this feature. In my talk, I chart the slow change from the eternal universe to the finite-age universe during the 1930s and 1940s, and discuss the reasons for the cool reception of an idea which to later generations seem so natural.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.