A sticky tribute

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By Scotty McDaniel

A man who spent time living in Shelbyville is now part of an exclusive group that includes the likes of Elvis, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Bugs Bunny.

His head sticks to envelopes.

Even to those who know nothing about the famed scientist, Edwin Hubble, his name probably sounds familiar.

In his honor, NASA named one of its most advanced telescopes after him.

Launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope continues to orbit the Earth, beaming down distant stretches of the universe that telescopes on the ground are unable to observe.

Now, in a more recent honor, the U.S. Postal Service has included Hubble in their American Scientists stamps series.

But for the man who would later be named one of Time Magazine's Top 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, it wasn't always clear that Hubble would become an astronomer.

Born in Marshfield, MO., on Nov. 20, 1889 to parents John Powell and Virginia James Hubble, the family moved to Wheaton, Illinois in 1898, where Edwin would become both an accomplished athlete and student.

In 1909 his family moved from Illinois to Shelbyville.

After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in astronomy and mathematics, Edwin spent the summer of 1910 living with his family at 928 Bland Avenue in Shelbyville.

That fall, at 21 years old, Hubble's path toward becoming an astronomer took a detour.

Having been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, Hubble boarded a train in September and made his way to Oxford, England where he would receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in law to please his father, who didn't approve of his son studying astrology.

After two years in Shelbyville, the family moved to Louisville while Edwin remained in England. But when his father passed away in 1913, Edwin returned to Kentucky to take care of his family.

During this time, Hubble taught and coached at New Albany High School, making such an impression on the school that the 1914 yearbook was dedicated to him.

When the school term ended, he returned to what interested him most and went back the University of Chicago to earn his doctorate in astronomy.

In 1917, Hubble was invited by George Ellery Hale to work with him at the Mount Wilson Observatory in Pasadena, California. The invitation was just what Hubble wanted, but his country was fighting in World War I so the patriotic Hubble telegraphed his reply to Hale, "Regret cannot accept your invitation. Am off to the war."

Hubble enlisted in the U.S. Army and was wounded in battle, never again able to straighten his right elbow completely.

Finally, in 1919 he left France and the war behind and arrived at the Mount Wilson Observatory, in Pasadena, CA., still in uniform but ready to join Hale.

His revolutionary work got under way.

In the 1920s, at a time when it was common belief among astronomers that our galaxy was the only galaxy, Hubble repeatedly shook the world of astronomy with his discoveries.

When he discovered faded stars in the Andromeda Nebula, he determined that they looked weak because they were much farther from Earth than stars in the Milky Way galaxy and were actually in a separate galaxy - spawning a newfound belief that millions of galaxies actually exist.

He also found evidence that supported an idea that later became known as the big bang theory. His studies on the Doppler velocities of galaxies proved that the farther apart galaxies are from one another, the faster they move away from each other.

The discovery supported the idea that the universe expands uniformly and must have had a beginning point.

Edwin Hubble died of a heart attack in San Marino, CA., on Sep. 28, 1953, with many awards and honors to his name.

And like the universe he was devoted to exploring, the list of his honors continues to expand.