The cosmologist Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) from Belgium was a Catholic priest as well as a trained scientist. The combination is not unique. The Italian astronomer Angelo Secchi was a priest and the creator of the first modern system of stellar classification; the Bohemian scholar Gregor Mendel, too, was a priest and the founder of modern genetics. World War I interrupted Lemaître’s studies. Serving as an artillery officer he witnessed one of the first poison gas attacks in history. After the war he studied physics and was ordained as an abbé. In 1925 he accepted a professorship at the Catholic University of Louvain near Brussels. He reviewed the general theory of relativity and his calculations showed that the universe had to be either shrinking or expanding. Lemaître argued that the entire universe was initially a single particle – the “primeval atom” – which disintegrated in a massive explosion, giving rise to space and time. He published a model of an expanding universe in 1927 which had little impact then, but in 1930, following Hubble’s work, Lemaître’s former teacher at Cambridge University, Arthur Eddington, shared his paper with de Sitter. Albert Einstein confirmed that Lemaître’s work “fits well into the general theory of relativity.”
Santa Maria, rogai por nós.