FIRST EDITION OF TWO IMPORTANT COSMOLOGICAL MODELS OF THE UNIVERSE, one by Eddington focused on the end of the universe, the other by Lemaître on its beginnings and proposing the concept of the Big Bang.
Arthur Eddington’s paper is the first occurrence in print of a famous address he delivered on entropy and the beginning of the universe. In it, he defends “the hypothesis of a future heat death caused by the unavoidable growth in entropy” (Kragh, Masters of the Universe, 123).
Eddington also speculates on the ‘heat death’ of the universe – “a concept from nineteenth-century thermodynamics in which a universe that lasted forever would ultimately run out of energy and everything would cool down to the same very low temperature, as its entropy approached a maximum value. Simply put, in a static universe, in which time stretches out forever in the past (and in the future as well), the stars would run out of fuel, whatever their fuel was, and ultimately they would blink out. We would find ourselves in a tepid universe peering out into a bath of the starlight from the expired stars” (Ostriker, Heart of Darkness, 76).
As to the idea of a cosmic past, Eddington writes: “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of nature is repugnant to me” (Kragh).
Georges Lemaître was a Belgian priest and physicist. He began his famous letter in Nature by adamantly disagreeing with Eddington’s horror at the idea of the universe having a beginning, even going so far as to title his letter ‘The beginning of the world from the point of view of quantum theory’. It is the first presentation of the cosmological model now called ‘The Big Bang’.
Trying to find a link between nebulae and atoms, Lemaître was the first to combine cosmology and quantum physics, applying the latest knowledge about particles and radioactivity: “A comprehensive history of the universe ought to describe atoms in the same way as stars. […] In atomic processes, the notions of space and time are no more than statistical notions : they fade out when applied to individual phenomena involving but a small number of quanta. If the world has begun with a single quantum, the notions of space and time would altogether fail to have any sense at the beginning and would only begin to get some sensible meaning when the original quantum would have been divided in a sufficient number of quanta. If this suggestion is correct, the beginning of the world happened a little before the beginning of space and time. Such a beginning of the world is far enough from the present order of nature to be not at all repugnant” (Lemaitre, Nature, 1931, 706).
Appealing to the new quantum theory of matter, Lemaître argued that the physical universe was initially a single particle—the “primeval atom” as he called it—which disintegrated in an explosion, giving rise to space and time and the expansion of the universe that continues to this day. Lemaître “suggested a cosmological solution to Einstein’s general relativity equations between that of Einstein (static universe) and de Sitter (dynamically growing universe), where the growth of the universe (and recession of distant astronomical objects) is related to distance” (History of Physics: The Wenner Collection).
“According to Lemaître's "fireworks theory of evolution" the world started as a super-radioactive disintegration of the primeval atom” (DSB). He later wrote: ‘The evolution of the world can be compared to a display of fireworks that just has ended: some few red wisps, ashes and smoke. Standing on a well-chilled cinder, we see the slow fading of the suns, and we try to recall the vanished origin of the worlds’ (Lemaître, The Primeval Atom, 1950).
ALSO INCLUDED: The first published account of Einstein’s Rhodes Memorial Lecture of 16 May, 1931. In it, Einstein discussed the application of the field equations of the theory of relativity to the problem of cosmogony – this of particular import because it constitutes the first scientific statement in which Einstein embraces the possibility of a cosmos of time-varying radius. Incidentally, the blackboard used by Einstein during this lecture is in the Museum of the History of Science at Oxford and appears just as he left it, scrawled with a series of equations in chalk delineating, apparently, the density, radius and age of the universe. Item #665
CONDITION & DETAILS: London: Macmillan. Complete. 4to (Quarto). 10.5 x 7.5 inches (262 x 187mm). [lxv], 996, , 4. Ex-libris bearing only two stamps, one on the front of the title page, one on the rear. Handsomely rebound in period style leather over gilt-ruled, aged boards. Five raised bands at the spine, each gilt-ruled. Red and black morocco spine labels, each with gilt-lettering. Tightly and solidly bound. Bright and clean throughout.