A brief history of cosmology

The last 12 posts described each of the main topics of modern cosmology: from the predictions of general relativity to the three main planks of evidence for the Big Bang, from the theory of inflation to the most recent measurements of the cosmic microwave background. All of this theory and experiment has been put together to form what is known as the Standard Model of cosmology. Before we describe the Standard Model, let’s briefly review the main discoveries in chronological order (you can read a seperate post on each starting here)


A Brief History of Cosmology

1.  The general theory of relativity (Einstein, 1916) and the prediction of a dynamic universe (Friedmann, 1919)

2. The observation of the expanding universe (Hubble’s Law, 1929)

3. Rewinding the Hubble graph: the ‘primeval atom’ and the calculation of the age of the universe (Lemaitre, 1929)

4. The Big Bang model and the problem of the singularity

5. The prediction of the abundances of H and He from the BB model (Gamow, 1945)

6. The predicton of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) from the BB model (Alphaer, Heuer and Gamow, 1949)

7. The detection of the cosmic microwave background (Penzias and Wilson, 1965)

8. The CMB puzzles of flatness, homogeneity and galaxy formation (1965 -)

9. The theory of inflation (Guth, Linde and Steinhardt, 1981-82)

10. The COBE study of the CMB –  support for the BB model and inflation (1992)

11. Dark energy – the supernova measurements of an accelerating universe (1998)

12. The WMAP study of the CMB – more support for inflation and dark energy (2005)


I gave a talk on the Big Bang to our astronomy class at WIT last night, describing most of the above topics. It was great fun, with a lengthy question and answer session afterwards, fielded by both me and well-known astronomer Emmet Mordaunt who normally takes the class. You can find the slides for the talk here.

1 Comment

Filed under Cosmology (general), Cosmology 101

One response to “A brief history of cosmology

  1. eltiti2009

    I´m looking for information about “time-travel” theme. And I´ve found that it´s a very speculative theme. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if humanity have an “time-machine”. The posibilities would be unlimited. But this is very far of our actual posibilities.