1932

Abstract

The modest science of cosmology I encountered a half century ago has grown into big science. I comment on steps in this development I think I understand because I was there or, in some cases, wish I had been. Wonderful insights—or lucky guesses—and elegant deductions from measurements were accompanied by the usual mix of unlucky guesses and disregard of unwelcome evidence. I say “usual” because I suspect the course of development of any other natural science is similarly erratic. An example in cosmology is Einstein's homogeneous Universe, which was largely accepted as a working hypothesis when there was scant evidence and seriously challenged after we had a reasonable case for homogeneity. Similar mixes of insight and inattention led to the eventual identification of the 3K microwave background, the demonstration that large-scale structure grew by the gravitational instability of the expanding Universe, and the completion of a tight network of cosmological tests. A half century ago, we had little idea what would become of what we were doing in cosmology. We have a better picture now, but I expect there to be more surprises.

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P. James E. Peebles, Albert Einstein Professor of Science, Emeritus, at Princeton University, talks about his life and career with Sandra Faber, University Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Editor of the .

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