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Updated December 13, 2023

The primitive atom of Abbot Georges Lemaître

The primitive atom of Abbot Georges Lemaître

Image created by an AI: The primitive atom by Abbé Georges Lemaître.

What is the primitive atom?

The theory of the primitive atom by Abbot Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) is a key concept in cosmology, often associated with the idea of the Big Bang.
Georges Lemaître (Belgian physicist and Catholic priest) proposed this idea in the 1920s.

According to the theory of the primitive atom, the universe began from an extremely dense and hot initial state. Lemaître suggested that this initial state could be represented as a "primitive atom". According to this theory, the Universe came from a sort of giant atomic nucleus, which disintegrated due to its intrinsic instability. This “primitive atom” would have given rise to the expansion of the universe as we observe it today.

Abbé Lemaître was one of the first to recognize that the observation of galaxies moving away from each other suggested an expansion of the universe. Looking back in time, this expansion suggests an initial state where all the matter and energy in the universe was concentrated in one extremely dense point.

The theory of the primitive atom is often considered a precursor to the idea of the "Big Bang" which was later popularized. The explosion of the primitive atom is analogous to what we now call the Big Bang. However, Lemaître defended this initial explosion without any “religious ulterior motives”.
The term "Big Bang" was popularized by the British physicist Fred Hoyle (1915-2001), who was initially skeptical of the theory of the expansion of the universe. The origin of the term dates back to a BBC radio broadcast in 1949, during which Hoyle used the term "Big Bang" sarcastically to mock the theory proposed by Georges Lemaître.
Hoyle was a proponent of steady-state theory, a competing hypothesis at the time, which states that the universe does not change its appearance on a large scale over time. Lemaître's idea of the primitive atom, with its implication of an initial light, did not appeal to Hoyle, who preferred the idea of an eternal and constant universe.

Lemaître also argued that the expansion of the universe was continuous and that matter was diluted over time. This idea was later confirmed by astronomical observations, including the discovery of the cosmic microwave background, thermal radiation present throughout the universe, which is major evidence for the Big Bang.

In summary, Abbé Lemaître's theory of the primitive atom laid the conceptual foundations for understanding the origin of the universe and contributed significantly to the development of modern cosmology.

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