Dan Levitt at Literary Hub:
On a cold, uncharacteristically dry London day in September 1931, a short, stocky man with slicked-back hair, a piercing gaze, and a hell of a lot of nerve walked along Storey’s Gate Street. He entered Central Hall, Westminster, a large assembly place near Westminster Abbey. It’s hard to imagine that this man, a thirty-seven-year-old Belgian professor of physics, did not feel some trepidation.
The soaring dome of the Great Hall imposed grandeur on the proceedings: a celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Many of the world’s most eminent physicists were among the audience of two thousand to whom Georges Lemaître was about to present a theory that bordered on the crackpot.
Lemaître was not just a physicist and a mathematician, but a Catholic priest as well, and he was to speak in a session on a topic that physicists had just begun to grapple with: the evolution of the universe. Dressed in his black clerical garb and white collar, as if prepared to take confessions, he stepped to the podium and presented an idea that veered perilously close to theology. He had discovered, he claimed, a moment when the entire universe exploded out of a tiny “primeval atom.”