This was more than a little odd, for Hubble’s life was filled from an early age with a level of distinction that was at times almost ludicrously golden. At a single high school track meet in 1906, he won the pole vault, shot put, discus, hammer throw, standing high jump, and running high jump, and was on the winning mile-relay team—that is seven first places in one meet—and came in third in the broad jump. In the same year, he set a state record for the high jump in Illinois.
As a scholar he was equally proficient, and had no trouble gaining admission to study physics and astronomy at the University of Chicago (where, coincidentally, the head of the department was now Albert Michelson). There he was selected to be one of the first Rhodes scholars at Oxford. Three years of English life evidently turned his head, for he returned to Wheaton in 1913 wearing an Inverness cape, smoking a pipe, and talking with a peculiarly orotund accent—not quite British but not quite not—that would remain with him for life. Though he later claimed to have passed most of the second decade of the century practicing law in Kentucky, in fact he worked as a high school teacher and basketball coach in New Albany, Indiana, before belatedly attaining his doctorate and passing briefly through the Army. (He arrived in France one month before the Armistice and almost certainly never heard a shot fired in anger.)