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The glass universe : how the ladies of the Harvard Observatory took the measure of the stars

Author: Dava Sobel
Publisher: New York, New York : Viking, [2016] ©2016
Edition/Format:   Print book : Biography : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but soon the female corps included graduates of the new women’s colleges -- Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As  Read more...
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Genre/Form: Biographies
History
Biography
Additional Physical Format: Online version:
Sobel, Dava.
Glass universe
New York : Viking, 2016
(DLC) 2016030208
Named Person: Solon I Bailey; Annie Jump Cannon; Mary Anna Draper; Williamina P Fleming; Henrietta Swan Leavitt; Antonia C Maury; Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin; Edward C Pickering; Harlow Shapley
Material Type: Biography, Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Dava Sobel
ISBN: 9780670016952 0670016950
OCLC Number: 952469237
Description: xii, 324 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Contents: Mrs. Draper's intent --
What Miss Maury saw --
Miss Bruce's largesse --
Stella nova --
Bailey's picture from Peru --
Mrs. Fleming's title --
Pickering's "harem" --
Lingua franca --
Miss Leavitt's relationship --
The Pickering fellows --
Shapley's "kilo-girl" hours --
Miss Payne's thesis --
The Observatory Pinafore --
Miss Cannon's prize --
The lifetimes of stars --
Some highlights in the history of the Harvard College Observatory --
A catalogue of Harvard astronomers, assistants, and associates.
Responsibility: Dava Sobel.

Abstract:

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but soon the female corps included graduates of the new women’s colleges -- Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned from computation to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates. The "glass universe" of half a million plates that Harvard amassed over the ensuing decades -- through the generous support of Mrs. Anna Palmer Draper, the widow of a pioneer in stellar photography -- enabled the women to make extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim. They helped discern what stars were made of, divided the stars into meaningful categories for further research, and found a way to measure distances across space by starlight. Their ranks included Williamina Fleming, a Scottish woman originally hired as a maid who went on to identify ten novae and more than three hundred variable stars; Annie Jump Cannon, who designed a stellar classification system that was adopted by astronomers the world over and is still in use; and Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne, who in 1956 became the first ever woman professor of astronomy at Harvard -- and Harvard's first female department chair.

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