The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars
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... show more
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.
Elegantly written and enriched by excerpts from letters, diaries, and memoirs, The Glass Universe is the hidden history of the women whose contributions to the burgeoning field of astronomy forever changed our understanding of the stars and our place in the universe.
Publish date: 2016-12-06
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Edition language: English
This books gives a historical overview of the astronomy work at Harvard done and funded by women starting in the mid nineteenth century. It basically describes how some of the directors were forward-thinking enough to hire women first as computers and then (eventually) as outright astronomers and so...
Dava Sobel's 'Glass Universe' has a fantastic premise: telling the story of the women who founded, funded, and worked in the Harvard Observatory from the late 19th century to well into the 20th. There were marvelous strides made in astronomy during that time, and it is astonishing to think of how th...
God only knows why this book is an incredibly dry read, but it really, really was. In comparison to another book about female mathematicians and scientists, [b:Hidden Figures|25953369|Hidden Figures The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space R...