Women in Space “Matter” Part One(By Anton Komarov)


En Hedu’Anna


Maria Margaretha Kirch

Jeanne Dumee

Sophia Brahe

Maria Clara Eimmart

Valentina Tereshkova

Lucretia Herschel

Fatima de Madrid

Sally Ride

Nicole-Reine Lepaute

Wang Zhenyi

Williamina Fleming


Women in Space “Matter”

By Anton Komarov

Outstanding Destiny


*References are found at the end of each section

When we think about women and space exploration, some names come immediately to mind like Valentina Tereshkova, Sally Ride,Mae Jemison or Christia McAuliffe. Like everything, it is a generational impression as each era carries its own heroes but some names are forever associated with the great leap of mankind into the cosmos. The flight of Tereshkova is but 59 years in the past, a mere half century ago. Though the astronauts, cosmonauts, taikonauts and all the designated men and women who flew in space are the most memorable examples of human spaceflight, we must remember that their achievements were made possible thanks to a huge web of knowledge and skills acquired from the astronomers of antiquity up to the work of modern rocket engineers. It would be unfair to concentrate only on those who vanquished the Karman line (*). The love story between women and the stars is just as long as the story of astronomy itself or whatever name was given to the science of the observation of the sky. Unfortunately, so many of these female pioneers would be forgotten for numerous reasons, the most obvious of them being the social conditions in which woman were confined and which did not allow them to access either higher education or professional activities other than basic domestic or field work.

*The FAI defines the Kármán line as space beginning 100 kilometres (54 nautical miles; 62 miles; 330,000 feet) above Earth's mean sea level.

The philosopher Theano who lived in the sixth century BC is considered to have written treatise on physics, mathematics and medicine but none of the writings attributed to her have survived. Most sources describe her as the wife of Pythagoras or his student, although other sources see her as the wife of Brontinus, another Pythagorean philosopher. Theano worked on the golden proportion and headed the school of Pythagoras at the end of his life. Pythagoras did not discriminate between genders in his school and teachings. Theano was not an astronomer but like the many women who ended up working with their husbands by helping in their research and observations, they had their achievements for ever shadowed by an illustrious husband or brother and their names were lost forever. However, some were so outstanding and successful both in their domain or their integration in a field exclusively dominated by men, that their achievements have passed the test of time. So let’s start our journey of discovery about these formidable characters.

A Sorceress?

En Hedu’Anna

A crater on Mercury is named after En Hedu’Anna, a Sumerian priestess [1] of the Moon in Ur a Sumerian city. She lived in 2354 BCE and is considered to have been both an astronomer and mathematician. However, experts debate if the writings attributed to En Hedu’Anna are actually formulated by her. She was appointed to her position by her father Saragon of Akkad and was powerful enough to order works or poetry to be executed on her own behalf. In modern times, there has been considerable debate about the authorship of her works due to the fact that she has been celebrated as the earliest known named author in world history. For many, however, she is the genuine author of the works and she became a preeminent figure of the feminist movement of the 70’s. [2][3] More than two thousand years later appeared the first known woman astronomer in the western world,Aglaonike of Thessaly,who was famous around 200 BCE for her ability to predict moon eclipses. Quoted in the works of Plutarch as an astronomer, she was also said to have been a sorceress having the ability to control the moon.[4]

Are we really ready to conceive that during more than two millennia, what the female gender had been only able to produce as a footprint in astronomy (a science that has accompanied mankind since the very beginning of civilization and before times, albeit in other names and terminologies) was two women that history cast doubt on the achievements of the first and the second who are remembered mainly by belonging to a group of sorceresses called the ‘Witches of Thessaly’ and by a Greek proverb making reference to Aglaonice's alleged boasting: "Yes, the Moon obeys Aglaonice". Didn’t Socrates the founder of western philosophy describe Aglaonice and her followers in the Socratic dialogue Gorgias by Plato as the Thessalian enchantresses, who as they say brought down the moon from heaven at the risk of their own perdition? Or more bluntly put by Plutarch"Thoroughly acquainted with the periods of the full moon when it is subject to eclipse, and, knowing beforehand the time when the moon was due to be overtaken by the earth's shadow, she imposed upon the women, and made them all believe that she was drawing down the moon.”

[1]En Hedu’Anna(PDF) [2]En Hedu’Anna Wikipedia [3]Hidden Astronomy


It would take half a millennia more of human struggle to understand the heavens before history finally recognized a woman who would undeniably mark her passage in the arena of illustrious astronomers. Between 350 and 370 AD Hypatia, [4] the daughter of the philosopher Theon, was born and lived in Alexandria, a province of Egypt and a part of the Eastern Roman Empire. Compared to the preceding examples, her life was intense and dramatic and rather well documented. Among her accomplishments is the construction of numerous astrolabes and hydrometers. She was known to be wise and tolerant to Christians who she taught despite being a pagan. Among her notable students was the Greek Synesus, Bishop of Ptlolemais in ancient Lybia. Hypatia gained considerable political influence both among Christians and Pagans.[5] An enthusiastic Neo-Platonist, her commentary on Apollonius of Perga’s treatise on conic sections has not survived. However, part of a commentary on Diophatus Aritmetica survived having been integrated into the text of Diophantus. Considered by some as a universal genius, Hypatia was most probably more of a unique teacher as the description by Socrates of Constantinople,the Christian historian and a contemporary of Hypatia is very telling, ‘she who made such attainments in literature and science, so as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time’. Having gained entrance to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner that she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not infrequently appeared in public in the presence of the magistrates.[6] Neither did she feel abashed at being in an assembly of men for all the men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue, admired her more. Hypatia was murdered in an extremely gruesome way by an angry Christian mob and though the murder itself was politically motivated and not religious, it shocked the empire and ended the non written rule that philosophers were untouchable (* Source Wikipedia) during public unrest. Despite the fact Hypatia was a beacon of tolerance, her death worsened the situation between Christians and Pagans. Centuries after her death, she was a figure of reference for many, becoming even the base of the legend of Saint Catherine in the middle ages. In the nineteenth century, her legend was used by the neo-Helenism (a movement that romanticised the ancient Greeks) so it is not surprising that this astonishing woman was adopted in the twentieth century by the feminist movement and that her name still raises passion to this day.

[4] Hypatia Britannica [5] Hypatia (Tragedy) [6] Hypatia In History

Another void in female historical achievements in astronomy occurred before an uncertain story came to light in the historical records.

A woman astronomer who lived during the late tenthcentury, Fatima de Madrid,was the daughter of the Arab scholar, astronomer, chemist and mathematician, Maslama al Majriti. Shespoke and wrote Arabic, Spanish, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. She is said to have written treatise on mathematics and astronomy, most notably “The corrections of Fatima”. Despite the many discussions on the internet and the inclusion of her name among famous female astronomers, her very existence is contested. If she had indeed existed, she would have been an unorthodox character for the time period and if not, the reference to her as a real person could be more of a mistake than an intentional fraud. An interesting paper of Núñez Valdés Juan tries to determine if her whole character was an invention and who she was under the premise that she really existed. [7]

[7] Fatima de Madrid

Hypatia [Fact & Fiction]

Sophia Brahe

The sister of the famous Danish Astronomer Tycho Brahe, Sophia Brahe has an uncertain date of birth as some sources attribute the year 1556 while others 1559. She was united with her brother in their love of science against their parents who did not judge science as a noble enough activity for the aristocracy to engage in. At the age of ten, she was already helping her brother with the observatory work.[8] During this time period, common occurrence meant she was prevented from studying atuniversity because of her gender. She was trained by Tycho in horticulture and chemistry but he discouraged Sophia from studying astronomy thinking that despite the qualities she possessed in observation, she lacked the necessary understanding of astrology which at that time was linked to astronomy. But a determined Sophia studied on her own via German books or by using her own money to pay for the translation of Latin books. In the following years, Sophia assisted her brother in many key observations and if much of the work of Tycho Brahe was passed down to his no less famous pupil Johannes Kepler, the work in which Sophia assisted Tycho would be the groundwork of Sir Issac Newton.

[8] Sophia Brahe

Maria Cunitz

At latitude 14.5 and longitude 350.9 in western Eistla region on Venus lies the 48.6 km diameter Cunitz crater named after a Silesian astronomer, Maria Cunitz. A citizen of the Holy Roman Empire, two dates are generally given for her date of birth, either 1604 or 1610. Married at the early age of 13, her first husband died only three years after their marriage. Maria remarried the physician Elie de Loewen who had an interest in and studied astronomy. Her second husband encouraged Maria even before their marriage in 1630 to pursue astronomy. Together they made observations of Venus and Jupiter during the years 1627 and 1628. Maria’s areas of study included medicine, mathematics, poetry, music, ancient languages, history and painting. These events in the life of Maria unfolded during one of the most devastating wars in human history, the Thirty Years War which lasted from 1618 until 1648, mostly fought within the Holy Roman Empire where it claimed between 4.5 and 8 million lives. Maria and her husband found refuge in the Cistercian Convent of Olobok where she undertook to work on a simplification of Kepler’s Rudolphine tables. Urania propitia became the most well known and influential work of Maria Cunitz which she privately published at her own expense. Despite her intellectual capacities and due to the limitations placed on women accessing academic spheres during that time, Maria had to communicate with her fellow scholars by using her husband’s name.

Maria Margaretha Kirch

Maria Margaretha Kirch [9] mathematician and astronomer had a remarkable life. Very often these outstanding women who ultimately proved not only could they equal the intellectual capacities of their male counterparts but sometimes surpass them, were lucky to be surrounded by people, friends or family who were permeable to progressive ideas in terms of science and gender equality and Maria Margaretha Kirch did not escape the rule. Born on the 25 February 1670 near Leipzig (Panitzsch), her father was a Lutheran minister who believed that she deserved the same education as boys. Though she lost both her parents at the early age of thirteen, her brother in law and the well-known astronomer Christoph Arnold, who was a neighbor, provided Maria with a general education. As she had a keen interest in astronomy, she first became the apprentice and then the assistant of Arnold, albeit unofficially. While sharing the family life of Arnold, she met the most famous astronomer of Prussia, the German mathematician and astronomer Gottfried Kirch. Being 30 years older than Maria did not deter Gottfried from marrying her [10] in 1696 and from their union were born four children, all of whom were taught and trained in astronomy. Maria and her husband moved to Berlin where Gottfried was appointed by Freiderick III as his astronomer. Germany had a tradition of allowing women to participate in observational sciences so the situation was merely better regarding a prototype of gender equality or at least a feeble attempt at it as between the years 1650 and 1710, fourteen percent of the scientists in astronomy in Germany were woman. The Holy Roman Empire furthermore had exceptional female astronomers like Maria Cunitz or Maria Clara Eimmart. Maria worked with her husband as his assistant to produce calendars and ephemerides; they later collected weather information for navigation and calendars. The evenings were dedicated to observing the sky and this she did as her husband’s assistant each night for a decade. Maria discovered the comet (C/1702 H1) during one such observation. She went on to publish in her own name her observations on the Aurora Borealis, on the conjunctions of Saturn and Venus (1709) and on the approaching conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 1712. When presented to the court of Prussia where Maria was to explain her observations of sunspots, the president of the Berlin Academy, Gottfried Von Liebniz of Sciences said about her, "There is a most learned woman who could pass as a rarity. Her achievement is not in literature or rhetoric but in the most profound doctrines of astronomy... I do not believe that this woman easily finds her equal in the science in which she excels... *(Source Wikipedia) “Despite a gold medal from the Royal Academy of sciences of Berlin, Maria Kirch was not able to assume the position her husband held as calendar maker at the Royal Academy of Science because they were overly frightened that she would be an example to other women. During her career, Maria suffered the inequity and discrimination displayed towards her gender despite occupying posts like Master Astronomer at Krosigk Observatory. She worked under her own son as an assistant when he was appointed as an observer at the academy observatory in Berlin. Things may have been different if Maria had accepted a proposition of the Russian Czar, Peter the Great to work for him as an astronomer with her son but Maria did not accept the offer. This extremely talented and knowledgeable woman in her time broke many barriers but there were still so many left.

[9] Maria Margaretha Kirch [11] Kirch Massive science

Jeanne Dumee

Born in 1660, Jeanne Dumee was a French astronomer who studied science, arts, languages and classicism and married an amateur astronomer and at the age of thirty,published a set of astronomical tables. Jeanne Dumee was the author of ‘Entretiens sur l’opinion de Copernic touchant la mobilite de la terre’ (Conversations on Copernicus’s opinion on the Movement of the Earth).[12] She wrote her observation of Venus and Jupiter in an effort to explain the correctness of the Copernican and Galilean theories of Earth movement.Dumee was even more notable as she wrote and conveyed the feminist preoccupations of her time and used her own example to encourage women of the time not to underestimate their intellectual capacities.*

* Dumee The Myth, the Fraud and Her Lost Voice!

[12] Astronomer & Women

Maria Clara Eimmart

Maria Clara Eimmart born in 1676 was a German Astronomer, designer and engraver, trained by her father who was passionate about astronomy and who had invested the bulk of his revenue in the acquisition of astronomical instruments and the erection of a private observatory. She was married in 1706 tothe pupil and successor of her father, Johann Henrich Muller who was rapidly taken by the family’s burning passion for astronomy [13] despite initially teaching physics at the gymnasium of Nuremberg. Sadly Maria died in childbirth one year after her union with Muller. Some sources apparently claim that Maria published a work under her father’s name (which is a recurring reference in the lives of past women scientists so that one cannot dismiss the possibility of such an occurrence) but she would be better remembered for her exact astronomical illustrations. Maria produced some 350 illustration of the Moon phases which were so accurate that they eventually became the basis of a new lunar map. Some of these illustrations still survive to this day.

* Link The Marginalian: Celestial splendor from a forgotten woman who broke the bounds of her time.

[13]Astronomical Art

Nicole Reine Lepaute

Daughter of the valet in the service of the royal family, Nicole Reine Lepaute, was born in Paris in 1723. The sixth child of nine she was a precocious child who was said to devour any books she could put her hands on from the library. Contrary to many of the preceding examples, she did not come from a family actively engaged in astronomy. She married Jean Andre Lepaute in 1749, a royal clockmaker who became famous all across Europe for the excellency of his work. With her husband’s help and expertise, she suggested and participated in the construction of an extremely precise astronomical clock, which was presented to the French Academy of Sciences. The clock was inspected and approved by French Astronomer Jerome Lalande. Although she was highly praised for the work she accomplished on the clock, her authorship was not recognised. She was later recommended by Lalande to team up with the French geophysicist and mathematician astronomer Clairaut to work out very accurate predictions of the return of Halley’s Comet. They succeeded in predicting when the comet would cross the perihelion for the first time. Their calculation predicted that the comet would return on April 13, 1759 and was out by only one month as the date the comet returned was March 13 of the same year. Once again her work was not acknowledged by Clairault which in return upset Lalande. She was admitted as an honorary member to the Scientific Academy of Beziers, a considerable feat for the time period. She worked on solar eclipses and calculated with Lalande ephemerides of the transit of Venus; here too it is impossible to say how much of the work done was effectively done by her and sources vary in their interpretation. However, Lalande never stopped to encourage her and praise her merits.[14] Humanity celebrated her achievements by naming a lunar crater after her as well as the asteroid 7720 Lepaute.

[14] Nicole-Reine Etable de Labrière Lepaute

10 Famous Women Astronomers

Caroline Lucretia Herschel

If the path of Caroline Lucretia Herschel [12] was made less problematic due to the work of past female German pioneers in astronomy, she still dwelt in a sphere dominated almost exclusively by men. She was the youngest sister of astronomer William Herschel and his lifetime collaborator, and she established some extraordinary firsts which will shine on as an example for any future generation of future astronomers. She was the first woman to receive a salary as a scientist (50 pounds per year). For the first time in history, a woman was published in the Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society. She was rewarded a gold medal for Science by the King of Prussia, a year before her death on January 9, 1848 at the age of 97. Caroline Hershel did not enter into the astronomical world driven by a burning passion but rather to help her brother when he turned his interest to astronomy. William Herschel, the discoverer of Uranus, was firstly a music teacher and an organist. Caroline fought for her integration on several fronts as she had not been favoured by nature, she had typhus and it impaired her growth as she never grew over 1 m 30; the situation was complicated by the fact that the illness left her also partly blind in the left eye. Her family concluded that she would never marry. Her mother thus considered that Caroline needed only the most elementary education and she would fare better in the world if trained as a house servant. Her father, Issak Herschel who was an Oboist (musicians who play the Oboe or any instruments of this musical instrument family) was not of this opinion and during the absence of her mother, provided Caroline with some education. Following the death of her father,Caroline joined her brother in Bath thus escaping the rule of a recalcitrant mother who let her go. At first she learned to sing and later joined her brother’s musical performances while running William’s household. Refusing to sing for any other conductor other than her brother, she followed his path when he became more interested and focused in astronomy. A bit bitter as described in her own journal "I did nothing for my brother but what a well-trained puppy dog would have done, that is to say, I did what he commanded me."[13] The work of Caroline in the field took time to grow into a genuine interest but it did so indeed and very soon she achieved discoveries in her own right and grandly improved the working methods of her brother, making it quicker, more accurate and precise. In a world when even men were rarely paid for scientific achievements, she received a salary from the Crown. Caroline went on to discover several comets and independently discovered Messier 101, an Andromeda galaxy companion. She also discovered 3 nebulae and compiled two astronomical catalogues. She received the gold medal for science from the King of Prussia as well as being rewarded by the Royal Astronomical Society with a gold medal for her work on a catalogue of nebulae. This feat would only be repeated by a woman in modern times when in 1996, Vera Rubin was presented with the medal. Caroline died in Hanover on January 9, 1848. The Astronomical community honoured her by naming the open clusters NGC 2360 and NGC 7789 as well as asteroid 281 Lucretia after her name.

Wang Zhenyi

In 1994 the International Astronomical Union named a crater on Venus after a woman who wrote these lines,

It's made to believe,

Women are the same as Men;

Are you not convinced,

Daughters can also be heroic?

Believer in equality between men and women Wang Zhenyi* [15] was born in 1768 and was a scientist of the Qing Dynasty. Wang Zhenyi had for her teacher in astronomy both a grandfather who was also an ex governor of Fengchen and Xuanhua District, and also a grandmother who taught her poetry while her father instructed her in mathematics, geography and medicine. However she was mainly self taught. Skilled in archery and martial art which she was taught by the wife of a Mongolian general, Wang shines as one of the few exceptions of an accomplished women in Imperial China, she even taught mathematics and astronomy in which she excelled, to male students. She described her views of celestial phenomena in articles like “Disputes of the procession of the Equinoxes” or “Disputes on longitudes and stars” as well as “The explanation of a Lunar Eclipse”.

Wang Zhenyi died at the age of 29 in 1797 leaving no children. She would be remembered for describing the plight of the commoners and women labourersas well as portraying in her poems and the corruption and disparity between the rich and poor during this pre modern era in which she lived. She said that "when talking about learning and sciences, people thought of no women, women should only do cooking and sewing, and that they should not be bothered about writing articles for publication, studying history, composing poetry or doing calligraphy." Men and women "are all people, who have the same reason for studying."

* The prolific life of Wang Zhenyi, autodidact, astronomer, and poet

[15] Wang Zhenyi By Devang Mehta

Caroline Herschel Gresham College

Madam Hevelius

From antiquity until the very end of the eighteenth century, women tried to slowly inscribe their achievements in the history of Astronomical Science, some with great success like the German astronomer Elisabeth Catherina Koopmann-Hevelius [16] who was born in 1647 and is considered to be one of the first female astronomers. Did not the great French astronomer Francois Arago say of her,“A complimentary remark was always made about Madam Hevelius, who was the first woman, to my knowledge, who was not frightened to face the fatigue of making astronomical observations and calculations”. Our modern times would recognize the value of her work on a catalogue of 1564 stars and their position by naming a minor planet and a crater on Venus after her.

This catalogue was a joint venture with her husband,the famous astronomer Johannes Hevelius;she completed and finished it after his death. The interest of Catherina in astronomy came before she had met her husband, but would have this interest have lead to any achievement without the notoriety of her husband? The strange realities of these periods allowed a man like Johannes Hevelius, an astronomer of international repute, to marry Catherina when she was only 16 when he was a man of 52. At the closure of the eighteenth century in 1799, the French astronomer Marie Jeanne de Lalande established a catalogue of 10,000 stars, while the daughter of Maria Margarethe Kirch, the German astronomer Margaretha Kirch, barely escaped anonymity being overshadowed by the reputation of her father, mother and even less famous but male brother. The year 1789 was best known for the French Revolution but it was also the year that Louise Du Plerry was to become the first female Professor at the Sorbonne university in France and who despite the fear that astronomy would be a subject too difficult for women, initiated and ran a highly successful open astronomy course for women. The Kirch’s would certainly mark their presence in the astronomy of the eighteenthcentury as another one was issued from this prolific family of astronomers. Christine Kirch, who introduced the art of calendar making to the astronomer Johann Bode, was yet another child of Gottfried and Maria Margarethe Kirch. Born in 1696, she would not receive any salary for the first half of her professional life and until 1740; she received only small donations from the Berlin Academy of Sciences.However her merits were recognized when she was elevated to the status of emeritus in 1773 and later received a respectable salary from the academy. She continued to receive this remuneration until her death in 1782 without being obliged to work.

[16] Christine Kirch

Sifting the Myths

The 19th Century

Mariam al-Asṭurlābiyya

So many names have been forgotten by history, some have never been known and the excellency of their work lost or wrongly attributed to a male astronomer mainly because of the restrictions on the status of females in ancient and pre modern human societies. Some of these women’s stories are known to us from only one fragmented source and the ultimate injustice of history is when doubt is cast on the very existence of some like Fatima de Madrid who we discussed earlier. We know little of a Moorish noblewoman [17] born in 1190 whose name has been recorded by tradition and described as a renowned astronomer. In the tenth century would have lived a woman called Mariam al-Asṭurlābiyya in a region charged with all the mysteries which surround the city of Aleppo.With her father, she would have been taught the art of Astrolabe making (An ancient astronomical instrument which was used to work out several problems in astronomy) by the astrolabist and notable astronomer ,Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh Nasṭūlus, from the none less legendary city of Baghdad. The only record relating to her is that she was employed by the first Emir of Aleppo, Sayf al-Dawla, who reigned from 944 to 967. Beyond that, not even her name Mariam is certain and Astrulabiyya is a reference to her profession. Named after her is the main-belt asteroid 7060 Al-'Ijliya discovered in 1990.

In 1865 Jules Verne published his epic novel From the Earth to the Moon: A Direct Route in 97 Hours, 20 Minutes. It set a benchmark for generations of science fiction writers by having a glimpse of what a triumphing industrial revolution could achieve. Despite the legendary gallantry of the French people Jules Verne would not offer any member of the female gender a ticket in his projectile bound to the Moon and back butBut women on their own were slowly and successfully placing their mark on the future extrapolation of science. In 1818 Mary Shelley published her novel telling the story of Victor Frankenstein creating a new genre associating fact based science to fantasy in literature. Things were, slowly changing in the right direction.

As expected, the nineteenth century saw a rise in the amount of women who worked in the fields related to astronomy. Even for an astronomer of modern times to repeatsuch outstanding achievements as the ones Annie Jump Cannon is credited with, would be considered monumental. She manually classified around 350,000 stars, discovered 300 variable stars, one spectroscopic binary and created a bibliography of more than 200,00 stars. An extraordinary woman gifted and totally dedicated to her task. Annie Jump Cannon if using a magnifying glass was able to classify stars down to the ninth magnitude around 16 times fainter than the human eye can see. A member of the National’s Women party and suffragette,American astronomer Cannon was born on December 11 [18], 1863 in Delaware. The daughter of a ship builder and state senator, her passion was encouraged by her mother at an early age. Although having lost most of her hearing probably due to scarlet fever (the actual cause is not totally certain nor the time frame in which it happened) Cannon was noticed while at Wilmington Conference Academy (Modern Day Wesley College) and then sent to one of the best academic schools for women in the United States where she studied under Sarah Frances Whiting,one of the rare women American Physicists and astronomers at the time.Looking for access to a better telescope, Cannon joined Radcliff College which due to its proximity near to Harvard College allowed her to assist in the repeat of lectures by Harvard professors specially set up for the Radcliffe Young Women. This relationship would change her destiny.

[17] Meet Mariam [18] Cannon Biography

Annie Jump Cannon

Annie Jump Cannon

Cannon joined Harvard Computers in 1896 to help in the task of mapping and defining each star in the sky to a photographic magnitude of about 9 (photographic magnitude is the measure of the relative brightness of a star as imaged on a photographic film emulsion with a camera attached to the telescope). She very rapidly became indispensable. Calculations had already been initiated by a woman named Nettie Farrar of whom we only know that she left within a few months to be married. Cannon found a compromise between a complex classification championed by Antonia Maury and a simpler classification preferred by Williamina Fleming who was overseeing the project for Pickering.[19] Her system of stellar classification was adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1922 and is still being used to this day.

[19] Cannon By J.McBride

Theorist of Star Spectra

The accuracy of the work, patience, (often attributed to her due to her experience of being deaf) and meticulousness all contributed to make this courageous woman one of the most talented astronomers of her century, Pickering even said about her. “Miss Cannon is the only person in the world, man or woman, who can do this work so quickly”. Chosen as one of the greatest living American women in 1929 by the League of Women voters, Annie Jump Cannon received a flurry of honors. She received an honorary doctorate from both the University of Groningen and Oxford. She was the first woman to be the recipient of the Henry Draper Medal in 1931 and won the Ellen Richard prize in 1932. In 1935, she received an honorary degree from the University of Oglethorpe as well as becoming the first woman elected as an Officer of the American Astronomical Society.

We will speak more about Anna Cannon and the Harvard computers and go through the achievements of women in all space-related matters from the nineteenth century until modern times in part 2 of ‘Women in Space Matters’ in a future edition.

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