Thursday, February 5, 2015

Women “Computers” Explored the Cosmos – Part 9

After her graduation, during her travels, Annie had a bout of scarlet fever, losing some of her hearing. “She experienced a progressive loss of hearing that became very severe by middle age.”1

Annie was not happy with her life after her travels were over. “I am sometimes very dissatisfied with my life here. I do want to accomplish something, so badly. There are so many things that I could do if I only had the money. And when I think that I might be reaching and making money, and still all the time improving myself it makes me feel unhappy and as if I were not doing all that I can.”2

Annie did not settle for doing nothing. In 1894, after her mother’s death, Annie returned to the physics department at Wellesley to work as an assistant. At the same time, she took advanced astronomy classes at Radcliffe.

This led to her being hiring by Pickering to be one of his “computers.”

In 1916, The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association presented to Pickering a fellowship of which the income was to be awarded to a graduate of a woman’s college, who planned on working in astronomical research. The holder of the fellowship worked under the direction of Annie, “one of the only two women, outside of England, who have ever been made members of the Royal Society.”3

In 1932, Annie won the Ellen Richards Prize of the Association to Aid Scientific Research by Women. This prize emphasized “the best thesis, written by a woman, on a scientific subject – a thesis embodying new observations and new conclusions based on independent laboratory research.” She donated this prize of $1,000 to the American Astronomical Society to support women astronomers.

While working as a “computer” researcher, Annie traveled frequently charming audiences with her enthusiastic lectures on the field astronomy. Her enthusiasm inspired many to pursue careers in astronomy.

Next we’ll look at the discrimination she faced and overcame.

1Harry G. Lang, Bonnie Meath-Lang. Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary. (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1995), 63.

3The Journal of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, Volume X, September, 1916-June 1917. (Ithaca, N.Y.: The Association of Collegiate Alumnae, 1917) 341

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