American astronomer Margaret Walton Mayall was born Margaret Lyle Walton at Iron Hill, Maryland on January 27, 1902.

She graduated from Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1928, and worked as an astronomer at Harvard College Observatory from 1924 to 1954. She was also the director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) from 1949 to 1973, and it was here that she met fellow AAVSO member Robert Newton Mayall whom she married in September 1927.

In 1958 she received the Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy, which is presented annually by the American Astronomical Society to a woman resident of North America for distinguished contributions to astronomy.

She is possibly best remembered for her revising of Thomas William Webb’s ‘Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes’ (which originally appeared in 1859) prior to its republication by Dover Publications in 1962.

The minor planet 3342 Fivesparks, discovered on 27 Jan 1982 from Oak Ridge Observatory at Harvard, and which refers to the Mayall’s residence at 5 Sparks Street (hence Fivesparks) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was named in honour of Margaret and her husband Robert.

{Credit: Society for the History of Astronomy]

Mona Evans
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