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Mae Jemison, born on October 17, 1956 is an extraordinarily talented woman.

As a NASA astronaut, she was the first African American woman in space. Before her time with NASA she had entered Stanford University at the age of 16 and four years later had degrees both in chemical engineering and African American studies. Jemison then went to Cornell University to complete a medical degree, following it up with some time as a general practitioner and then a medical officer with the Peace Corps in West Africa.

After leaving NASA, among her other accomplishments, she was for several years a professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth Collge and the director of the Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in Developing Countries. She continues to advocate science education and encourage minority students.

Jemison is also a trained dancer and in this video The Cosmic Dance she explains why she thinks dance was helpful for her as an astronaut.
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Henrietta Hill Swope was born on October 26, 1902 in St
Louis, Missouri, USA. She got her master's degree in astronomy while working with Harlow Shapley, the director of the Harvard College Observatory.

Swopes's most important work was on variable stars, in particular Cepheid variables. Careful measurements of the variability of these stars made it possible to determine their distance. (This understanding was based on the work of Henrietta Leavitt who had previously worked at the Harvard College Observatory.)

In 1952, Swope went to California to work with Walter Baade on the variable stars detected by the new 200-inch Hale Telescope at Mount Palomar. It was owned by the Carnegie Institution. The largest telescope in the world (at that time) made it possible to use variable stars in other galaxies to determine their distances. She spent the rest of her career working there.

Retirement didn't end her contributions to astronomy. She had family money, and donated a large sum to the Carnegie Institution to develop optical astronomy facilities in the southern hemisphere. The Swope Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile is still in use. When she died, she left most of her estate to support Las Campanas.


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American astronomer Eleanor Frances “Glo” Helin was born on November 19, 1932. For over thirty years, she pursued astronomy and planetary science, first at the California Institute of Technology and then NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). In this photo Eleanor Helin is holding the discovery announcement of near-Earth asteroid 2100 Ra-Shalom, which she discovered.

At Cal Tech she worked with Bruce Murray to start the Lunar Research Lab to study the Moon in preparation for lunar landings. From lunar craters, she went on to initiate an asteroid survey from Palomar Observatory. The program discovered thousands of asteroids plus a number of comets. Of particular interest to her were near-Earth asteroids. Having moved on to work at JPL, during the 1980s she encouraged global interest in asteroids and organized the International Near-Earth Asteroid Survey.

After 25 years of the Palomar survey, she went for upgraded technology in her Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT). It operated from JPL from 1997-2007, and it was the first automated observing program. As the principal investigator she was given the JPL Award for Excellence and her team received a Group Achievement Award from NASA.

Helin herself is credited with the discovery or co-discovery of nearly 900 asteroids plus several comets.
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Eileen Collins, the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle and the first to command a shuttle, was born on November 19, 1956.

In addition to being an Air Force test pilot and flight instructor, she has degrees from four different universities. This includes two masters degrees, one in operations research and one in space systems management. Collins was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1990. She flew four shuttle missions, including one that involved a docking with Russia's Mir space station.
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Annie Jump Cannon, astronomer and suffragette, was born on December 11, 1863 in Dover, Delaware, USA.

Oh! Be a fine girl (guy)--kiss me! This is the traditional mnemonic for the star classification: OBAFGKM. Cannon devised the system and classified nearly a quarter of a million stellar spectra for the Henry Draper catalogue. She said that astronomical spectroscopy made it "almost as if the distant stars had acquired speech."

More about the life of Annie Jump Cannon . . .
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American astronomy writer and editor Mary Helen Wright was born in Washington, D.C. on December 20, 1914. She obtained a Bachelor's degree and later a Master's degree in astronomy from Vassar College. After working as an assistant at a number of observatories, including Mount Wilson (1937), Vassar College Observatory (1937) and the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. (1942-1943), she became a freelance author and editor in the 1940s.

Her writing covered a wide range of scientific topics, the two books Sweeper in the Sky: The Life of Maria Mitchell (1949) and Explorer of the Universe: A Biography of George Ellery Hale (1966) undoubtedly being her best known works.

[Society for the History of Astronomy]


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Mary Somerville was an exceptional individual. Although self-educated and - as a woman - barred from higher education and membership in scientific societies, her books sold well and were used as textbooks for many decades.

She was born in Jedburgh, Scotland on 26 Dec 1780. Her family's idea of education for girls was needlework and drawing, not mathematics. In fact, Mary excelled at needlework and was an accomplished artist, but mathematics she learned by listening in on her brother's lessons, and from books. Her flair and love for mathematics led her later into the physical sciences.

Somerville taught herself French, and the first book she had published was an English translation and her own exposition of Laplace's work on celestial mechanics. It's a science classic, a highly mathematical discussion of the movements of bodies in the Solar System. She went on to write books that became textbooks on astronomy and on physical geography. Both the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Geographical Society gave her awards, even though, as a woman, she would not have been allowed to attend their meetings.
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English astronomer and scholar Mary Acworth Evershed, née Orr, was born at Plymouth Hoe, Devon, England on January 1, 1867.

The Orr family moved to Australia in 1890. Mary had developed an early interest in astronomy, and when she discovered that there was no useful guide available to the southern stars, she prepared An Easy Guide to the Southern Stars with the encouragement of the leading Australian astronomer John Tebbutt (who also wrote a short preface to the book).

In 1895 the family moved back to England, and the following year 1896 Mary met British fellow astronomer John Evershed during an eclipse expedition to Norway. The couple married in 1906, and in the same year John was offered a post as assistant astronomer at Kodaikanal Observatory in India. He accepted the position and John and Mary moved to India in 1907. An active solar observer, Mary travelled to numerous solar eclipses, including Norway in 1896, Algiers in 1900, Western Australia in 1922, the North Riding of Yorkshire in 1927 and Greece/Aegean Sea in 1936. She was a member of the British Astronomical Association from 1895 and directed the BAA Historical Section from 1930 to 1944.

Mary Evershed was also a distinguished scholar who wrote not only on astronomical topics, but also on Dante. Her 1914 book Dante and the Early Astronomers helped clarify Dante's science, as accurate as it could be given existing knowledge.

The minor planet 12628 Ackworthorr was discovered and named after Mary Evershed.

Credit: the Society for the History of Astronomy
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American astronomer Anne Sewell Young was born on January 2, 1871 in Bloomington, Wisconsin. In an era when it was difficult for women to pursue higher education – especially in the sciences – she obtained not only bachelor and masters degrees, but also earned a PhD in astronomy from Columbia.

Young worked at Mt Holyoke College in Massachusetts from 1899 to her retirement in 1936. She was a professor of astronomy and the director of the John Payson Williston Observatory. Highly regarded by her students, many of them also became astronomers.

In addition to her work as an educator, she was also a busy astronomer. Variable stars were her special interest and she was one of the original eight who founded the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), still a respected astronomical organization. Young contributed over 6500 variable star observations during her membership and served as the AAVSO's president in 1922-24..


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Janet Akyüz Mattei was born in Bodrum, Turkey on January 2, 1943.

The memorial of her life by the American Association of variable Star Observers (AAVSO) told of their love affair:
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Janet Akyüz Mattei (1943-2004) and the AAVSO were meant to be part of each other's lives. In 1969, Janet was teaching and working towards a Master of Science degree in her native Turkey when she learned about the summer research program under Dr. Dorrit Hoffleit at Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket. That year Janet was introduced to variable stars and the AAVSO — and her future husband, Michael Mattei — on Nantucket: variable stars in her research with Dorrit, and Mike and the AAVSO through its meeting held there in October. A brilliant student and young scientist of great promise with an outgoing and enthusiastic personality, Janet was hired as AAVSO Director Margaret Mayall's assistant in 1972. When Margaret decided to retire, Janet was selected by the AAVSO Council in October 1973 to succeed Margaret as Director, a position she held for over 30 years until her death on March 22, 2004.

The Society for the History of Astronomy writes:
Quote
Mattei went on to serve as director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) from 1973 to 2004 where she actively encouraged the participation of amateur astronomers in variable star observing. Her duties at AAVSO included collecting together observations of variable stars made by amateur astronomers from around the world, as well as organising programmes of observing between professional astronomers and amateur observers. Among the many awards she won were the Leslie Peltier Award of the Astronomical League (1993) and the Jackson-Gwilt Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1995). The minor planet 11695 Mattei, discovered on 22 Mar 1998 during the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search (LONEOS), from the Anderson Mesa Station of the Lowell Observatory, was named in her honour.
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