Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Astro Women - Birthdays - 08/01/20 09:46 AM

Maria Mitchell - born on August 1, 1818 in Nantucket, Massachusetts - was a true pioneer woman. But she didn't brave a physical wilderness. Hers was the harder job of pioneering higher education for women. She was the first American woman to discover a comet, the first to be elected to scientific societies, and the first woman professor of astronomy.

Maria Mitchell

In her own words, America's first woman professor of astronomy tells of her meetings with the great and good of the nineteenth century. Maria Mitchell's sister Phebe collected excerpts from journals and letters to present a pot pourri of Maria's life, ideas and work.

Maria Mitchell - in Her Own Words

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 08/08/20 07:30 PM

Svetlana Savitskaya was born on August 8, 1948. She was a Soviet aviator who set several FAI world records as a pilot. (FAI is the Fédération aéronautique internationale - in English, the World aeronautical federation.) As a cosmonaut, she was the second woman in space, the first woman to carry out a spacewalk, and the first woman to fly into space twice.

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 08/12/20 08:56 AM

On August 12, 1919, Anglo-American astrophysicist Margaret Burbridge (nee Peachey) was born in Cheshire, England.

Margalit Fox's obituary in the New York Times:
She was considered one of the foremost astronomers in the world, long regarded as a trailblazer for women in the field.

Dr. Burbidge was the first woman to serve as director of the Royal Observatory, the storied British institution. She was also a contributor to the design of instruments carried aboard the Hubble Space Telescope and a recipient of the National Medal of Science, bestowed in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan.

“She has a huge imprint on the history of modern astronomy and cosmology and nuclear astrophysics,” George Fuller, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of California, San Diego, where Dr. Burbidge taught for many years.

Burbridge made notable contributions to the theory of quasars, to measurements of the rotation and masses of galaxies, and was the lead author on a groundbreaking paper describing how chemical elements are formed in the depths of stars through nuclear fusion. She was the first woman to be president of the American Astronomical Society.

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 08/20/20 05:54 AM

Margaret Hamilton – computer scientist and systems engineer – was born on August 17, 1936.

She was NASA's lead developer for Apollo flight software. This was way back in the 1960s when software development was in its infancy. She was a pioneer in the field and invented software engineering as an engineering discipline. The Apollo software was so successful, it was adapted for Skylab and the Space Shuttle.

She said about the Apollo software, “There was no second chance. We all knew that.”

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 08/26/20 04:09 AM

Sarah Frances Whiting was an American physicist and astronomer, born August 23,1847.

She was appointed by Wellesley College in Boston, Massachusetts as its first professor of physics in 1876. Invited to attend lectures given by Edward Pickering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she was inspired to start teaching a course on Practical Astronomy at Wellesley. She taught several astronomers including Annie Jump Cannon. Whiting helped with the establishment of the Whitin Observatory, of which she was the first director. The observatory is still in use at Wellesley College.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 09/12/20 03:40 PM

Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson was born on August 26, 1918. She was an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA. Her calculations of orbital mechanics were important for the success of the first and subsequent U.S. manned spaceflights. Her life featured in Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures, which was also - somewhat loosely - made into a movie.

These days there are computers to help out with complex calculations. But we have to remember that Johnson did all of it by hand. NASA was only just beginning to use computers. (Margaret Hamilton's pioneering work in software engineering didn't come until the Apollo program.)

Johnson died earlier this year, aged 101. I saw a delightful little mathematical tribute to her passing: She died in her prime.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 09/23/20 06:57 AM

Sophia Brahe was born September 22, 1556 at Knudstrup, Sweden (which was at the time was still Danish). She was the younger sister of Tycho Brahe. Coming from a noble family, both were ostracized for their scientific pursuits which were deemed inappropriate, especially for a noblewomen.

Sophia was a horticulturalist, but also educated in classical literature and chemistry. She was self-educated in astronomy, and frequently assisted her brother with his astronomical observations at his observatory Uraniborg. On one occasion she helped with the observations Tycho used to compute the total lunar eclipse of 8 December 1573.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 10/18/20 11:11 AM

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.

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 10/26/20 11:06 PM

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.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 11/19/20 03:46 PM

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.

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 11/20/20 04:45 PM

American astronomer Eleanor Frances 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.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 12/11/20 06:22 AM

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 Annie Jump Cannon
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 12/26/20 02:36 PM

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
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 01/03/21 10:30 PM

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.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 01/23/21 06:27 PM
Catherine Wolfe Bruce, born in New York City on January 22, 1816, was an amateur astronomer whose astronomical legacy was her patronage.

During the 1890s she made over 50 gifts to astronomy, including donating funds for the purchase of new telescopes for the Harvard College Observatory and Yerkes Observatory in the USA. But she also made a substantial grant to the Heidelberg-Königstuhl State Observatory in the city of Heidelberg, Germany. It enabled the observatory to obtain a telescope designed for the sole purpose of astrophotography. It's known as the Bruce double astrograph. Her gifts overall totalled more than 3/4 of a million dollars, which would be a tidy sum even today.

Her name lives on in several ways other than the telescopes. There is also Bruce Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in recognition of lifetime achievements and contributions to astrophysics. It's one of the most prestigious awards in the field. Asteroid 323 Brucia is named for her, as well as a Bruce crater on the Moon.

Posted By: Angie Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 01/23/21 06:57 PM
Amazing woman.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 01/30/21 10:13 PM
Beatrice Hill was born on January 27, 1941 in England as a world war raged. Her family moved to New Zealand after the war and that's where she grew up, the middle child of three sisters. Beatrice was a superb linguist, talented musician, good athlete, and excellent writer. However what really interested her was astrophysics. That wasn't offered at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, so as an undergraduate she studied mathematics, physics and chemistry, and then completed a master's degree.

She married Brian Tinsley, and they moved to Austin when he was offered a job at the University of Texas. However, she couldn't get a job, and being a faculty wife didn't suit her. Eventually, with great difficulty, she persuaded the University of Texas to accept her for a PhD. She had to teach herself the basics of astronomy before starting it, but got top grades in everything and completed the degree in record time.

Despite a growing reputation elsewhere, she continued to be ignored by the astronomy department in her own university. Finally, in 1975 she accepted Yale University's offer, leaving Texas to become Yale's first female astronomer professor.

Beatrice Tinsley was one of the great minds of 20th century astronomy. Her radical approach to galaxies and star populations was to consider them in an evolutionary sense. Her pioneering work, using data modelling, helped to lay the foundation for our understanding of galaxies. This in turn is essential to cosmology, because it relates to the origin and the future of the Universe. She was a leading expert in the field.

Sadly, her contribution to astrophysics was cut short by her death from cancer in 1981. Yet despite having entered the field late and her death at 41, her work output included around a hundred papers, most of them written solely by her. Her papers are still widely cited.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 02/10/21 11:10 PM
Retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson was born on February 9, 1960 in Mount Ayr, Iowa.

She earned a Ph.D in biochemistry from Rice University in Texas. Before becoming an astronaut candidate, she had worked as a research biochemist. During her time with NASA, she spent more time in space than any other NASA astronaut. (Her record is still unbroken.) Among all astronauts - and cosmonauts! - she has the record for the number of spacewalks by a woman and is fifth overall for time spent on EVAs. Whitson was also the first woman commander of the International Space Station (ISS).

Not all of her work with NASA was in space. She spent a few years as Chief Astronaut. Whitson was not only the first woman to hold this position, but also the first appointee who was not a pilot.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 02/13/21 10:25 PM
One of the most brilliant and prolific writers of the 19th/early 20th centuries was Agnes Mary Clerke. She was born in Skibbereen in County Cork, Ireland on February 10, 1842. She was the second child of three born to a talented mother and a father who was a keen amateur astronomer. The children were home-schooled, though when they moved to Dublin, Agnes's brother Aubrey studied astronomy and mathematics at Trinity College Dublin.

When the family spent several years in Florence, Agnes used the National Central Library to continue her self-education. She took notes from texts read in the original languages, ancient Greek, Latin, German, Italian and French. Upon her return to Britain, she was ready to start writing.

In all, Clerke published seven books, mostly related to astronomy. Her Popular History of Astronomy went to four editions and some reprints. Both professional astronomers and the public appreciated her work with its clarity, integrity and style. Clerke was also asked to write articles, both on astronomy and biography. She wrote regularly for the Edinburgh Review, Dictionary of National Biography, Encyclopaedia Britannica and occasionally for several other publications.

Clerke's final book was Problems in Astrophysics in which she used the depth of her understanding to describe open questions in astronomy, and consider how new observational technology might deal with them. The brilliance of the book moved the Royal Astronomical Society to elect her to honorary membership. (Women weren't allowed to be full members and no honorary memberships had been given to women for nearly seventy years.)

The lunar crater Clerke, located near the eastern shores of Mare Serenitatis is named in her honour.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 03/10/21 07:56 PM
Svetlana Gerasimenko, born on February 23, 1945 in the Ukraine, is a Soviet Tajikistani astronomer. When she started her PhD in astronomy at Kiev State University, she was fascinated by comets. After completing the Phd, she was offered a job at the Astrophysics Institute of Tajikstan Academy of Sciences, where she remained.

In an interview with the BBC she said
I decided that I would never be a teacher, because I saw how hard it was to teach. What iron nerves are needed. I decided to enter the physics department, nuclear physics, [which] was then very popular. But she did not pass the medical examination, due to problems with blood pressure. The requirements for applicants were as if they were not recruiting nuclear physicists, but astronauts. I didn’t think long and entered the Faculty of Astronomy. I've always loved looking at the sky. And I have never regretted my choice for a minute.

Interestingly, her one great discovery actually occurred in the first year of her PhD. She was the co-discoverer of comet 67P, along with her professor, Klim Churyumov. This was in 1969 on an expedition to observe comets, including one known to be visible. But they weren't expecting to discover any new ones. It was only when they returned to the university that an unexpected comet was discovered on Gerasimenko's photographic plates. Cool, yet not a really big deal.

But 35 years later, their old discovery became a Very Big Deal indeed.

In 2003, ESA – the European Space Agency – had a spacecraft ready to meet comet 46P/Wirtanen in the outer Solar System, and accompany it as it came into the inner Solar System and rounded the Sun. Unfortunately, a rocket failure meant the launch had to be postponed. That meant they wouldn't be able to catch up with 46P/Wirtanen. So the Rosetta spacecraft would instead be hunting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and travelling around the Sun with it.

Both Gerasimenko and her former colleague Churyumov were invited to the Rosetta launch in Kourou, French Guiana. The Ariane rocket which launched Rosetta can be seen in the background.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 03/11/21 09:18 PM
Carolyn Porco, a major star of planetary science and public outreach, was born in New York City on March 6, 1953. She's currently a Senior Research Scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado. However, her career goes beyond academia.

Porco was a member of the Voyager 2 imaging team when the spacecraft encountered Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989. A decade later she led the imaging science team for the Cassini mission to Saturn, and after that was on the New Horizons imaging team for Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. She serves on several important NASA advisory committees.

She's co-authored over 125 scientific papers. Besides doing the science, Porco also takes the science to the public, being very active in public outreach.

Among her many honors and distinctions, she was named by The Sunday Times (London) as one of 18 scientific leaders of the 21st century and put on Wired magazine's 2008 “Smart List: 15 People the Next President Should Listen To.”
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 03/12/21 09:46 AM
On March 6, 1937, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova was born in Bolshoye Maslennikovo, a village on the Volga River about 350 km northeast of Moscow.

She spent three days orbiting Earth strapped into a space capsule so primitive that no one could land in it. So how did the cosmonaut get home? That's part of the story of the first woman in space, on a solo flight twenty years before NASA sent America's first female astronaut, Sally Ride, into orbit on a Space Shuttle.

Valentina Tereshkova - the First Spacewoman
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 03/16/21 03:41 PM
On March 16, 1750, Caroline Herschel was born in Hannover, now part of Germany. She was an intelligent young woman trapped in domestic servitude by her mother. But her brother William rescued her, brought her to England, and trained her as a singer. After he discovered the planet Uranus, the two of them ended up forming a great partnership whose work revolutionized the study of astronomy. Caroline was the first woman to be credited for the discovery of a comet and the first woman in Britain to be paid as an astronomer.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Women - Birthdays - 03/21/21 08:29 AM
The women of Harvard Observatory worked hard for their meager wages. And the director wanted data processed, not theoretical work. Yet some of them made significant discoveries. One of the least known, but considered by some professional astronomers to be the most able, was Antonia Maury.

Antonia Coetana de Paiva Pereira Maury was born in Cold Spring, New York on March 21, 1866 into a highly intellectual family. Her maternal grandfather was John William Draper, physician, scientist and pioneer of photography. Henry Draper – doctor, professor and astrophotographer – was her uncle. Antonia's father was a well known naturalist.

Aged nine, with her father's encouragement, Antonia read Virgil in the original Latin. So it was no surprise that she graduated from Vassar College – where Maria Mitchell was one of her professors – with honors in physics, astronomy and philosophy.

She went to work at Harvard College Observatory, but she and the Director William Pickering didn't see eye to eye. Maury devised a star classification system that he said was too complicated. However Danish astronomer Ejnar Hertzsprung found it the only system that he could use for his study of stars. His work - and independently that of American astronomer Henry Norris Russell - led to what's now called the Hertzsprung-Russell (H-R) diagram. It's the key to understanding stellar evolution.

Hertzsprung felt that denying Maury's classification was “nearly the same as if a zoologist, who had detected the deciding differences between a whale and a fish, would continue in classifying them together.”
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