AAPT Abstract Archive

Abstract Information

  Session: Astronomy Paper
  Paper Type: Invited
  Title: Williamina Fleming and the Women "Computers" of Harvard College Observatory
  Meeting: 2017 Winter Meeting: Atlanta, Georgia
  Location: N/A
  Time: 3:30PM
  Author: Misty C. Bentz,, Georgia State University,
4044136082, bentz@astro.gsu.edu
  Co-Author(s): None
  Abstract: Women "computers" have a long history of important contributions to science and technology. In astronomy, the women computers of the Harvard College Observatory are recognized to have made numerous significant discoveries, but they received only partial credit, were paid less than male employees, at the time. The first woman "computer" at the Observatory was Williamina Fleming, a newly immigrated Scottish woman who was abandoned by her husband while heavily pregnant. Fleming became a housekeeper working for Edward Pickering, the director of the Harvard College Observatory. One day, Pickering famously declared that his maid could do a better job than his trained and educated male employees at the Observatory. This outburst from a frustrated Pickering in 1881 marked the beginning of Williamina Fleming's distinguished career in astronomy, which culminated in her election to the Royal Astronomical Society in 1906, the first woman from the United States to be so honored.
  Footnotes: None
  Presentation: bentz.aapt.pdf

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