Henrietta Leavitt, a Pioneer in Astronomy: Background information when reading The Universe Within

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The Universe Within

Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People

by Neil Shubin

The Universe Within
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2013, 240 pages
    Oct 2013, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Henrietta Leavitt, a Pioneer in Astronomy

Neil Shubin describes The Universe Within as a "timeline" covering great events and processes of the history of the cosmos, the planet and life on earth. But his is also a timeline of scientists and scientific discoveries that enlarged our understanding of the world. One scientist who stood out for me was Henrietta Leavitt (1868-1921).

Henrietta Leavitt Leavitt became interested in astronomy while a student at Radcliffe College. After graduation, an illness robbed her of her hearing and she became a researcher at the Harvard College Observatory where she cared for telescopes and directed the photographic photometry department. Edward Charles Pickering was director of the observatory and hired his maid, Williamina Fleming, Leavitt and other women to do research. As Shubin explains, "What Pickering could never have planned was that from this team grew some of the greatest astronomers of the time, or any time for that matter. These women collectively became known as the Harvard Computers: they sat ...

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