Monica Reads is co-published by Manchester Ink Link and InDepthNH.org
The Glass Universe
(How the ladies of the Harvard Observatory took the measure of the stars) By Dava Sobel
MONICA READS, By Monica Drahonovsky
We all get a chance to look up at night and observe a magnificent view of the stars. Did you ever think about what they are made of or how distant they are from us and each other? We owe a lot to a group of wonderful women who spent their days looking at glass negatives that were made by scientists taking pictures of the night sky.
They were categorized by makeup, brightness and distance. In the late nineteenth century Harvard University astronomers took nightly picture, developed them on plates and during the day human computers studied and classified them. There are about half a million glass plates still cared for and studied at Harvard.
At first the women were spouses or sisters of the astronomers but soon there developed a group of women, some educated and schooled at the new women’s colleges, some not schooled but trained by the astronomers, and they were called computers.
When you read the book, you will be amazed at what they learned and shared with all astronomers. It was tedious and time consuming. You will learn how and why they did it. You will be fascinated by their personal stories. You will love this book and the real women of that time period and how they worked.
You will meet Williamina Fleming, an immigrant from Scotland who was hired as a maid and distinguished herself by finding ten novae and more than three hundred variable stars. You will love her story. Annie Jump Canon designed a stellar classification system that has been adopted by astronomers worldwide. The first department chair in 1956 at Harvard was a woman named Dr. Cecelia Payne. WOW.
This is a good read. It is interesting and celebratory for women who we would not know about unless Dava Sobel had researched and written about their extraordinary times. They really were called “computers” back in the day. The library in your area is a must to drop in today and pick up this book. Take the time to smile and befriend some very interesting women.\
Monica Drahonovsky reviews books for InDepthNH.org. Monica is known for her love of history and her lifelong love for reading. She has a bachelor’s degree in History, with a minor in English. “My years of reading for leisure and pleasure have given me the insight to read a book and analyze the author’s baggage, cargo and ability to write the language of his/her mind and utilize the gift of prose to educate and entertain the reader. Go get a book, read it and enjoy the adventure.” Contact Monica at firstname.lastname@example.org