Quiet Heroes of Science
For my first Extension I have chosen to research about a woman named Annie Jump Cannon. She was a renowned astronomer who lived from 1863-1941. She was a true pioneer for women everywhere and greatly contributed to the field of astronomy. This is an essay about her accomplishments as a Quiet Hero of Science.
Annie Jump Cannon was born in Dover Delaware on December 11, 1863. As a young child and throughout her life she was not able to hear as well as other people. Despite this, she led a relatively normal life. She discovered her interest in astronomy at a very young age when her mother taught her the constellations. She pursued these interests at Wellesley College where she studied physics, astronomy, and even how to make spectroscopic measurements. After graduating from Wellesley, she returned home. Also, unknown to most, she was an expert in the new field of photography. She loved to travel so she went to Spain with her new box camera and took pictures. Later, when she returned home, she put all of her photos into an album. This was then published and titled “In the Footsteps of Columbus.”
By this time you might be a little confused. “Isn’t this paper supposed to be about an Astronomer and not a photographer.” Well, you are correct. I was just giving some background information. Any ways, by this time Annie was beginning to grow unsatisfied with the way her life was turning out. She had started off wanting to be an astronomer but instead she was being recognized as a photographer. So after her mother died in 1894, Annie returned to Wellesley as an assistant to the physics department and became a special student of astronomy at Radcliffe. In 1896 she was part of America’s first x-ray experiments and began her work at the Harvard observatory. Now, this is where her astronomy career really begins!
She was hired by Professor Edward Charles Pickering of the Harvard observatory. Her job was to catalogue variable stars and classify the spectra of southern stars. She and her woman colleagues were called computers because they handled star classification and complex data reduction. Her salary was a mere 50 cents an hour! This tells me that she must’ve loved her job to do that much work for only 50 cents an hour. Although Annie’s work was extremely difficult and relatively new, she was a natural. In 1923 she was voted as one of the 12 greatest living women in America. Now that’s quite an accomplishment.
Annie received many awards for her contributions to the scientific field of astronomy. She was given an...