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Henrietta Leavitt the Overlooked Pioneer of Distance
Henrietta Leavitt the Overlooked Pioneer of Distance

Thu, 29 Feb

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Mycenae House

Henrietta Leavitt the Overlooked Pioneer of Distance

By Paul Wright Almost exactly 100 years ago (October 1923) Edwin Hubble established that Andromeda was a galaxy in its own right, separate and very distant from our Milky Way. It is incredible to think that prior to that, there had been a vigorous debate about whether separate galaxies existed

Time & Location

29 Feb 2024, 19:00 – 21:00

Mycenae House, 90 Mycenae Rd, London SE3 7SE, UK

About the Event

Almost exactly 100 years ago (October 1923) Edwin Hubble established that Andromeda was a galaxy in its own right, separate and very distant from our Milky Way. It is incredible to think that prior to that, there had been a vigorous debate about whether separate galaxies existed at all or whether nebulae and other mysterious objects all formed part of our Milky Way.

In making his historic discovery Hubble drew on principles established in the previous two decades by Henrietta Swan Leavitt. She had been employed at Harvard Observatory as a lowly ‘computer’. Not allowed to work as an astronomer she spent her short career examining and recording evidence from thousands of photographic plates. She nevertheless provided one of the great insights of twentieth century astronomy which paved the way to the measurement of the distances of incredibly distant objects. Largely overlooked in her lifetime (and long after) Leavitt, in common with other female pioneers such as Annie Cannon (also at Harvard) and Annie Russell (at Greenwich) made an inestimable contribution to astronomy which has only been recognized in recent years.

Paul Wright will examine Leavitt’s contribution and the context in which it was made.

Bio:

Paul spent his career – and continues to work – mostly in the areas of finance and economics having spent most of his career in the Bank of England and international institutions. He regrets the fact that he is not as diligent an observer as many in the Flamsteed Society…. but he takes a close interest in the science and history of astronomy and was stimulated to find out more about the remarkable Henrietta and colleagues during visits to the Wilson and Harvard observatories.

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