Yesterday we focused on Nobel-an eponym that has entered the world of science courtesy of the man who invented dynamite (only one of hundreds of patents he held) and whose will created the prize that bears his name.
Today, however, we turn away from the eponym and focus on the opposite effect, when a scientist works tirelessly to advance her science only to have her name lost to history. Today is the birthday of Annie Jump Cannon, known variously as one of ‘Harvard’s Computers’ or one of ‘Pickering’s Harem’. She is credited along with Edward Pickering as the creator of the Harvard Classification Scheme which remains the foundation of today’s stellar classification system.
One of a dozen women hired by Pickering to do the hard work of identifying, classifying and cataloging hundreds of stellar objects, Cannon distinguished herself as the brightest of the bright and rose finally to a full professorship before her death in 1941. While no eponym celebrates her name, her contribution (along with the remaining group at Harvard) as well as the countless women throughout history to impact science, math, politics and all human endeavor, today we remember and say Happy Birthday. A true gifted scientist and true pioneer, gone but not forgotten. As in most human endeavors, nameless and tireless women support the work of more celebrated men with little or no credit. Newton said of his work: ’If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ Today we acknowledge that many of those giants were and are women.
Image curently in the public domain courtesy New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper.
Today’s post is for hb.