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Project PHaEDRA

Wolbach Library
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old)
Science, Social Studies, Visual Arts, Arts
Smithsonian Staff
Wolbach Library

Project PHaEDRA is an initiative by the Wolbach Library at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in collaboration with many partners, to catalog, digitize, transcribe, and enrich the metadata of over 2500 logbooks and notebooks produced by the Harvard Computers and early Harvard astronomers. Our goal is to ensure that this remarkable set of items, created by a remarkable group of people, is as accessible and useful as possible.


Questions about our collections? Feedback about educational materials? Email: samantha.correia@cfa.harvard.edu

Materials Compiled by: Sam Correia and Peggy Wargelin


Project PHaEDRA's collections

 

Williamina Fleming: Discoveries and Biographical Resources

<p><strong>This collection highlights the work of astronomer Williamina Fleming, who worked at the Harvard College Obervatory. </strong><strong>Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming</strong> (May 15, 1857 – May 21, 1911) was a Scottish-American astronomer. During her career, she helped develop a common designation system for stars and cataloged thousands of stars and other astronomical phenomena. Among several career achievements that advanced astronomy Fleming is noted for her discovery of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horsehead_Nebula" title="Horsehead Nebula">Horsehead Nebula</a> in 1888.</p> <p></p> <p><br><br>These online resources include biographies, videos, images, research, and articles. These resources can be used as an introduction into the life of Fleming and her work. We hope that these materials will paint a portrait of a woman who was instrumental to the field of astronomy. For more information, <a href="https://library.cfa.harvard.edu/phaedra/fleming">view her biography </a>at the Wolbach Library, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics website. </p> <p></p> <p>keywords: <br>Harvard Computers, astronomy, female astronomers, history of science, women in STEM, Project PHaEDRA, John G. Wolbach Library, Center for Astrophysics<br><br><br><br></p>
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The Science of Henrietta Swan Leavitt

<p>This collection explores the discoveries and methods of American astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt.  She worked at the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) as a “computer”, examining glass photographic plates in order to measure and catalog the brightness of stars. This work led her to discover the relationship between the luminosity (brightness) and the period of brightening/dimming of Cepheid variables (stars that have a distinct brightness and dimming period). Her discovery provided astronomers with the first “standard candle” with which to measure the distance to faraway galaxies and paved the way for modern astronomy's understanding of the structure and size of the universe.  <br><br>Follow the steps throughout the collection to determine the ways that  Leavitt and the other Harvard Computers identified variable stars. In these resources, you'll find images of glass plate photographs that the Computers used for their calculations, as well as videos, quiz questions, and images of Henrietta Leavitt. For more information about Leavitt's life, view the information tab on the first three resources. <br></p> <p></p> <p>For more web resources, check out our other collection: <a href="https://learninglab.si.edu/q/ll-c/qqXikk5s1yijR91U#r/21038">Henrietta Swan Leavitt Web Resources</a>. </p> <p></p> <p></p> <p>Keywords: Harvard Computers, astronomy, female astronomers, history of science, women in STEM, Project PHaEDRA, John G. Wolbach Library, Center for Astrophysics<br></p>
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Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin and the Components of Stars

<p>Cecilia Payne-Gapsochkin who worked with spectroscopic slides from the Plate Stacks to study the chemical make-up of giant stars, thus discovering that they are made of mainly Hydrogen/Helium and not, as Henry Norris Russell, then the acknowledged "expert" thought, made of the same materials as Earth. Her submitted thesis became the very first in Astronomy at Harvard and, since the then-director of the Physics Department, Theodore Lyman, would not accept such a work from a woman, the Department of Astronomy at Harvard came into being. Despite Norris's original lack of acceptance of Cecilia's findings, the Director of the Yerkes Observatory, Otto Struve, declared the thesis to be "the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy."</p> <p><br><br>These online resources include biographies, videos, images, research, and articles. These resources can be used as an introduction into the life of Payne-Gaposchkin and her work. You can even find her entire thesis in these collections. <br><br></p> <p><br><br>keywords: Harvard Computers, astronomy, female astronomers, history of science, women in STEM, Project PHaEDRA, John G. Wolbach Library, Center for Astrophysics<br><br></p>
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