- Henrietta Swan Leavitt
name = Henrietta Swan Leavitt
caption = Henrietta Swan Leavitt
July 4 1868
December 12 1921
Henrietta Swan Leavitt (
July 4 1868– December 12 1921) was an American astronomer, and the deaf[cite web|url=http://www.mada.org.il/website/html/eng/2_1_1-31.htm|title=Henrietta Swan Leavitt, A deaf, female scientist—over 100 years ago!|accessdaymonth=18 May|accessyear=2007|publisher=Bloomfield Science Museum, Jeruselem] daughter of a Congregational churchminister. [cite news|url=http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0705/p15s01-bogn.html|title=Before computers, there were these humans...|publisher=Christian Science Monitor|author=Gregory M. Lamb|date=July 5, 2005|accessdate=2007-05-18] She was born in Lancaster, Massachusettsto an old Massachusetts Puritan family who had settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early part of the seventeenth century. (The family name was originally spelled Levet or Levettin early Massachusetts records.) She attended Oberlin College, and graduated from Radcliffe College(then called the Society for the Collegiate Instruction for Women) with an A.B. degree in 1892.
Leavitt began work in 1893 at
Harvard College Observatoryas one of the women "computers" brought in by Edward Charles Pickeringto measure and catalog the brightness of stars in the observatory's photographic platecollection. (In the early 1900s, women were not allowed to operate telescopes. [ [http://www.exploratorium.edu/origins/hubble/people/supernovas.html Exloratorium note] ] ) She noted thousands of variable stars in images of the Magellanic Clouds. In 1908 she published her results in the "Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College," noting that a few of the variables showed a pattern: brighter ones appeared to have longer periods. After further study, she confirmed in 1912 that the variable stars of greater intrinsic luminosity—actually Cepheid variables—did indeed have longer periods, and the relationship was quite close and predictable.
This relationship provided an important yardstick for measuring distances in the
Universe, if it could be calibrated. One year after Leavitt reported her results, Ejnar Hertzsprungdetermined the distance of several Cepheids in the Milky Way, and with this calibration the distance to any Cepheid could be determined.
At the time, it was not clear that millions of (what we now call) galaxies were actually outside of the Milky Way. Their distance could not be measured until a tool existed. Cepheids were soon detected in other galaxies such as the
Andromeda Galaxy(notably by Edwin Hubblein 1923-4). Cepheids were an important part of the evidence that galaxies are far outside of the Milky Way. Our picture of the universe was changed forever, largely because of Leavitt's discovery.
Leavitt worked sporadically during her time at Harvard, often sidelined by health problems and family obligations. But by 1921, when
Harlow Shapleytook over as director of the observatory, she was head of stellar photometry. She succumbed to cancer by the end of that year and was buried in the family plot at Cambridge Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"Sitting at the top of a gentle hill," writes George Johnson in his biography of Leavitt, "the spot is marked by a tall hexagonal monument, on top of which (cradled on a draped marble pedestal) sits a globe. Her uncle Erasmus Darwin Leavitt and his family are also buried there, along with other Leavitts. A plaque memorializing Henrietta and her two siblings who died so young, Mira and Roswell, is mounted directly below the continent of Australia. Off to one side, and more often visited, are the graves of Henry and
Awards and honors
asteroid 5383 Leavittand the Leavitt crater on the Moonare named in her honour.
* Four years after her death, the Swedish mathematician
Gösta Mittag-Lefflerconsidered nominating her for the 1926 Nobel prize in physics, and wrote to Shapley requesting more information on her work on Cepheid variables, offering to send her his monograph on Sofia Kovalevskaya. Shapley replied, suggesting that the true credit belonged to his "interpretation" of her findings. She was never nominated, and the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously. [Johnson, pp.118-9] [ [http://membership.acs.org/c/chicago/WCC/leavitt.html ACS bio] ]
*cite book | author=Johnson, George | title=Miss Leavitt's Stars: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe | publisher=New York: W.W. Norton & Company | year=2005 | id=ISBN 0-393-05128-5
* Lorenzen, Michael (1997). "Henrietta Swan Leavitt." In "Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary". Edited by Barbara and Benjamin Shearer. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 233-37. ISBN 0-313-29303-1.
* [http://www.astrosociety.org/education/resources/womenast_bib02.html#3h Bibliography] from the
Astronomical Society of the Pacific
* [http://cwp.library.ucla.edu/articles/leavitt/leavitt.note.html Periods Of 25 Variable Stars In The Small Magellanic Cloud.] Edward C. Pickering, March 3, 1912; credits Leavitt.
* [http://membership.acs.org/c/chicago/WCC/leavitt.html Henrietta Swan Leavitt: a Star of the Brightest Magnitude] ACS Bio with several links
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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Henrietta Swan Leavitt — (* 4. Juli 1868 in Lancaster, Massachusetts; † 12. Dezember 1921 in Cambridge, Massachusetts) war eine US amerikanische Astronomin. Für Astronomie interessierte sie sich bereits am College. Durch … Deutsch Wikipedia
Henrietta Swan Leavitt — Henrietta Leavitt Henrietta Swan Leavitt (Massachusetts, 4 de julio de 1868 – 12 de diciembre de 1921) fue una astrónoma estadounidense. Leavitt estudió las estrellas variables Cefeidas, cuyo brillo varía a periodos regulares, en el Observatorio… … Wikipedia Español
Henrietta Swan Leavitt — Henrietta Swan Leavitt. Henrietta Swan Leavitt (4 juillet 1868, Lancaster, Massachusetts 12 décembre 1921, Cambridge, Massachusetts) était une astronome américaine renommée pour son travail concernant les … Wikipédia en Français
Henrietta Swan Leavitt — (4 de julio de 1868 – 12 de diciembre de 1921) fue una astrónoma estadounidense. En el Observatorio del Harvard College, estudió las estrellas variables Cefeidas, cuyo brillo varía a periodos regulares. Descubrió y catalogó estrellas variables en … Enciclopedia Universal
Leavitt , Henrietta Swan — (1868–1921) American astronomer Henrietta Leavitt was born the daughter of a Congregational minister in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Her interest in astronomy was aroused while she was at Radcliffe College (then the Society for the Collegiate… … Scientists
Leavitt, Henrietta Swan — ▪ American astronomer born July 4, 1868, Lancaster, Mass., U.S. died Dec. 12, 1921, Cambridge, Mass. American astronomer known for her discovery of the relationship between period and luminosity in Cepheid variables (Cepheid variable),… … Universalium
Leavitt, Henrietta Swan — (1868–1921) American astronomer … Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors
Henrietta Leavitt — Henrietta Swan Leavitt Henrietta Swan Leavitt (* 4. Juli 1868; † 12. Dezember 1921) war eine US amerikanische Astronomin. Sie wurde am 4. Juli 1868 in Massachusetts geboren. Für Astronomie interessierte sie sich bereits am College. Durch eine… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Henrietta Leavitt — Henrietta Swan Leavitt Henrietta Swan Leavitt. Henrietta Swan Leavitt (4 juillet 1868, Lancaster, Massachusetts 12 décembre 1921, Cambridge, Massachusetts) était une astronome américaine reno … Wikipédia en Français
Henrietta Leawitt — Henrietta Swan Leavitt Henrietta Swan Leavitt. Henrietta Swan Leavitt (4 juillet 1868, Lancaster, Massachusetts 12 décembre 1921, Cambridge, Massachusetts) était une astronome américaine reno … Wikipédia en Français