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Miss Leavitt's Stars: The Untold Story of the Forgotten Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe (Great Discoveries)

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Miss Leavitt's Stars: The Untold Story of the Forgotten Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe (Great Discoveries) Cover

ISBN13: 9780393051285
ISBN10: 0393051285
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

How big is the universe?

In the early twentieth century. Scientists took sides. One held that the entire universe was contained in the Milky Way galaxy. Their champion was the strong-willed astronomer Harlow Shapely. Another camp believed that the universe was so vast that the Milky Way was just one galaxy among billions — the view that would prevail, proven by the equally headstrong Edwin Hubble. Almost forgotten is the Harvard Observatory Computer — a human number cruncher hired to calculate the positions and luminosities of stars in astronomical Photographs — who found the key to the mystery. Radcliffe-educated Henrietta Swan Leavitt, fighting ill health and progressive deafness, stumbled upon a new law that allowed astronomers to use variable stars — those whose brightness rhythmically changes — as a cosmic yardstick.

Miss Leavitt's Stars both a masterly account of how we measure the universe and the moving story of a neglected genus.

Review:

"In the early 1900s the 'computers' at the Harvard University Observatory were women, paid 25 cents an hour to pore over photographic plates taken with the university's telescope and to catalogue changes in the sizes and locations of stars. Henrietta Leavitt was an unmarried clergyman's daughter who began working at the observatory soon after graduating from Radcliffe. The director quickly recognized her skill and made generous allowances for the long absences occasioned by her apparently delicate health and family problems. New York Times science writer Johnson (Strange Beauty) relates that Leavitt's singular contribution to astronomy came when she recognized that cyclical changes in the size of Cepheids, giant variable stars, could be correlated with their luminosity. Once luminosity was known, a star's distance from Earth could be calculated. Leavitt wasn't interested in pushing her discovery to its logical conclusion, but other astronomers quickly grasped the ramifications for calculating the size of the Milky Way and the universe. In recent years, Leavitt has joined Rosalind Franklin in receiving long overdue recognition. Scant documentation exists for Leavitt's life aside from correspondence with the observatory, so readers shouldn't be surprised to discover that this excellent book is more about the search to measure the universe than about Leavitt's life. Nevertheless, it's a fine tribute to a remarkable woman of science. 10 illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Esther Newberg. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Johnson's elegantly written tribute to a pioneering astronomer is highly recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"Johnson...was obviously drawn to Leavitt and her work many years ago, and he has written about it with penetrating intelligence." New York Times

Review:

"Unfortunate in life, Miss Leavitt is very fortunate in her biographer." Scientific American

Synopsis:

A forgotten heroine of science and how she solved one of the crucial mysteries of the universe.

Synopsis:

How big is the universe? In the early twentieth century, scientists took sides. One held that the entire universe was contained in the Milky Way galaxy. Their champion was the strong-willed astronomer Harlow Shapley. Another camp believed that the universe was so vast that the Milky Way was just one galaxy among billions--the view that would prevail, proven by the equally headstrong Edwin Hubble.

Almost forgotten is the Harvard Observatory "computer"--a human number cruncher hired to calculate the positions and luminosities of stars in astronomical photographs--who found the key to the mystery. Radcliffe-educated Henrietta Swan Leavitt, fighting ill health and progressive deafness, stumbled upon a new law that allowed astronomers to use variable stars--those whose brightness rhythmically changes--as a cosmic yardstick. Miss Leavitt's Stars is both a masterly account of how we measure the universe and the moving story of a neglected genius

Synopsis:

At the beginning of the twentieth century, scientists argued over the size of the universe: was it, as the astronomer Harlow Shapley argued, the size of the Milky Way, or was there more truth to Edwin Hubble"s claim that our own galaxy is just one among billions?

The answer to the controversy'"a 'yardstick' suitable for measuring the cosmos'"was discovered by Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who was employed by the Harvard Observatory as a number cruncher, at a wage not dissimilar from that of workers in the nearby textile mills. Miss Leavitt"s Starsuncovers her neglected history, and brings a fascinating and turbulent period of astronomical history to life.

About the Author

George Johnson, an award-winning New York Times science reporter, is the author of several books, most recently A Shortcut Through Time and Strange

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Melwyk, June 8, 2008 (view all comments by Melwyk)
This brief biography is an excellent look at a woman who was held back by society, but was still able to make great strides in astronomy. The author makes it clear that there was not much biographical information to work with, but is able to present what there is in a manner which realistically places Leavitt's work in context. Much of the book deals with Leavitt's intellectual life; the work which absorbed her and the role her discoveries played in future developments in astronomy. Her realization that stars could be measured by their luminosity (this is explained much more clearly and lucidly by Johnson!) affected the research and the conclusions that the "real", or male, scientists were able to reach. A fascinating book about Leavitt and about her social and intellectual context.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780393051285
Subtitle:
The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe
Author:
Johnson, George
Publisher:
W. W. Norton & Company
Subject:
General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Astronomy
Subject:
Astronomy - Universe
Subject:
Star Observation
Subject:
Astronomy -- United States -- History.
Subject:
Women astronomers - United States
Subject:
Astrophysics & Space Science
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Series:
Great Discoveries
Publication Date:
20050617
Binding:
Hardcover
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
10 illustrations
Pages:
176
Dimensions:
8.28x5.74x.70 in. .65 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Astronomy » Cosmology
Science and Mathematics » Astronomy » General
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » General

Miss Leavitt's Stars: The Untold Story of the Forgotten Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe (Great Discoveries) Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$13.50 In Stock
Product details 176 pages W. W. Norton & Company - English 9780393051285 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In the early 1900s the 'computers' at the Harvard University Observatory were women, paid 25 cents an hour to pore over photographic plates taken with the university's telescope and to catalogue changes in the sizes and locations of stars. Henrietta Leavitt was an unmarried clergyman's daughter who began working at the observatory soon after graduating from Radcliffe. The director quickly recognized her skill and made generous allowances for the long absences occasioned by her apparently delicate health and family problems. New York Times science writer Johnson (Strange Beauty) relates that Leavitt's singular contribution to astronomy came when she recognized that cyclical changes in the size of Cepheids, giant variable stars, could be correlated with their luminosity. Once luminosity was known, a star's distance from Earth could be calculated. Leavitt wasn't interested in pushing her discovery to its logical conclusion, but other astronomers quickly grasped the ramifications for calculating the size of the Milky Way and the universe. In recent years, Leavitt has joined Rosalind Franklin in receiving long overdue recognition. Scant documentation exists for Leavitt's life aside from correspondence with the observatory, so readers shouldn't be surprised to discover that this excellent book is more about the search to measure the universe than about Leavitt's life. Nevertheless, it's a fine tribute to a remarkable woman of science. 10 illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Esther Newberg. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Johnson's elegantly written tribute to a pioneering astronomer is highly recommended."
"Review" by , "Johnson...was obviously drawn to Leavitt and her work many years ago, and he has written about it with penetrating intelligence."
"Review" by , "Unfortunate in life, Miss Leavitt is very fortunate in her biographer."
"Synopsis" by , A forgotten heroine of science and how she solved one of the crucial mysteries of the universe.
"Synopsis" by , How big is the universe? In the early twentieth century, scientists took sides. One held that the entire universe was contained in the Milky Way galaxy. Their champion was the strong-willed astronomer Harlow Shapley. Another camp believed that the universe was so vast that the Milky Way was just one galaxy among billions--the view that would prevail, proven by the equally headstrong Edwin Hubble.

Almost forgotten is the Harvard Observatory "computer"--a human number cruncher hired to calculate the positions and luminosities of stars in astronomical photographs--who found the key to the mystery. Radcliffe-educated Henrietta Swan Leavitt, fighting ill health and progressive deafness, stumbled upon a new law that allowed astronomers to use variable stars--those whose brightness rhythmically changes--as a cosmic yardstick. Miss Leavitt's Stars is both a masterly account of how we measure the universe and the moving story of a neglected genius
"Synopsis" by , At the beginning of the twentieth century, scientists argued over the size of the universe: was it, as the astronomer Harlow Shapley argued, the size of the Milky Way, or was there more truth to Edwin Hubble"s claim that our own galaxy is just one among billions?

The answer to the controversy'"a 'yardstick' suitable for measuring the cosmos'"was discovered by Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who was employed by the Harvard Observatory as a number cruncher, at a wage not dissimilar from that of workers in the nearby textile mills. Miss Leavitt"s Starsuncovers her neglected history, and brings a fascinating and turbulent period of astronomical history to life.
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