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Pickering's Wedge

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17 years 10 months ago #32806 by Maddad
Pickering's Wedge was created by Maddad
In 1881 the inaccuracies and disorganization of subordinates exasperated Professor Edward Charles Pickering. He turned the tedious job at the Harvard Observatory of searching through a quarter million photographic plates to a 23-year-old clerk and math calculator. It was repetitive and exacting work. This astronomy researcher found the Veil Nebula among the many plates, something nobody else before had the mental ability to pull off.

The researcher then noticed that the search method was not as efficient as it could be, and so invented a new method that is in use to this day. This new system classified stars a letter according to hydrogen content in their spectra.

Using this new research tool, the researcher then went on to discovered 10 novae, 310 variable stars, 58 other nebulae, classified 10,000 stars, discovered white dwarfs, in 1906 became a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of London, became the curator of the observatory collections, and editor of its publications. For the discovery of new stars, the Astronomical Society of Mexico awarded the Guadalupe Almendaro medal. In 1907, this researcher published a study of 222 variable stars discovered with the technique, and handpicked the dozens of mathematicians who would continue the work, calling them by the new term computers.

By any measure, this was a giant of astronomy. However, Professor Pickering took total credit for the discoveries; Pickering’s Wedge bears his name that he did not find. This was the 19th century, and Williamina Fleming was only Pickering’s female housekeeper who did not deserve his recognition.

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17 years 10 months ago #32808 by Kerry Stargazer
Replied by Kerry Stargazer on topic Re: Pickering's Wedge
I’m sorry Maddad but which is it?

The house keeper or the 23-year-old clerk and math calculator.

Chairman of Kerry Astronomy Club.
My Kung-Fu 's the best (Melvin Frohike X-Files)

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17 years 10 months ago #32809 by jeyjey
Replied by jeyjey on topic Re: Pickering's Wedge
Yes, the late 19th Century was certainly a low-point in the War of the Sexes.

(Contrast this to Caroline Herschel, who did get recognition for her efforts in the 1780's and 90's.)

-- Jeff.

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17 years 10 months ago #32810 by Maddad
Replied by Maddad on topic Re: Pickering's Wedge
It was both, Kerry.

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17 years 10 months ago #32811 by voyager
Replied by voyager on topic Re: Pickering's Wedge
It really is a very poor reflection on the men of those times that they could take credit for a woman's work like that and even get stuff named after them for work they didn't even do.

It's good to see that at least now some remember Williamina Fleming and her great work.

Bart.

My Home Page - www.bartbusschots.ie

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17 years 10 months ago #32812 by Maddad
Replied by Maddad on topic Re: Pickering's Wedge
Marie's my significant other. We were both really surprised to discover how badly Fleming had been shortchanged. Marie's got tons more education than I have - a bachelors, a couple of masters, and a PhD. Doesn't much compare to my trifiling associate. Yet we both aspire to write a science fiction book. After she found out about Fleming, she checked for biographies. There are lots of web pages giving a few hundred words on her, but there does not appear to be any biographies out there. Marie retires at the end of December, so we might start work on a biography on Fleming instead of the science fiction book. Right now it's just a thought, but I shake my head in amazment when I think of the story this woman has to tell.

She was married, but her husband left her when she was pregnant. She was desperate for work to feek her and the coming baby, so she took on work as Pickering's housekeeper. It's fascinating, but they died about the same time, and she never objected to his taking credit for her discoveries. There's just got to be a story in that somewhere.

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