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Pickering's Wedge

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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.
16 years 4 months ago #32806

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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.
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16 years 4 months ago #32808

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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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16 years 4 months ago #32809

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Replied by Maddad on topic Re: Pickering's Wedge

It was both, Kerry.
16 years 4 months ago #32810

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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
16 years 4 months ago #32811

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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.
16 years 4 months ago #32812

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Replied by voyager 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.


Well it sounds like a book that needs writting and since you guys are writters in search of a book it looks like fate has linned up nicely :)
My Home Page - www.bartbusschots.ie
16 years 4 months ago #32817

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Replied by Jared Macphester on topic Re: Pickering's Wedge

Check out Miss Leavitt's Stars.

Ahhh the good old days!

JMP
16 years 4 months ago #32818

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Replied by pmgisme on topic Re: Pickering's Wedge

What makes you guys think that sex-discrimination is a thing of the past.

It was YOU who completely forgot Agnes Mary Clerke's centenary this year.

Not a single commemoration in Ireland for the greatest historian of Science ever.

Most of you probably never heard of her.

How many of you heard of that other great Cork woman, the Botanist Ellen Hutchins.

We in Ireland ten to forget about our great scientists altogether !

There are dozens of them.

Don't blame the past for present neglect.

Peter.
16 years 4 months ago #32832

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Replied by JohnONeill on topic Talk on Agnes Clerke

Hi,
Agnes Mary Clerke is not forgotten. The Irish Astronomical Society will hold a talk on Monday, Mar. 19th 2007 entitled
"An Astronomical Centenary: Agnes Mary Clerke (1842-1907)"
by Dr. Mary Bruck.
Mary is a professional astronomer, historian of science and a IAS honourary life member.

The venue is Ely House, Ely Place, Dublin 2.
More details on irishastrosoc.org under meetings

John
16 years 4 months ago #32835

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Replied by pmgisme on topic Re: Pickering's Wedge

Thanks John,

Dirdre Kelleghan mentioned that lecture a few months back.....and Mary Bruck's book.

She also mentioned that there is a memorial to Agnes in Skibbereen.

I work in Cork City with some Skibbereen people.

When I asked them where the memorial was...you have guessed it...they never heard of Agnes !"

Peter.
16 years 4 months ago #32837

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  • johnflannery
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  • IFAS Astronomer of the Year 2004
  • IFAS Astronomer of the Year 2004
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Replied by johnflannery on topic Re: Pickering's Wedge

Mary Bruck gave that same talk at the Connacht Star Party this year so it was topical for her centenary.

A book worth reading by Susan McKenna-Lawlor is "Whatever Shines Should be Observed" ... all about the Irish female astronomers who made major contributions to science.

I'd also highly recommend Mary Mulvihill's "Ingenious Ireland" which covers many Irish scientists and their endeavours.

I highlighted the Third Earl of Rosse's bicentenary in 2000 (born in 1800) and there was nayer a mention of it even in Birr itself!!! Sheesh!!!

It's a strong statement to say most people on the forum have never heard of Agnes Mary Clerke and/or other Irish scientists. I'd dispute that.

atb,

John
John Flannery ( aurorawatcher - at * gmail - dot * com ... remove hyphens/asterisks/spaces for email)
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16 years 4 months ago #32845

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Replied by Maddad on topic Re: Pickering's Wedge

What makes you guys think that sex-discrimination is a thing of the past. It was YOU who completely forgot Agnes Mary Clerke's centenary this year.

It is exactly because contributions by women were ignored in the past that few people are aware of them today.
16 years 4 months ago #32850

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