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The Glass Universe

society & culture

technology & future

The Glass Universe

Dava Sobel

What is the book about?

The book The Glass Universe (2016) is about the remarkable women who worked at the Harvard College Observatory in the late 1800s and early 1900s, using their keen intellect and perseverance to revolutionize our understanding of the universe. Through their meticulous work with glass plates of stars, they made groundbreaking discoveries about the nature of galaxies, stars, and the cosmos itself.

Who should read the book?

This book is a perfect read for individuals that are interested in astronomy, history, and women's empowerment. They enjoy learning about the contributions of women scientists and their impact on the field of astronomy.

About the Author:

Dava Sobel is an American writer and science enthusiast. She earned a degree in science from the State University of New York and worked as a science journalist for the New York Times. Sobel is known for her ability to make complex scientific topics accessible and engaging for the general public. She has received numerous awards for her work in science communication and has been a guest speaker at various universities and institutions.

Book Summary

Three Key Ideas - find more in our App!

Welcome to the world of The Glass Universe! In this fascinating book, Dava Sobel will take you on a journey through time and space, where you will learn about the incredible women who helped to pave the way for modern astronomy. Through their tireless efforts and groundbreaking discoveries, these remarkable women shattered the glass ceiling and revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos.

You will be transported back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, where you will witness the birth of the Harvard College Observatory and the pioneering work of its female staff. From the meticulous cataloging of stars to the discovery of new spectral classes, these women made countless contributions to the field of astronomy and forever changed our understanding of the universe.

Through Sobel's vivid storytelling and meticulous research, you will discover the challenges these women faced in a male-dominated field, and how they overcame adversity to make their mark on history. You will also gain insight into the scientific methods and technologies of the time, and how they paved the way for modern astronomy.

So join us on this incredible journey, as we explore the stars and uncover the stories of the women who helped to shape our understanding of the universe. The Glass Universe is a must-read for anyone who has ever looked up at the night sky in wonder and marveled at the mysteries of the cosmos.

Women's contribution to astronomy.

This key idea explores the role of women in advancing the field of astronomy. The author highlights the significant contributions made by women who worked as "human computers" at the Harvard Observatory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These women were hired to analyze astronomical data, a job that was considered menial and tedious at the time. However, they proved to be incredibly skilled and dedicated, and their work was crucial to the development of astronomy.

The author notes that women were attracted to astronomy because it was considered a "suitable" profession for women at the time. However, many of these women were highly educated and talented individuals who could have pursued other careers if they had been given the opportunity. Despite facing discrimination and being paid less than their male colleagues, these women persevered and made lasting contributions to the field of astronomy.

One of the most notable women mentioned in this key idea is Williamina Fleming. She was a Scottish immigrant who was hired by the Harvard Observatory in the 1880s to classify stars. She discovered the existence of white dwarf stars, which were previously unknown to astronomers. Her discovery paved the way for future research on these types of stars.

Another important woman in astronomy mentioned in this key idea is Henrietta Swan Leavitt. She discovered the period-luminosity relationship, which is a fundamental concept in modern astronomy. This relationship is used to measure the distance between galaxies and has helped astronomers map the universe.

Annie Jump Cannon is also highlighted in this key idea for her work in developing the stellar classification system. This system is still used today and has helped astronomers better understand the properties of stars.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin's discovery of the composition of stars is also mentioned in this key idea. She was the first person to suggest that stars were composed mostly of hydrogen and helium, which was a radical idea at the time.

Williamina Fleming's discovery of white dwarf stars.

The Glass Universe features Williamina Fleming's discovery of white dwarf stars as a significant contribution to the field of astronomy. Despite being a Scottish immigrant working as a maid for Edward Charles Pickering, the director of the Harvard Observatory, Fleming was hired to work as a human computer to analyze photographic plates of the night sky. It was through this work that she made her groundbreaking discovery of white dwarf stars by noticing stars that appeared fainter than others of similar color, which led her to suggest that they were smaller and closer to Earth. Fleming's discovery challenged the prevailing belief that all stars were of a similar size and brightness, paving the way for future discoveries in the field. Her story highlights the importance of providing opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds to contribute to scientific research and challenges traditional gender roles of the time. Fleming's lack of formal training did not prevent her from making groundbreaking discoveries, and her story is a testament to the power of curiosity in expanding our understanding of the universe.

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