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Heroes of Space: Henrietta Swan Leavitt

7 May 2018, 02:00 UTC
Heroes of Space: Henrietta Swan Leavitt
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Thanks to Leavitt we now know that our Milky Way is just one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. Image Credit: Image Credit: American Institute of Physics
When discussing the history of astronomy there are a number of famous names that instantly spring to mind: Hubble, Herschel, Galileo and so on. All are of course deserving of the praise they are given for their contributions to astronomy, but there are many other names that go unrecognised, often being underappreciated for their own contributions. Perhaps there is none more so, at least with regards her impact on astronomy, than Henrietta Swan Leavitt. Where others in her time debated over our true place in the universe, her calculations paved the way to some of the most important discoveries of the 20th century, which answered that very question.
Leavitt was born on 4 July 1868 in Lancaster, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of a congregational minister and in her youth attended Oberlin College and the Society for Collegiate Instruction of Women (later Radcliffe College), the latter of which she graduated from with a bachelor’s degree in 1892. In the last year of college she had taken a course in astronomy ...

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