astronomy

History Poem – December 11 – Birth of Annie Jump Cannon

Collage of stars and star formations layered with an older woman's face and the words to the poem

the ether swirled behind her eyes
“It’s a girl,” the midwife said
lamplight flickered in the window
the new mother smiled, “My daughter will
count the stars,
call them each by name
one by one.”

My history poem today is in honor of the birth of Annie Jump Cannon on December 11, 1863. Ms. Cannon became famous as an astronomer who pioneered the Harvard Classification System for stellar bodies – a system that is still in use today. She was also a pioneer for women at Harvard and in astronomy. She manually classified an astounding 350,000 stars in her lifetime – a number that is still a record. Her career in astronomy lasted more than 40 years and later included numerous honorary doctorate degrees from top universities – often from universities that didn’t admit women in the 1880’s when she was attending college. The Annie Jump Cannon Award is still presented by the American Astronomical Society each year to an outstanding early career female astronomer.

I wish everyone a good weekend – stay safe and healthy out there!