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This Day in Goofery

December 11
1863: Birth of Annie Jump Cannon

As if the name Annie Jump Cannon is not cool enough, the woman was an astronomer. Annie Jump Cannon, Astonomer. Boo-yah! Star-gazer and trail blazer, she was nicknamed “Census Taker of the Sky” for classifying 230,000 stellar bodies. Working as one of “Pickering’s Harem,” under Edward Charles Pickering, Director of the Harvard College Observatory, she created the Harvard Classification Scheme, organizing stars based on their temperatures and dividing them into the spectral classes, O B A F G K M, leading to the delightful mnemonic, “Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me.”

Pickering hired women so he could get twice the staff for half the price. They earned between 25 and 50 cents an hour.

Here is a ready-made Wiki-list of her achievements.

- In 1925 she received the first honorary doctorate Oxford University ever awarded to a woman.
- In 1929 the National League of Women Voters listed her as one of the 12 “greatest living American women.”
- In 1931 she was awarded the Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.
- In 1932 she was awarded the Ellen Richards Prize.
- First woman to be elected an officer of the American Astronomical Society.
- In 1938 was named the William Cranch Bond Astronomer at Harvard.
- She classified more stellar bodies than any other person, male or female.
- The Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy has been awarded annually by the American Astronomical Society to a woman astronomer in North America since 1934.
- The lunar crater Cannon is named after her.
- Cannon Hall, a residence dormitory at the University of Delaware is named in her honor.

In another lifetime, the one in which I'm a mother, I'm naming my daughter after her.

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2 Responses to Oh be a fine girl, kiss me!

  1. Christina on January 5, 2013 at 5:30 am

    This is a fabulous story! I’m inspired.

    • Alexandra Jones on January 5, 2013 at 8:26 am

      Dear Christina,

      Only the fabulous are inspired by this story.

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