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Stargazers: How a group of women scientists changed our understanding of the stars




This long-exposure photograph taken on April 23, 2015 on Earth Day shows Lyrids meteors shower passing near the Milky Way in the clear night sky of Thanlyin, nearly 14miles away from Yangon.
This long-exposure photograph taken on April 23, 2015 on Earth Day shows Lyrids meteors shower passing near the Milky Way in the clear night sky of Thanlyin, nearly 14miles away from Yangon.
YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images

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In the mid-1800’s several women worked as human computers at Harvard College’s Observatory.

Their job was to interpret what their male co-workers saw while looking through telescopes at the night sky. Later, with the advent of photography, the same women studied the stars captured on glass photographic plates. Their discoveries attracted worldwide acclaim and their classification system for stars is still used today. 

Dava Sobel’s book, “The Glass Universe” tells the story of this group of women who were pioneers in a field dominated by men. Now, decades later, the half-million plates they studied are being digitized for ongoing research.

Guest:

Dava Sobel, author of “The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars” (Viking, 2016) as well as a former science reporter for the New York Times