The Glass Universe:
How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars
by Dava Sobel
QB34.5 .S63 2016
New Arrivals Island, 2nd floor
Were you fascinated by the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly? Or perhaps you liked the equally engaging Hidden Figures movie? If so, this book is for you. Even if you haven’t read or seen Hidden Figures, this book still comes highly recommended.
In brief, Hidden Figures tells the true story of a group of dedicated African American female mathematicians known as “human computers,” who used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers necessary to launch rockets and, eventually, astronauts into space. These women worked under less than desirable conditions in the racially segregated offices of Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory under Jim Crow.
The Glass Universe tells the true story of female “human computers” who, starting in the late 1800s, interpreted observations made by their male counterparts. Originally these women were family members of male astronomers, but eventually they were trained graduates from nearby women’s colleges who were paid a low wage. Over time, their role also changed from human computer to discoverer, categorizer, and innovator. These women worked in the field of astronomy, which had typically been inhabited by men, but, at the Harvard College Observatory, had been opened to women. In this book, you will learn about many important women, from more well-known figures Annie Jump Cannon, Williamina Fleming, and Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne to lesser known, but still quite important, ones. Sobel’s engaging text is bolstered by excerpts from letters, diaries, and memoirs.
Here are a selection of great lectures by Dava Sobel on the topics covered in this book:
Dava Sobel: The Women Who Rocked the Cosmos (1:03:52)
The Glass Universe (1:06:45)
The Glass Universe (47:53)
A Woman’s Place at the Harvard Observatory (1:07:04)