The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars

By Dava Sobel
New from #1 New York Times bestselling author Dava Sobel, the -inspiring- (People), little-known true story of women's landmark contributions to astronomy

-A joy to read.- --The Wall Street Journal
Named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The Economist, Smithsonian, Nature, and NPR's Science Friday

Nominated for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or -human computers, - to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but soon the female corps included graduates of the new women's colleges--Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned from computation to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates.
The -glass universe- of half a million plates that Harvard amassed over the ensuing decades--through the generous support of Mrs. Anna Palmer Draper, the widow of a pioneer in stellar photography--enabled the women to make extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim. They helped discern what stars were made of, divided the stars into meaningful categories for further research, and found a way to measure distances across space by starlight. Their ranks included Williamina Fleming, a Scottish woman originally hired as a maid who went on to identify ten novae and more than three hundred variable stars; Annie Jump Cannon, who designed a stellar classification system that was adopted by astronomers the world over and is still in use; and Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne, who in 1956 became the first ever woman professor of astronomy at Harvard--and Harvard's first female department chair.
Elegantly written and enriched by excerpts from letters, diaries, and memoirs, The Glass Universe is the hidden history of the women whose contributions to the burgeoning field of astronomy forever changed our understanding of the stars and our place in the universe.


    REVIEW QUOTES
Praise for "The Planets" "["The Planets"] lets us fall in love with the heavens all over again." "The New York Times Book Review" "[Sobel] has outdone her extraordinary talent for keeping readers enthralled. . . . "Longitude "and "Galileo's Daughte"r were exciting enough, but "The Planets" has a charm of its own. . . . A splendid and enticing book." "San Francisco Chronicle" "An incantatory serenade to the Solar System." "Entertainment Weekly" "["The Planets"] combines masterful storytelling with clear, engaging explanations of the essential scientific facts." "Physics World" "A sublime journey. [Sobel's] writing . . . is as bright as the sun and its thinking as star-studded as the cosmos." "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" Praise for "Galileo's Daughter" "Sobel is a master storyteller. . . . She brings a great scientist to life." "The New York Times Book Review" "Innovative history and a wonderfully told tale." "Newsweek" Praise for "Longitude" "This is a gem of a book." "The New York Times" "A simple tale, brilliantly told." "The Washington Post Book World" "As much of a tale of intrigue as it is of science . . . A book full of gems for anyone interested in history, geography, astronomy, navigation, clockmaking, and not the least plain old human ambition and greed." "The Philadelphia Inquirer" "Intricate and delicate . . . No novelist could improve on the elements of Dava Sobel's "Longitude."" "Newsweek" Praise for "A More Perfect Heaven" "Ms. Sobel is an elegant stylist, a riveting and efficient storyteller, a writer who can bring the dustiest of subjects to full-blooded life poignant, in the case of Galileo; cautious but also loving, loyal and feisty in the case of Copernicus." "The New York Times" "Lively, inventive . . . a masterly specimen of close-range cultural history. Ms. Sobel certainly brings Copernicus to life, perhaps better than any other author. Ms. Sobel presents a thoroughly researched and eminently readable account of a major scientist who celebrated the sun yet lurks in the shadows." "The Wall Street Journal""
Praise forThe Glass Universe "Sobel shines a light on seven 19th- and 20th-century women astronomers who began as 'human computers, ' interpreting data at Harvard Observatory, then went on to dazzle...An inspiring look at celestial pioneers." People "An astronomically large topic generously explored." O, The Oprah Magazine "It takes a talented writer to interweave professional achievement with personal insight. By the time I finishedThe Glass Universe, Dava Sobel's wonderful, meticulous account, it had moved me to tears...Unforgettable." Sue Nelson, Nature "A compelling read and a welcome reminder that American women have long desired to reach for the stars. Bookpage "Sensitive, exacting, and lit with the wonder of discovery." Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author ofThe Sixth Extinction "This is intellectual history at its finest. Dava Sobel is extraordinarily accomplished at uncovering the hidden stories of science." Geraldine Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Chord and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March [Sobel] soars higher than ever before...[continuing]her streak of luminous science writing with this fascinating, witty, and most elegant history...The Glass Universeis a feast for those eager to absorb forgotten stories of resolute American women who expanded human knowledge." Booklist, Starred Review "Sobel knows how to tell an engaging story...With grace, clarity, and a flair for characterization, [she] places these early women astronomers in the wider historical context of their field for the very first time." Publishers Weekly, Starred Review Praise for The Planets "[The Planets] lets us fall in love with the heavens all over again." The New York Times Book Review "[Sobel] has outdone her extraordinary talent for keeping readers enthralled. . . . A splendid and enticing book." San Francisco Chronicle "An incantatory serenade to the Solar System." Entertainment Weekly Praise for Galileo's Daughter "Sobel is a master storyteller. . . . She brings a great scientist to life." The New York Times Book Review Praise for Longitude "This is a gem of a book." The New York Times "A simple tale, brilliantly told." The Washington Post Praise for A More Perfect Heaven "Ms. Sobel is an elegant stylist, a riveting and efficient storyteller, a writer who can bring the dustiest of subjects to full-blooded life." The New York Times "Lively, inventive . . . a masterly specimen of close-range cultural history." The Wall Street Journal"
Praise forThe Glass Universe "Sensitive, exacting, and lit with the wonder of discovery." Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author ofThe Sixth Extinction "This is intellectual history at its finest. Dava Sobel is extraordinarily accomplished at uncovering the hidden stories of science." Geraldine Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Chord and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March [Sobel] soars higher than ever before...[continuing]her streak of luminous science writing with this fascinating, witty, and most elegant history...The Glass Universeis a feast for those eager to absorb forgotten stories of resolute American women who expanded human knowledge." Booklist, Starred Review "Sobel knows how to tell an engaging story...With grace, clarity, and a flair for characterization, [she] places these early women astronomers in the wider historical context of their field for the very first time." Publishers Weekly, Starred Review Praise for The Planets "[The Planets] lets us fall in love with the heavens all over again." The New York Times Book Review "[Sobel] has outdone her extraordinary talent for keeping readers enthralled. . . . A splendid and enticing book." San Francisco Chronicle "An incantatory serenade to the Solar System." Entertainment Weekly Praise for Galileo's Daughter "Sobel is a master storyteller. . . . She brings a great scientist to life." The New York Times Book Review Praise for Longitude "This is a gem of a book." The New York Times "A simple tale, brilliantly told." The Washington Post Praise for A More Perfect Heaven "Ms. Sobel is an elegant stylist, a riveting and efficient storyteller, a writer who can bring the dustiest of subjects to full-blooded life." The New York Times "Lively, inventive . . . a masterly specimen of close-range cultural history." The Wall Street Journal"



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About the Hardcover

Publisher Viking
Publish date 12/06/2016
Pages 336
ISBN-13 9780670016952
ISBN-10 0670016950
Language English

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