The Glass Universe MOBI Ø The Glass Kindle -

The Glass Universe ➶ [Reading] ➸ The Glass Universe By Dava Sobel ➫ – 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 nigh In the mid nineteenth century the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators or human computers to interpret the observations their The Glass Kindle - 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 platesThe 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 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 became the first ever woman professor of astronomy at Harvard and Harvard's first female department chair.

10 thoughts on “The Glass Universe

  1. LillyBooks LillyBooks says:

    I wanted to love this book It has all the hallmarks of things I love strong woman intelligent women women in science astronomy a little known factoid of history etc This book is successful in the sense that Sobel has obviously done a lot of research into the facts and it able to relay them clearly while also plainly explaining the science However I found this book no than a recitation of those facts None of the characters seemed to have a personality and only a few had physical descriptions although there is a photo section We know almost nothing about most of the women outside of their education and work at the Harvard observatory Were they married? Did they have children? Other family members? What did their family members think of their work? Where they supported or demonized for stepping out of social norms at the time? Most distressing is that Sobel presents these women's work in a vacuum There is almost no discussion of wage disparity sexual harassment theft and degrading of their intelligential property and the general misogyny at the time Even if these ladies were lucky enough to live and work in an unlikely Victorian utopia without these problems shouldn't at least a paragraph have been devoted to explaining that anomaly? I read this immediately after reading Hidden Figures which excels at examining the work of those later female computers within the broader social contexts that history and women all women deserve

  2. B Schrodinger B Schrodinger says:

    The Hidden History of the Women Who Took the Measure of the StarsYou'd be forgiven if this book looked like a social history book of the struggles of female astronomers in the late 19th and early 20th Century It's not a social history at all even though it flouts itself on a social issue It's a scientific history and a fairly dry one at that which I'd guess would leave most of it's marketed audience high and dryDava Sobel recounts the history of the Harvard College University which happened to employ for that time a disproportionate amount of women especially in roles of calculating and cataloguing Even though they were underpaid and used for what others saw as busywork the women of the Observatory worked hard and worked well together The information provided to them photographs of the night sky on glass plates was analysed and the group found new facts about the stars through spectrum analysis and lead the world in the classification of stars and of finding variable stars A few of the women expanded upon this work with research of their own and had discoveries that transformed astronomy and paved the way for current stellar understanding They were integral to worldwide astronomical research at the time They were not working in isolation at all and the story revolves just as much around the men working at Harvard at the time and the benefactors that provided money for the running of the Observatory Dava Sobel gives a scholarly history that presents facts even from first hand sources such as correspondence and research papers on the work done at the Observatory Only until the last chapter is there any attempt at social commentary on the situation and this is brief But Dava does such a great job presenting the facts of the time in detail that it is not hard to read between the lines and make your own judgements on the social situations The book goes into some depth on astronomy and spectroscopy without any primers or help A reader without prior knowledge of these concepts may be lost about the significance meaning or need for the work that was being done An understanding of these concepts or the ability for some self research would be needed for a reader to successfully understand what is happening in the pages or to even have enough stamina to wade through all the facts It is not really a book for the absolute layperson and is certainly not a social history of these women or women in science in general I'll make a comparison to another book one on social history involving a woman 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' 'Lacks was purely a social history it told the story of Henrietta and her family and the standing of African Americans at the time and also the social implications of health care and medical research There was minimal science To me it was too social history 'The Glass Universe' would be at the opposite end of the spectrum a lot of science a lot of historical details very little if zero social commentaryI enjoyed the book though It bridged gaps in my knowledge between early astronomy and Hubble It gave me the names and histories of inspiring women scientists to introduce to others It gave me an understanding of how stellar evolution was first understood and how early spectroscopy was applied to astronomy

  3. Susanna - Censored by Susanna - Censored by says:

    This book covers not only the seminal work of the ladies of the Harvard Observatory from Annie Jump Cannon and Cecelia Payne on down but also its directors Edward Pickering director 1877 1919 and Harlow Shapley 1922 1951 Most time is given from the 1880s through the 1930s Some of the ladies of Harvard made great discoveries from astronomy's first true candle of relative distance the Cepheid variables to the stellar classification scheme that is still in use to name only two of the most importantIt is notable that women not only did the great grunt work of the Harvard Observatory which hired them in great numbers it was considered genteel work for graduates of the new women's colleges who were also less expensive to hire than men of the same ualifications but that women paid for much of itThe Harvard Observatory had two notable donors in the last uarter of the 19th century in the 20th much of their money came from the Rockefellers both women Mrs Draper chose to memorialize the work of her late husband Dr Draper whose private passion had been stellar photography he could afford it for he married an heiress and the Harvard Observatory therefore became one of the first to switch from observing in person while sketching pictures of what the astronomer thought they saw to photographic astronomyAnd then Miss Bruce whose main interest and patronage was in the arts became incensed while reading an article on astronomy that claimed there were no great uestions to answer there And made a major donation to the Harvard Observatory in an attempt to answer the great uestions she felt sure were still out there The half million glass plates at Harvard are the result of these ladies' gifts and the women computers work and still provide work for researchers Harvard's collection of half a million glass photographs covers over a century of observations from the first efforts in 1850 up until 1992 and the digital revolutionBoth ladies sponsored scientific awards that are still given the Draper and Bruce Awards Few of the winners have been women Pickering and Shapely won both medals Annie Jump Cannon won the Draper the first woman of two to do so None of the women of Harvard won the Bruce which would not be awarded to a woman until 1982

  4. Alice, as in Wonderland Alice, as in Wonderland says:

    God only knows why this book is an incredibly dry read but it really really was In comparison to another book about female mathematicians and scientists Hidden Figures this book both dragged and didn't drag enough It throws people and lives at you in fast motion leaving you unable to settle or focus on anyone except Pickering and arguably Draper to some extent I can pick out some other names such as Maury Cannon and so on but ask me about anecdotes about them specifically or their daily lives and I come up flat Other than that they were prodigious minds of their generation and field it's hard to remember them as personal figures which makes them hard to keep track ofThat's the main problem when it talks about the glass a lack of visual assistance makes it difficult to keep interested When it talks about people people are introduced married ignored forgotten reintroduced with such speed that it's hard to tell what's going on and who we're focusing on in the current moment This may not be a problem for some people but I found myself drifting off and having to reread pages over and over again This book would have taken me half the time if I had been able to focus on it but it did almost everything it could to make it impossible I felt like I could replace names with variables like in algebra and it would have made MORE sense and I don't feel like I need a backstory to x y and z to appreciate their importance Hidden Figures fixates on three particular people and in doing so manages to weave in everyone's lives Glass Universe in whatever way made it difficult for me to keep track of what had happened Considering the several deaths that happen in the book that I had to go back and reread because I was a paragraph into mourning and didn't notice that Pickering's wife had passed away for example? This was one of the most damning realizations that the book hadn't kept me focused enough to notice that people had died I had a hard time visualizing or feeling any interactions they were merely things that happened And one thing just happens after another and another one could argue I suppose that this is all history is but it lacked any dimension and the connections would stray so far from the central point that it would all seem a little pointlessThe chapter titles seem loose and broad making the book seem even scattered than it was There were huge portions of chapters that I didn't feel were focused to the title at all diverging so much that I would just stare at the top of the page wondering what was happening and if this had anything to do with anything A fascinating topic to be sure and this isn't to say there wasn't stuff about it was interesting I retained a lot than I initially thought I did but I felt like I was reading this book in a stupor like I was going in and out of sleep even while I stared directly at the page

  5. Steve Steve says:

    Preface If you're only going to read one book by Dava Sobel my advice is don't start here Read her beloved classic Longitude Having said that this book is worth it as long as you're aware of what it isThis is an incredibly informative book with among other things extremely helpful supplementary materials such as a glossary cast of characters and timeline about a fascinating topic the stars and how we came to begin to understand them centered around a research project of enormous scale mapping than the universe played out over a lengthy period of time decades lifetimes and all built upon what might otherwise be an unrelated topic empowerment achievement and recognition of smart women in a previously closed field of endeavor As a history of the stars it's first rate work OK I admit I took my share of astronomyastrophysics classes in college so I'm partial to the topic But the beauty of the book is chronicling the individuals and their successors who created and seized uniue opportunities for a small group of talented women nurtured and respected and promoted them and together made innumerable discoveries created an extraordinarily valuable resource and library of information and achieved global recognition individually and collectivelyIt's a period piece in which you need to get used to the word computers describing humans who did math crunched numbers all day every day and did it well like machines It's a story about philanthropy and generosity and investment in causes people believed in each for their own incredibly uirky and personal reasons It's even got a whiff of Devil in the White City if you were intrigued by how the Colombian Exposition brought the world together when the world was both a larger and a smaller place It's remarkable how in a former time everyone who was anyone might come together for causes events and endeavorsAlas a reader's warning I fear that most mere mortals and casual readers will find much of the book dry and some might claim boring The project's greatness lay in its patience its steady accumulation of observation nay photographs night after night not for days or weeks or years or decades but for generations It's about tireless women and those that enabled them to meticulously study and calculate OK compute and organize and dissemble information day by day by day by day until the accumulation of their work exposed insights that were impossible without the creation of one of the most uniue data sets imaginableAs long as you know what you're getting into the book is well worth your time

  6. Lata Lata says:

    My mind kept wandering as I listened to this I did not get any sense of the women profiled in what I did listen to I also got no sense of the larger socio cultural political environment that surrounded these womenA far far better book is Hidden Figures The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly; Hidden Figures was fascinating and engaging and interesting and I understood what was supporting the employment of women as Computers And why the hired women were vital to the development of a number of technological innovations

  7. Holly Holly says:

    Another relatively new book uncovering the hidden histories and contributions of women in science If I were to compare it to the most popular of those titles I'd say that the only things that The Glass Universe has in common with Hidden Figures other than the women in science theme are that both could be subtitled When Computers Were Human and both books offer women the respect of not calling them Girls to wit Rise of the Rocket Girls Girls of Atomic City Radium Girls Lab Girl Rocket Girl and the forthcoming Code GirlsBut Margot Shetterly's book and the film focused and relied heavily on the stories of the lives and personalities of three women and racial prejudice in science so the cultural events and personalities drove that story By contrast The Glass Universe is about many women over 75 years or so and Sobel is writing a historical account not a personal story or a cultural biography so she has chosen not to embellish extrapolate or imagine In fact she hews so closely to the historical record that the book has very little personality on display at all Which is fine I must add because the late 19th century record apparently contained few personal details about these particular women and the twentieth century records not much So to tell her history not a story Sobel uotes correspondence ledgers travel itineraries conference minutes and financial documents and she virtually never deigns to imagine the lives of the women beyond what the record showsAgain that's fine But the result is that the book was pretty dry for me First for pages and pages it seemed like a book about Pickering the male first director of the Observatory and the other men and not the women because the earliest women involved were benefactors and wives Interesting engaged rich educated wives and benefactors certainly But that shows something about gender structures and traditions in turn of the century America and I kept expecting Sobel to step back and broaden the scope to describe women's roles or gender relations in this time or even the popular understandings of astronomy to supply context Have I just come to expect that in books I read? I found myself wondering whether Sobel had originally proposed or even completed a history of the Harvard Observatory and then her agenteditorpublisher asked her to rewritere cast it by highlighting the women to exploit the popular interest in the hidden histories? Probably not though I got the sense she was straining to find the women's contributions in the early pages But I respect her research so I assume she wasn't sifting or distorting the record So the women never do drive the story that's just how the world was Okay But I began to confuse the women they were mostly vague to me Miss X did this and Miss Y did that Not all of them Mrs Draper is relatively clear to me and Miss Maury and perhaps a few others but I couldn't keep many of the others or their work straightPickering was fascinating to me because he is so supportive of the women in science He doesn't hesitate to employ women or nominate them for awards or lobby to get them higher pay Was it as simple as that? Or did his respect simply begin as obseuious behavior toward a wealthy widow with deep pockets? If the historical record never showed any controversies or dissension then Sobel won't theorize that it existed She makes one nod to differing perceptions when she writes Pickering stands accused of giving the women scut work that no man would stoop to do yet this is far from true I wanted to hear about how he was accused of taking advantage of the women but the book doesn't explore that There is paragraph near the end that could serve as Dava Sobel's rebuttal to the readers like myself who complain of the dullness of the book Before astronomy morphed into astrophysics around the turn of the twentieth century both men and the few women engaged in the science were willing slaves to routine Arthur Searle the acting director tries to explain this reality to a journalist intent on chronicling the excitement of observatory life It is only fair to warn you Searle admonished Thomas Kirwan of the Boston Herald that your proposed article cannot be at once true and entertaining The work of an astronomer is as dull as that of a book keeper which it closely resembles Even the results reached by astronomical work although they relate to dignified subjects than the ordinary affairs of trade are far less interesting than the result of book keeping at least to the general reader unless they are so disguised by fancy as to have little to do with science So not every book can be both true and entertaining that's right And some out there the girls books? are so disguised by fancy as to have little to do with science possibly Those are good things to remember I'm happy that she worked this uote inPositives The eclipse viewing events were interesting and I learned about how the photographic plates of stars were created and painstakingly subjectively judged by the categorizers of the plates they must have had very tired eyes And as I keep repeating Sobel's careful collecting and collating of the historical data was admirable I first gave it two stars but will bump it up to a low 3 after writing this review

  8. Maureen Maureen says:

    Sighastronomically dull get it? I was interested in the topic but this was just too dry for me

  9. Charlene Charlene says:

    I have read much better tellings of Henrietta Swan Levitt and Cecilia Payne This history was surprisingly dry However in the very first part of the book that I thought was reflective of how the rest of the book would go Sobel retold the history of the remarkable Mary Ann Palmer Draper and her husband Henry two passionate astronomers and patrons of science Mary Anna Palmer Draper was a rare spouse one of only 2 known in the nation who collaborated with her husband Henry Draper whose passion in life was trying to figure out the composition of stars When Henry died Mary Anna vowed to keep Henry's work of discovering the composition of stars alive It seems at that time they were one of only 2 married couples nationwide who shared a love of astronomy Most male astronomers for whatever reason married partners who did not share their passion for science But Mary Anna and Henry bonded over it and it seems to be what made their particular marriage so exciting and fulfilling An heiress Mary Anna turned the 3 rd floor of the home her father had left to her into an astronomy lab for Henry At that home they hosted intellectual dinners for famous scientists and the president the most notable of which was for the solar eclipse of 1878When Henry died at the age of 45 she took her limited knowledge of astronomy and her not so limited passion and love for science and her husband along with her not so limited funds and her efforts to honor her husbands scientific worked in her helping found the Mount Wilson Observatory Receiving help from one of her husband's best friends Mr Pickering Mary Anna worked with the Harvard computers women to create a team to carry on Henry's work Of particular interest was how some of the women came to work as computers One woman Willimina Flemming was hired as a maid Prior to working as a made she had gotten pregnant and her husband took off saddling her with the responsibility of figuring out how to care for their child As a result she was pretty desperate for a job Cleaning seemed as good a job as any and about all she was ualified for But when Mrs Pickering fill in later recognized that she had a talent for numbers she gave her a job as a computer She had the baby shortly after she started and could only work again once she got her mother and grandmother to raise her child In order to keep a job as a computer she had to move to another state and leave the baby she loved This made me wonder about why it has been so hard for women to form a network of care Many species do communal parenting in which the females chip in to watch each other's babies There has been far too much stigma in our society even today for that kind of model to work enough to afford women freedom I wonder where that stigma came from and why it was so horrible to have others care for you baby if you are woman but it was somehow completely acceptable for a man to relegate the care of his child to othersThe story of Cecilia Payne could have been just as engaging as the story of the Palmer Drapers But it was a lot less exciting informative or awe inspiring as I had hoped A book I read many years ago really brought Payne to life I wish I had taken better notes because now I sadly cannot recall which author it was thought I suspect it was David Bodanis' book emc2 Now that was a captivating bookThe book started out strong but didn't uite hold up as it progressed

  10. Jean Jean says:

    I have enjoyed reading a number of Sobel’s books such as “Galileo’s Daughter” This book is about the women who worked at the Harvard College Observatory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries They were called computers After reading “Rocket Girls” and “Hidden Figures” I know this is a term applied to women who did the math and analytical work for scientists These women at the Observatory were math physics and astronomy majors and some were PhDs These women studied compared classified and catalogued data about stars that had been photographed by male astronomers on glass plates At this time women were not allowed to be astronomers The women were assigned the work that demanded both scrupulous attention to detail and could be considered tedious workEdward Pickering and Harlow Shapley were directors of the Observatory from 1877 to 1952 These men were willing to hire women and even created research grants and academic fellowships for women via the patronage of two women heiresses Anna Palmer Draper and Catherine Wolfe Bruce who provided the funding Some of the women Sobel presents are Williamina Fleming Annie Jump Cannon and Cecilia Payne Gaposchkin These women’s stories are absolutely fascinatingThe book is well written and meticulously researched Sobel reviewed diaries letters and memories and included excerpts from these sources into the story Sobel writes with clarity and has an easy to read styleI read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible The book is approximately thirteen hours long Cassandra Campbell does a good job narrating the book Campbell is a stage actress voice over artist and an award winning audiobook narrator

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