Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary

By Benjamin F. Shearer; Barbara S. Shearer | Go to book overview
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ANTONIA MAURY (1866-1952) Astronomer
Birth March 21, 1866
1887 B.S., Vassar College
1888-96 Assistant, Harvard College Observatory (intermittent)
1891-94 Science Teacher, Gilman School, Cambridge, MA
1896-1918 Teacher and Lecturer, including physics and chemistry,
Castle School, Tarrytown, NY
1918-35 Assistant, Harvard College Observatory
1935-38 Custodian, Draper Park Observatory Museum
1943 Annie J. Cannon Prize, American Astronomical Society
Death January 8, 1952

Antonia Maury revolutionized the system used to classify stars and participated in the discovery of a number of binary stars.

Antonia Caetana de Paiva Pereira Maury, daughter of the Reverend Mytton Maury and Virginia Draper Maury, was born in Cold Spring, New York, in 1866. She was the granddaughter of Dr. John William Draper and the niece of Dr. Henry Draper, prominent physicians as well as noted amateur astronomers specializing in astrophotography. In fact, it was her uncle's work on stellar spectra that eventually led to Antonia's career at the Harvard College Observatory. Antonia is said to have helped her famous uncle in his lab when she was only 4 years old; and her father had her reading Virgil in the original Latin at age 9. 1

Antonia was a student of famed astronomer and teacher Maria Mitchell at Vassar; she graduated in 1887 with honors in astronomy, physics, and math. In 1888 her father inquired at the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) about employment for Antonia as a computer. Edward Pickering, the HCO director, was famous for hiring women. 2 He asked Antonias aunt, Anna Draper, about Antonia's qualifications and willingness to work in such a tedious position. Mrs. Draper, "whose attitude toward her niece by marriage remained somewhat ambivalent throughout . . . doubted that Antonia had been consulted at all [by her father] or that, having been prepared to teach chemistry and physics, she would have the slightest interest in such dull routine as computing." 3 However,


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