Schlesinger's preconceptions of what women in astronomy should do, she was not expected to introduce any innovations; at best, she was expected to make minor improvements based on practical (not theoretical) experience. 1 The measurements and calculations were time-consuming and tedious tasks.
In 1933, Schlesinger developed a new measuring engine to reduce both eyestrain and accidental errors owing to the observer's bumping the microscope. This innovation was a projection mechanism that allowed for the viewing and bisecting of images on a small screen rather than peering through a microscope. This increased both the speed and the accuracy of the measurements. Another innovation was the use of the emerging technology upon which computers were based. The catalogues that Schlesinger and Barney published between 1939 and 1943 were the first ones for which IBM punch-card machines were used for a large part of the necessary computations.
After Schlesinger retired in 1941, Barney took over full supervision of the project and was the sole author of subsequent volumes. Under her direction, the actual measurements of the photographic plates were carried out at the IBM Watson Scientific Laboratory with a new electronic device. The automatic image-centering device resulted in higher positional accuracy and less eye fatigue. In 1952, she was awarded the Annie J. Cannon Prize of the American Astronomical Society. This was given every three years to a woman of any nationality who had made outstanding contributions to astronomy.
Barney retired in 1955, although the zone catalogues that were in progress when she retired were published through 1959 and carry her name. She died on March 7, 1982, at the age of 95. Because of their accuracy, "the Yale positions will have . . . high weight in future determinations of the proper motions of these stars[;] hers is truly a lasting contribution to astronomy." 2
American Women 1935-1940: A Composite Biographical Dictionary. Edited by Durwood Howes . Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1981.
Barney Ida. Catalogue of the Positions and Proper Motions of . . . Stars (Transactions of the Astronomical Observatory of Yale University, Vols. 16-27). New Haven, Conn.: The Observatory, 1945- 1959.