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Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21st

Born this day in 1866, Antonia Maruy, American astronomer. Antonia's family were very learned. Maruy herself graduated from Vassar College with honors in 1887. Because of her aunt Anna Draper, gave an endowment to the Harvard College Observatory. In 1888,Maruy was hired by Pickering "as a computer to join his other female computers." Maruy cataloged and computed stellar spectra for the stars in the northern hemisphere.
Now, Maruy was brilliant and understood that that Pickering's information gathering was flawed and she was not just a "human computer" as Pickering thought. Maruy concepts of theoretical work was perfect to improve this process. And she did, no matter what Pickering thought or said.
she rearranged "Fleming's scheme to reflect the temperature of stars". Maruy added, "dimension" describing spectral lines, 'a' for wide and well defined, 'b' for hazy but relatively wide and of the intensity as 'a', 'c' for spectra in which the H lines and "Orion lines" narrow and sharply defined, whereas calcium lines were more intense. 'ac' for stars having characteristics of both 'a' and 'c'.
Because, Antonia Maruy stood her ground, her work at Harvard was off again on again. Picketring was not interested in Maruy's work. But, other astronomers around the world were!
Maruy's category scheme of stellar spectra and that the "'c' characteristic....represented a fundamental property of the stars".
And when Ejnar Hetrtzsprung published his work and discoveries of red stars as two types dwarfs and giants, they were the same that Maruy catalogued with her "c-characteristic." To which Hertzsprung stated, "In my opinion the separation of Antonia C. Maruy of the c- and ac- stars is the most important advancement in stellar classification since the trails by Vogel and Secchi." High praise, for a female computer. "Maruy also co-discovered the first example of spectroscopic binaries, Mizar in Ursa Major, in 1899 and then the second, Beta Aurigae. She was the first to calculate their orbits."