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May 15, 2017 - First Harvard Computer

First Harvard Computer  Born in Scotland 160 years ago this week, Williamina Fleming came to Boston with her husband, but he soon abandoned her and their young son. She worked as a maid to support herself and her child, and ended up working for Charles Pickering, who later became director of the Harvard College Observatory. Dissatisfied with the astronomical computing abilities of his all-male assistants, Pickering famously claimed even his maid could do a better job. She proved to be a capable “calculator,” processing astronomical data by hand nearly a century before the advent of electronic computers. In addition to leading Pickering’s expanding all-female staff of “Harvard Computers,” Fleming developed a stellar classification system and discovered the Horsehead Nebula (shown here).

Image credit: R. Jay GaBany / www.cosmotography.com

Weekly Calendar

May 15-21, 2017

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History


Monday 15

1857: Williamina Fleming born
: Sputnik 3 launched
1963: Faith 7 launched, last Mercury program flight
1997: STS-84 Atlantis launched, sixth Mir docking mission
2012: Soyuz TMA-04M launched carrying ISS Expedition 31/32 crew

Tuesday 16

2011: STS-134 Endeavour launched

Wednesday 17

Mercury at greatest elongation (26° W)

1836: Norman Lockyer born

Thursday 18

Last Qtr Moon 8:33 PM ET

1969: Apollo 10 launched
1984: Viking 1 lander given to National Air & Space Museum
1996: First test flight of DC-XA rocket
: 23rd and final spacewalk to service the Hubble Space Telescope

Friday 19

1965: Apollo A-003 launched
1996: STS-77 Endeavour launched
2000: STS-101 Atlantis launched

Saturday 20

Neptune 0.5° north of Moon

1978: Pioneer-Venus 1 launched
1995: Spektr module launched to Mir space station

Sunday 21

2010: IKAROS spacecraft launched; first successful solar-sail propulsion

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.