Vera Rubin's references concerning Women in Astronomy

In the AAS Committee on the Status of Women Newsletter of 13 October 1999, Vera Rubin, distinguished astronomer, member of the National Academy of Science,and holder of the National Metal of Science, reported the following:

There is now a vast collection of books which include scholarly discussions and biographies of women in astronomy. If you expand to Women in Science, the list multiplies. MUST reading are two books by Margaret Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 (the most informative), and Before Affirmative Action 1940-1972. Both Johns Hopkins Press, 1982 and 1995.

Every women scientist should read at least the first, to learn why we are where we are. This is just a start. There are numerous colleges with Center for the Education of Women (e.g. U Mich.), which publish booklets, etc. I thank the DTM librarian, Shaun Hardy for putting together a reading list some years ago, for an exhibit on Women in Astronomy which we assembled in the DTM library; some entries come from that list.

The following is a very personal list of books in my office or home, which I cherish. Many can be found in used book stores; some are now rare. Hypatia, or New Foes with an Old Face (Novel about Hypatia, the "first woman astronomer" 400AD and a classic), Charles Kingsley, A.L. Burt, New York; no date, but VERY old. My book has pages which are so brown that it is difficult to read now.

Memoir and Correspondence of Caroline Herschel, Mary Cornwallis Herschel, Appleton, New York, 1876. Very nice, probably hard to find. CH collected works are included at end of the collected works of William Herschel. Michael Hoskin's book, William Herschel, WW Norton, 1963, also includes Caroline. Also The Herschel Chronicle: The Life Story of Sir William Herschel and His Sister Caroline Herschel, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1933. Also Caroline Herschel's Contributions to Astronomy, Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie, Annals of Science 32, 1975, 149-161

Maria Mitchell, by Phebe Mitchell Kendall (Sister), Lee and Shepard, Boston 1896. About the best there is on MM, but bland. Her sister burned her letters.

Maria Mitchell, First Lady of American Astronomy, Helen L. Morgan, Westminster Press, Philadelphia 1977. A kiddie book, but factual.

Sweeper of the Sky (Novel about MM), Helen Wright, Macmillian 1949.

"The Prolific Pen of Agnes Clerke", Kenneth Weitzenhoffer, Sky and Telescope 70, 1985, 211-212. Agnes Clerke wrote wonderful fairly technical books on the history of astronomy at the start of this century. Agnes Mary Clerke, Problems in Astrophysics, London: A.& C. Black, 1903; The System of the Stars, London: Adam and Charles Black, 1905; A Popular History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century, London: Adam and Charles Black, 1908.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and other Recollections, Haramundanis, Katherine, ed. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1984. Wonderful stories by a brilliant writer. Interesting for her view of her life.

Woman in Science, H. J. Mozans, (1913), reprint 1974 MIT Press, introduction by Mildred Dresselhaus. Mozans, a priest, wrote the book under a pseudonym while on sabbatical from Notre Dame, believing that there had been women in science, but that their story had never been told. One chaprter is on women in Astronomy. Until the first Rossiter book, this is where we went to learn.

The Harvard College Observatory: The First Four Directorships 1839-1919, Bessie Zaban Jones and Lyle Gifford Boyd. Chapter XI: "A Field for Women" describes the women hired by Pickering for 1/4th the salary of the men.

"Women Astronomers," Deborah Jean Warner, Natural History 88 (May 1979), 12-26. Much of what I know about women in astronomy I learned from Debbie Warner. This is a wonderful source.

And more, with no comments:

"Maria Mitchell: Nineteenth Century Astronomer," Astronomy Quarterly 5 No. 19, 1986, 133-150

"Dorothea Klumpke Roberts: A Forgotten Astronomer," Mercury 10 1981, 139-140

"Women Astronomers, 400 AD to 1750," Herman S. Davis, Popular Astronomy 6, 1898, 128-138 and 211-228

"Three Women of American Astronomy" (Mitchell, Cannon, Payne- Gaposchkin), Peggy Aldrich Kidwell, American Scientist 78, 1990, 244-251

"Women Astronomers in Britain 1780-1930," Peggy Aldrich Kidwell, ISIS 75, 1984, 534-546

"Gender and Science: Women in American Astronomy 1859-1940," John Lankford and Rickey L. Slavings, Physics Today 43, March 1990, 58-65

"Early Daughters of Urania," P.V. Rizzo, Sky and Telescope 14, 1954, 7-10

Edward Hill, My Daughter Beatrice: A Personal Memoir of Dr. Beatrice Tinsley, Astronomer, New York:APS, 1986


Women in Astronomy, STScI workshop, September 1992, ed. C. Megan Urey, Laura Danly, Lisa E. Sherbert and Shireen Gonzaga. Good articles, statistics, and references.

Origins: The Lives and Worlds of Modern Cosmologists, Alan Lightman and Roberta Brawer, Harvard University Press, (approx. 1990; the book is at home). Includes interviews with Vera Rubin (p 285-305), Sandra Faber (324-340), and Margaret Geller (359-377)

The Outer Circle: Women in the Scientific Community, Harriet Zuckerman, Jonathan R. Cole, and John T. Bruer, (approx 1995), interview with Andrea Dupree p 94-126, plus other brief women astronomer mention.

In AIP Masters of Modern Physics series:
Visit to a Small Universe, Virginia Trimble, 1992
Bright Galaxies, Dark Matters, Vera Rubin, 1997
These are collections of mostly non-technical writings, some about women in Astronomy. VT includes Beartice M. Tinsley, p 285-293; VR includes E. Margaret Burbidge, 190-192. Our views of being a woman in science are dissimilar.

"Women's Work: For women in science, a fair shake is still elusive," Vera Rubin, in Science 86, 1986, 58-65. This account of women in astronomy ends with the following: "A cable that was sent to me in 1978 is a testament to [women astronomers]. "Dear Madame" it reads, "You might appreciate hearing that four women astronomers are observing on Cerro Tololo tonight, on the four largest telescopes! We are M. H. Ulrich, M. T. Ruiz, P. Lugger, and L. Schweizer." I hope the sky was very clear that night."

last modified: 10 November 1999