Antonia Maury

Antonia Caetana de Paiva Maury (March 21, 1866 - January 8, 1952)  was an American astronomer who published an important early catalog of stellar spectra and contributed to our understanding of stars in motion, especially in binary systems. Maury came from a family with a rich pedigree in new astrophysics (her mother was a Draper, whose brother and father had made the first photographs of stellar spectra and the moon, respectively), and she earned a degree from Vassar College in 1887 with honors in physics, astronomy, and philosophy (pictured here in her senior portrait). In 1888, with her family's professional connections to Edward Pickering, she began work at HCO. However, she left in 1891, saying she “was uncomfortable completing her research if her work was unacknowledged.” She returned a few times over the next few years to finish her catalog of bright star spectra. While her relationship with Pickering was tense, he was well aware of her contributions to the observatory's work in both labor hours and scientific imagination. When her catalog was published in 1897, it became the first volume of the Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College (v. 28) credited to a woman astronomer. Through the early twentieth century, she remained loosely connected to the HCO while working as a traveling lecturer in physics, returning for more serious work in the 1920s under director Harlow Shapley. Though astronomers did not adopt her schema for categorizing stars, her work was an early step in understanding how stars evolve as they age. Danish astronomer Ejnar Hertzsprung used her data in constructing the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, still in use today as the model of stellar evolution and type.

Read on for a sampling of Maury's science, from her work with binary stars, spectra, red-shifting, to her early theories about stellar type!

Further Reading on Antonia Maury: