Williamina Paton (Stevens) Fleming (known often as “Mina”) (1857-1911) She was born on May 15, 1857, in Dundee, Scotland. Fleming became the one of the most prominent female astronomers of her time and received numerous awards and honors for her work studying the stars. She was invited to participate in the Congress of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. In 1898, the Harvard Corporation named her the observatory’s first Curator of Astronomical Photographs. In 1906, the British Royal Astronomical Society elected her as an honorary member, making her the first American woman and sixth woman ever to be given this honor. Wellesley College elected her an Honorary Fellow in Astronomy, and she won the gold medal of the Astronomical Society of Mexico posthumously. Throughout her career, Fleming discovered 10 novae, 52 nebulae, and 310 new variable stars. She is also credited with being the first person to see the Horsehead nebula while examining one of Harvard’s glass plate photographs from 1888.
Insterested in Fleming's work at the observatory? Read more about her work with variable stars and nebula, or about her administration of the Harvard Computers in our online exhibit of the Harvard Women Computers!
Recommended Readings on Williamina Fleming:
- Paul Haley. “Williamina Fleming and the Harvard College Observatory,” no. 11. The Antiquarian Astronomer (June 2017): 2–32.
- Alex McGrath. "The First Computer: Williamina Fleming and the Horsehead Nebula." Galactic Gazette (July 3, 2017): http://wolba.ch/gazette/the-first-computer-williamina-fleming-and-the-ho...
- Lindsay Smith. “Williamina Paton Fleming.” Project Continua (March 14, 2015): Vol. 1, (date accessed), http://www.projectcontinua.org/williamina-paton-fleming/
- “Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming (1857–1911).” Open Collections Program: Women Working, Harvard University, ocp.hul.harvard.edu/ww/fleming.html