ISBN-10:
0393328562
ISBN-13:
9780393328561
Pub. Date:
06/12/2006
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Miss Leavitt's Stars: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe (Great Discoveries Series)

Miss Leavitt's Stars: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe (Great Discoveries Series)

by George Johnson
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Overview

"A short, excellent account of [Leavitt’s] extraordinary life and achievements." —Simon Singh, New York Times Book Review

George Johnson brings to life Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who found the key to the vastness of the universe—in the form of a “yardstick” suitable for measuring it. Unknown in our day, Leavitt was no more recognized in her own: despite her enormous achievement, she was employed by the Harvard Observatory as a mere number-cruncher, at a wage not dissimilar from that of workers in the nearby textile mills. Miss Leavitt’s Stars uncovers her neglected history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393328561
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 06/12/2006
Series: Great Discoveries Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 474,958
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

George Johnson, an award-winning science journalist, is the author of several books, most recently The Cancer Chronicles and Strange Beauty. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Miss Leavitt's Stars: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe (Great Discoveries Series) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
NomedeplumeDM More than 1 year ago
Her colleagues never clouded the purpose in praising her for how valuable she was, perhaps she never knew it or cared, but her calculations where irreplaceable....All too often womens contributions are completely neglected, denied and purposely obscured. Johnson does every budding female math student a huge favor by bringing Ms. Leavitt to our attention. Not only in the areas of math and science but area of womens history, this little book has inspiration, purpose and basis for re-thinking the gender role in terms of accomplishment. Highly recommend it.
Anonymous 3 months ago
This little book ranks among my all-time favorites, and I very highly recommend it (I've purchased copies for all my granddaughters). Some of the math and astronomy it discusses is complicated, but it were simple there wouldn't be a story and it's certainly not necessary to have a slide rule by your side as you read. The history of women as computers is instructive, fascinating, and inspirational. I found "Miss Leavitt's Stars" in some ways to be even more interesting than "Hidden Figures," and I was especially glad to have read the former before the latter.
NielsenGW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Johnson's short work on the history of astronomy tries very hard to focus on Miss Leavitt and her work on variable stars and stellar distance. Since there is not a lot of infomation available, he brings in many of the other heavyweights of the day to fill out the volume. While her work was instrumental in the field, this volume could be better titled. Overall, the book was just as long as it needed to be and succeeded at conveying comsological theorems to the average reader.
book58lover on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written by New York Times science reporter George Johnson, this book is not a biography because there is so little information about Leavitt to write a complete biography. Instead Johnson explains the science and math of astronomy and what Leavitt worked with at Harvard in the early 1900s. Her discovery created a "cosmic yardstick" to measure the universe leading to additional discoveries by later scientists.I confess I was somewhat lost in the science of island universes and the inverse square law. I expected to learn more about Leavitt's personal life and education as well as struggles in her career as a "computer". But the author notes that she did not leave diaries, letters or journals from which to gather this information so very little of the book is a biography per se. It only makes me want to find out more. The book was well written but just over my head and I struggled with all the math so I rated it 3 stars more on my shortcomings than on the authors.
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been invited to participate in the 2007 Sante Fe Science Writing Workshop and George Johnson, a science writer for the New York Times, is one of the organizers of the workshop. I was looking around for something he had written and I found this wonderful little book about Miss Leavitt, a ¿computer¿ at the Harvard College Observatory in the 1920's. The ¿computer's¿ at the Observatory were young women, hired for 25 cents an hour to examine and record stars on photographic plates. The book is subtitled The Unknown Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe. Miss Leavitt was assigned to measure the brightness of the variable stars, now known as Cepheids, in the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. She did this so well, and so diligently, that her work set the stage for measuring the size and extent of the visible Universe. If you've ever wondered how we know a galaxy is two million light years away, you will find the answer in this little book.
Alliecat97 More than 1 year ago
For an independent reading assignment in my science class, I chose to read Miss Leavitt's Stars. We did a unit about space and astronomy, so I chose this book. I would recommend it to anyone mature enough to understand the serious notes in this novel or to anyone who is an avid reader about astronomy. This book was a biography written by the talented George Johnson, an award-winning science reporter for the New York Times. The idea for Miss Leavitt's Stars started when the author wanted to learn about how people learned that there was more to the universe than just the Milky Way Galaxy. He never planned to write a full biography about Henrietta Leavitt, but eventually, he decided to, after he "couldn't get [her] out of [his] mind." The book mainly focuses on Henrietta Swan Leavitt's life and works, but also includes other astronomers and important figures like Edward Pickering, Harlow Shapley, and Edwin Hubble. Miss Leavitt's Stars finally credited Henrietta Leavitt on her work with astronomy clearly. She's done so much to the astronomical field by figuring out how to measure the distance between galaxies using Cepheids. Without her, Edwin Hubble and Harlow Shapley probably wouldn't have been able to make their own discoveries. This biography really brings light to her "till-now obscured brilliance." In greater detail, Miss Leavitt's Stars is a page-by-page account of Henrietta Leavitt's life and major discoveries. As stated above, George Johnson also devotes some of the novel to Harlow Shapley and Edwin Hubble, but it's mostly how Miss Leavitt influenced Mr. Shapley and Mr. Hubble's own discoveries. After reading this novel, I know much more about astronomy and Henrietta Swan Leavitt's important discoveries in the field. That is why I recommend it. I've learned about the tiny things, like her family and life before becoming a "computer" at Harvard University, but her major discovery of the distance between galaxies as well. With Henrietta's Law, we can now measure great distances in the universe. My personal opinion of this book is that it is a lovely informative novel. George Johnson did a great job with that. However, it is slightly boring as it pulls out all those amazing big words that I don't understand and such. The dull parts are made up for, however, by the way Mr. Johnson makes Miss Leavitt seem so important, perhaps more important than Edwin Hubble and Harlow Shapley. Her credit, though a hundred years late, has finally brimmed through. When Henrietta Leavitt made her discovery, the fact that she was a girl tainted the magnitude of her findings. She did not get the credit she deserved at the time. Even now, we are only starting to recognize the importance of her discovery. Miss Leavitt influenced many other astronomers with her law. Without her figuring out how to measure the distance between galaxies, we probably wouldn't know until much later. By then, Edwin Hubble would probably be dead; there'd be no Hubble Telescope, et cetera. So Henrietta Leavitt's discovery was, suffice to say, a great one. With Henrietta's Law, Edwin Hubble was able to prove that there were whole galaxies beyond the Milky Way, and the universe is larger than a human mind could possibly imagine. Miss Leavitt's Stars is a great book overall. I was fascinated by her discovery and it's importance. I never fathomed how vast the universe was. People young and old should devote some of their time to reading this biography.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago