Education

Annie Jump Cannon's academic record is very impressive for a woman of her time. She:

While at Wellesley College Annie was a physics major because an astronomy major was not available at that time; Wellesley College was only five years old. It had a strong science department because founder Henry Fowler Durant consulted Professor Edward Charles Pickering, director of the Harvard College Observatory, in order to create an undergraduate physics laboratory similar to the one that he had created at M.I.T. He also chose Sarah Whiting as lab director. Annie was inspired by Sarah Whiting to learn about spectroscopy, which became the foundation for her life work of stellar classification. While at Wellesley she did a fair share of observing. She later returned to Wellesley as a postgraduate assistant before starting a career in astronomy at the Harvard College Observatory.

The following picture is of Annie observing in 1895. At the time Wellesley students observed the heavens through a 4-inch Browning telescope that could be set up on the north or south porch of College Hall. This telescope was used until 1900.

Annie Cannon with 4-in telescope at Wellesley College, 1895

In the following picture Annie is located third from the left. This picture was taken during the 1895-1896 academic year. This is the laboratory of then Wellesley professor and renowned physicist and astronomer Sarah Whiting. She sought to ensure that her students had all the latest equipment. As a result Wellesley College had one of the best physics laboratories in the country during the 1870's.

Physics lab of Sarah Whiting, ca. 1896

The following picture is of Annie Cannon at Oxford in 1925. She was the first woman to ever receive an honorary doctorate from this institution. She was given this honor due to her contributions to astrophysics. It was a new science at the time and her classification system, which is still used today, was quite an achievement. At the time she had classified over a quarter of a million stars! This was the height of her academic achievements.

Annie Cannon at Oxford, 1925
(image credit: Harvard College Observatory)