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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Annie Jump Cannon

b. 1863, Dover, Delaware; d. 1941, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Called the “census taker of the sky,” American astronomer Annie Jump Cannon developed a system of classifying stars based on temperature as the main distinguishing feature among the stellar spectra. Her method, widely accepted by 1910, is still used today. Working from 1915 to 1924, she and her female colleagues at the Harvard College Observatory compiled the Henry Draper Catalogue, which contains detailed data on more than 225,000 of the brightest stars visible from the northern hemisphere. In her lifetime, Cannon catalogued 350,000 stars and discovered 300 variable stars, five novae, and one binary star. Named the William C. Bond Astronomer at Harvard in 1938, she was the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Oxford University (1925) and the first to be awarded the Henry Draper Medal of honor from the National Academy of Sciences (1931). Dedicated to the cause of women’s suffrage, she was a member of the National Women’s Party; in 1929, the National League of Women Voters listed her as one of the twelve greatest living American women. Each year the American Association of University Women presents the Annie J. Cannon Award for distinguished contributions in the field of astronomy.