Annie Jump Cannon (1863 – 1941)
Born in Delaware to state senator Wilson Lee Cannon and wife Mary Elizabeth Jump, Annie Jump Cannon first became interested in astronomy from her mother’s passion for star-gazing. In 1880, Annie Jump Cannon attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and later became a “special student” of astronomy at Radcliffe College in Cambridge.
It was in Cambridge where Jump Cannon began working at the Harvard Observatory under director Edward Charles Pickering. Pickering’s group of female scientists was known as “Pickering’s Harem” or the “Harvard Lady Computers”. These lady computers did extremely meticulous work categorizing stars, and were paid 25 cents per day, which was less than secretaries were paid at the time, and 1/4 of what men were paid in similar positions.
She was a feminist, advocate for women’s suffrage, and a member of the National Women’s Party. For her scientific achievements, she was the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Oxford, and the first woman to be elected as an officer of the American Astronomical Society. She created the star classification system that is still used today (O, B, A, F, G, K, M), and the mnemonic device “Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me.” Using her stellar photography skills, Annie Jump Cannon discovered and classified hundreds of thousands of stars, which was a larger amount of stars than any other woman or man discovered, combined, since the ancient Egyptians.