Glass Plates on Glass Ceilings: The Harvard Computers

ORION meets on the third Wednesday of every month.  Our meeting will be held at Roane State Community College in Oak Ridge, TN in the Goff Building, room 104 (just off of the lobby).  We gather at 7:00 with the program beginning at approximately 7:15 p.m.  You do not have to be a scientist to attend, or even a member of ORION.  The program is free and open to the public.   

Our next meeting will be held on Wednesday February 21, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.   Jennifer Hartwig will be our speaker.


February 11, 2018 marked the third celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.  With data from multiple sources showing that the percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded to men in a STEM related field is double that of women, one has to ask the question ‘why’?  The intellectual capability is the same and some will point to studies that indicate that the discipline of women is better.   There is some evidence that part of the problem may relate to a lack of female role models in STEM-related fields as well as a reduced rate of exposure to STEM-related career options during a young girl’s formative years.  Women have been making large contributions to science for millennia, but many people have never heard of them or their stories.  As amateur (and some non-amateur) astronomers, we need to be more well-versed in the role that these women played.  This presentation will focus on the contribution of several women at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900’s who provided solid ground work in the realm of stellar classification.  They performed calculations on over half a million 8×10 glass plates, each of which contained the negative image of a small slice of the entire night sky.  It is upon this work that many other scientific ideas were founded (i.e., the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram), most of which are still extremely important to our understanding of the universe today.  Is there a glass ceiling in astronomy?  In science in general?  Come and listen to the science that these women used to crack whatever glass ceiling was there.  “Don’t ever let anyone turn your sky into a ceiling.”  I wish I knew who to attribute that quote to (it certainly wasn’t me).  Young girls, listen up:  take away the notion of a glass ceiling.  The sky is the limit, not a ceiling (real or imaginary).



Jennifer Hartwig, M.S., ORION Member

Jennifer Hartwig is an Exercise Physiologist by trade, but an amateur astronomer at heart.  Currently, she works as an academic advisor for the Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  She is a former instructor of Kinesiology at both the University of Tennessee and Carson Newman University, and has found that her studies of physiology, astronomy and physics complement each other in a somewhat unexpected – but much welcomed – fashion.  She works with two local astronomy clubs as often as possible participating in public outreach events; has a strong interest in promoting the love of science and astronomy to children and adults; and recently served as a middle-school Science Olympiad coach in the astronomy event.