At the beginning of the twentieth century, scientists argued over the size of the universe: was it, as the astronomer Harlow Shapley argued, the size of the Milky Way, or was there more truth to Edwin Hubble's claim that our own galaxy is just one among billions? The answer to the controversy – a "yardstick" suitable for measuring the cosmos – was discovered by Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who was employed by the Harvard Observatory as a number cruncher, at a wage not dissimilar from that of workers in the nearby textile mills. Miss Leavitt's Stars uncovers her neglected history, and brings a fascinating and turbulent period of astronomical history to life.
George Johnson, an award-winning The New York Times science reporter, is the author of several books, most recently A Shortcut Through Time and Strange Beauty.
Illuminating... [This book] honors the memory of the lowly observatory assistant - no, make that astronomer - who taught us how to get from here to the farthest there there is. The New York Times "A short, excellent account of [Leavitt's] extraordinary life and achievements." The New York Times Book Review"