Look Up: Henrietta Leavitt
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Look Up: Henrietta Leavitt is about Henrietta Leavitt who was born on July 4, 1868, and changed the course of astronomy when she was just 25 years old.
Look Up: Henrietta Leavitt is about Henrietta Swan Leavitt who was born on July 4, 1868, and changed the course of astronomy when she was just twenty-five years old.
Henrietta spent years measuring star positions and sizes from photographs taken by the telescope at the Harvard College Observatory, where she worked.
After Henrietta observed that certain stars had a fixed pattern to their changes, her discovery made it possible for astronomers to measure greater and greater distances—leading to our present understanding of the vast size of the universe.
An astronomer of her time called Henrietta Leavitt “one of the most important women ever to touch astronomy,” and another close associate said she had the “best mind at the Harvard Observatory.” Henrietta Leaveitt’s story will inspire young women and aspiring scientists of all kinds and includes additional information about the solar system and astronomy.
About the Author:
Over the past 35 years, Robert Burleigh has published poems, reviews, essays, many filmstrips and videos, and more than 40 children’s picture books. Born and raised in Chicago, he graduated from DePauw University and later received an MA in humanities from the University of Chicago. He’s published books for children since the early 1990s. Read more about him here.
A Few Reviews:
“When Henrietta Leavitt graduated from Radcliffe College in 1892, women were not seen as potential scientists. Still, she accepted a rather tedious job measuring the positions and sizes of stars in images photographed using the Harvard College Observatory telescope. Besides measuring and note-taking, she analyzed the records on certain stars that appeared to blink on and off. Her discovery that the time between blinks indicated both the star’s brightness and its distance from Earth led to the realization that the universe was much larger than previously thought. Focusing on the life of the mind, the text is contemplative and the illustrations are understated. In childhood, Leavitt is shown gazing at the night sky; as an adult, her most active endeavor is a sedate walk. The writing celebrates her achievement, though, and the lovely artwork, set outdoors at night or indoors by day, includes yellow, tan, and white elements that are luminous within the dimly lit scenes. A worthy picture book with informative back matter that will help children understand Leavitt’s challenging times as well as her achievement.” – Booklist
“Scientific biographers face an unenviable challenge: How does one convey the excitement and impact of an individual’s discovery when all but a tiny minority of the audience know nothing about the subject’s field of study? In writing about Henrietta Leavitt, a pioneering female astronomer whose contributions revolutionized methods for measuring large distances in space, Burleigh approaches the problem with exclamation points. He drops in on Leavitt from inquisitive youth to “human computer” calculating data in a male-dominated lab and takes several carefully worded pages to outline the basics of her remarkable discovery. His success in delivering the science with clarity and brevity deserves admiration. But barring prior interest in the night sky, readers may find the punctuation–and sporadic third-person questions–attempts to manufacture passion and curiosity not entirely engendered by a narrative that reveals little about the subject beyond her most influential work. The textures and geometric composition of Colón’s distinctive colored pencil and watercolor illustrations radiate with a diverse palette that encompasses warm, neutral interiors and fresh, vivid celestial views. The full-page scenes and star-filled spots, though awkwardly dispersed throughout the text, evoke the thrilling mystery and beauty of astronomy. Back matter includes an afterword that fills in biographical details, such as dates and places, not mentioned in the main text.” –Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY (School Library Journal)