Measuring the Stars

By Lauren Amundson

Happy birthday to Elizabeth Langdon Williams! Born on February 8, 1879 in Putnam, Connecticut, Williams attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated in 1903 with academic honors and the distinction of being one of the first women ever to do so.  In 1905, Percival Lowell hired her as a “computer,” i.e., a person who manually performs calculations, and she began work in his Boston office. Her primary duty was to carry out the calculations associated with work on Lowell’s hypothesized Planet X.

Dava Sobel’s book, The Glass Universe, tells the story of the women who were calculators at Harvard in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

To learn more about Williams and her contributions to Lowell Observatory and astronomy, check out our Women in Astronomy online exhibit.

Planet X