Antonia Maury

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Antonia Maury
Antonia maury.jpg
BornMarch 21, 1866
Cold Spring, NY
DiedJanuary 8, 1952(1952-01-08) (aged 85)
Dobbs Ferry, NY
Alma materVassar College
AwardsAnnie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy (1943)
Scientific career
InstitutionsHarvard College Observatory
Academic advisorsMaria Mitchell

Antonia Maury (March 21, 1866 – January 8, 1952) was an American astronomer who published an important early catalog of stellar spectra.

Early life[edit]

Antonia Caetana de Paiva Pereira Maury was born in Cold Spring, New York in 1866. She was named in honor of her maternal grandmother, Antonia Caetana de Paiva Pereira Gardner Draper,[1] who belonged to a noble family that fled Portugal for Brazil on account of Napoleon Bonaparte's wars.[2] Maury's father was the Reverend Mytton Maury, a direct descendant of the Reverend James Maury and one of the sons of Sarah Mytton Maury. Maury's mother was Virginia Draper, a daughter of Antonia Caetana de Paiva Pereira Gardner and Dr. John William Draper.[2]

Maury was also the granddaughter of John William Draper and a niece of Henry Draper, both pioneering astronomers. As such, young Antonia and her two siblings were exposed to science at a very early age.[1] Her younger sister, Carlotta Maury, went on to become a geologist, stratigrapher, paleontologist.[3]

Antonia Maury attended Vassar College, graduating in 1887 with honors in physics, astronomy, and philosophy. There, she studied under the tutelage of renowned astronomer Maria Mitchell.[1]

Astronomical work[edit]

Harvard Computers at work, including Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868–1921), Annie Jump Cannon (1863–1941), Williamina Fleming (1857–1911), and Antonia Maury (1866–1952).

After completing her undergraduate work, Maury went to work at the Harvard College Observatory as one of the so-called Harvard Computers, highly skilled women who processed astronomical data. In this capacity, Maury observed stellar spectra and published an important catalogue of classifications in 1897.[4] As part of this work, she noticed periodic doubling of some lines in the spectrum of ζ1 Ursae Majoris (Mizar A) which led to the publication of the first spectroscopic binary orbit.[5]

Edward Charles Pickering, the observatory's director, disagreed with Maury’s system of classification and explanation of differing line widths. In response to this negative reaction to her work, she decided to leave the observatory. However, Danish astronomer Ejnar Hertzsprung realized the value of her classifications and used them in his system of identifying giant and dwarf stars.[1]

In 1908, Maury returned to Harvard College Observatory where she remained for many years. Her most famous work there was the spectroscopic analysis of the binary star Beta Lyrae, published in 1933.[6]

Later years[edit]

After retirement, Maury pursued interests in nature and conservation. She enjoyed bird-watching, and she fought to save western Sequoia trees from being felled during wartime. For three years, Maury also served as curator of the John William Draper House in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, where her grandfather and uncle had built observatories, and where the first photos of the moon as seen through a telescope were taken.

Maury died on January 8, 1952, in Dobbs Ferry, NY.


Maury lunar crater

In 1943, Antonia Maury was awarded the Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy by the American Astronomical Society.[7]

The lunar crater Maury and a number of smaller ejecta craters are co-named for Antonia Maury.[8] They were originally named for her cousin, Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury, United States Navy and are, perhaps, the only lunar features shared by two cousins.


  1. ^ a b c d "Antonia Maury". Vassar Encyclopedia. 2008. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Peed, Dorothy Myers (1966). America is People and Ideas. Berlin: Exposition Press.
  3. ^ Creese, M. R. (2007). [null Fossil hunters, a cave explorer and a rock analyst; notes on some] early women contributors to geology. In C. V. Burek & B. Higgs(Eds.), The role of women in the history of geology, (vol. 281, 39-49). London, UK: Geological Society of London.
  4. ^ Maury, Antonia (1897). "Spectra of Bright Stars Photographed with the 11-inch Draper Telescope as part of the Henry Draper Memorial". Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College. Cambridge, MA. 28: 1–128. Bibcode:1897AnHar..28....1M. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  5. ^ Mamajek, Eric E.; Kenworthy, Matthew A.; Hinz, Philip M.; Meyer, Michael R. (2010). "Discovery of a Faint Companion to Alcor Using MMT/AO 5 μm Imaging". The Astronomical Journal. 139 (3): 919–925. arXiv:0911.5028. Bibcode:2010AJ....139..919M. doi:10.1088/0004-6256/139/3/919.
  6. ^ Maury, Antonia C. (1933). "The Spectral Changes of Beta Lyrae". Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College. Cambridge, MA. 84 (8): 207–255. Bibcode:1933AnHar..84..207M. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  7. ^ "Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy". American Astronomical Society. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  8. ^ "Planetary Names: Crater, craters: Maury on Moon". International Astronomical Union. Retrieved January 12, 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Maury Family Tree" by Sue C. West-Teague (former U.S.N.)
  • Antonia Maury Vassar alumnae magazine, v.37, March 1952
  • Bailey, Martha J. (1994). "Maury, Antonia Caetana De Paiva Pereira (1866–1952), astronomer". American women in science : [prior to 1950 American women scientists] : a biographical dictionary (2nd ed.). Denver, Colo.: ABC-Clio. pp. 240–241. ISBN 978-0-87436-740-9.
  • Gingerich, Owen. Maury, Antonia Caetana de Paiva Pereira. Dictionary of Scientific Biography. v.9. New York, C. Scribner's Sons, 1974. p. 194-195.
  • Bailey, Brooke (1994). The remarkable lives of 100 women healers and scientists. Holbrook, Mass.: B. Adams, Inc. pp. 138–139. ISBN 978-1-55850-361-8.
  • Hoffleit, Dorrit (March 1952). "Antonia C. Maury". Sky and Telescope. 11: 106. Bibcode:1952S&T....11..106H.
  • Hoffleit, Dorrit (1993). "Maury, Antonia Caetana De Paiva Pereira". In Sicherman, Barbara. Notable American women : the modern period ; a biographical dictionary (6th pring. ed.). Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press. pp. 464–466. ISBN 978-0-674-62733-8.
  • Larsen, Kristine M. (1997). Shearer, Benjamin F.; Shearer, Barbara S., eds. Antonia Maury (1866–1952), astronomer. Notable women in the physical sciences : a biographical dictionary (1. publ. ed.). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. pp. 255–259. ISBN 978-0-313-29303-0.
  • Maury, Antonia Coetana [sic] In Woman's Who's Who of America. 1914–1915. John William Leonard, editor-in-chief. New York, American Commonwealth Co. [1914] p. 550.
  • Sobel, Dava (2016). The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-01695-2.

External links[edit]

  • Project Continua: Biography of Antonia Maury Project Continua is a web-based multimedia resource dedicated to the creation and preservation of women’s intellectual history from the earliest surviving evidence into the 21st Century.