Ida Barney

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Ida Barney
Born (1886-11-06)November 6, 1886
New Haven, Connecticut
Died March 7, 1982(1982-03-07) (aged 95)
New Haven, Connecticut
Citizenship United States
Fields Astronomy
Alma mater
  • Smith College (B.A.)
  • Yale University (Ph.D.)
Thesis  (1911)
Known for Astrometric measurements of 150,000 stars
Notable awards Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy (1952)

Ida Barney (November 6, 1886 – March 7, 1982) was an American astronomer, best known for her 22 volumes of astrometric measurements on 150,000 stars. She was educated at Smith College and Yale University and spent most of her career at the Yale University Observatory. She was the 1952 recipient of the Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy.

Early life[edit]

Barney was born on 6 November 1886 in New Haven, Connecticut. Her mother was Ida Bushnell Barney and her father was Samuel Eben Barney.[1] She was an avid birder and the New Haven Bird Club President.[2] After her retirement from Yale, she continued to live in New Haven,[3] where she died on 7 March 1982,[1] 95 years old.[4]


In 1908, Barney graduated from Smith College with a Bachelor of Arts degree. There, she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, national honor societies for students. Three years later, she received her Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University.[1]

Scientific career[edit]

Rollins College, ca.1909

From 1911–1912, just after receiving her Ph.D., Barney was a mathematics professor at Rollins College. At the conclusion of that year, she moved to her alma mater to Smith College, where she was an instructor of mathematics. In 1917, she was hired as a professor at Lake Erie College, where she stayed until 1919. In 1920, she returned to Smith College as an assistant professor. In 1922, the Yale University Observatory appointed Barney a Research Assistant, a title she held until 1949, when she was promoted to Research Associate.[1] The Observatory, like many other university observatories, was allocating significant resources to astrometry, thanks to the development of telescope-mounted cameras. At the beginning of her career in astronomy, Barney worked under Frank Schlesinger; she plotted the position of stars from photographic plates and worked on the calculations of their celestial coordinates from their positions on the plates.[5] The work was tedious, which Schlesinger thought to be suitable for women incapable of theoretical research.[6] Despite this, she developed several methods that increased both the accuracy and speed of her measurements, including the use of a machine that automatically centered the photographic plates.[3] Her life's work, completed over 23 years, contributed to the Yale Observatory Zone Catalog, a series of star catalogs published by the Yale Observatory for 1939 to 1983, containing around 400,000 stars, and influenced the Bright Star Catalogue.[2] Her individual contribution to these star catalogues recorded the position, magnitude, and proper motion of approximately 150,000 stars. Due to its high accuracy, the catalogue is still used today in proper motion studies.[1][2] She retired from academic life in 1955.[4] She was succeeded by Ellen Dorrit Hoffleit.[2]


While a Research Associate at the Yale University Observatory, in 1952, Barney was awarded the triennial Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy, a prestigious award for women astronomers given by the American Astronomical Society.[1][2][4][7][8]

Her remains are interred at Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut.[9]

Planetoid Barney1159 T-2 (#5655 Barney) is a main-belt asteroid. It was discovered on 29 September 1973, by Ingrid van Houten-Groeneveld. Cornelis Johannes van Houten and Tom Gehrels at Palomar Observatory, who named it in her honor.[10]

Published works[edit]

See also[edit]





Further reading[edit]