Antonia Maury (March 21, 1866 – January 8, 1952) was an American astronomer who published an important early catalog of stellar spectra. Maury was part of the Harvard Computers, a group of female astronomers and Human Computers at the Harvard College Observatory. Winner of the Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy in 1943.

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

Early lifeEdit

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 workEdit

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. Her salary was 25 cents, half the amount paid to men at that time.[4] She has not always received credit for her discoveries. For example, at a meeting in 1890 about the observatory discoveries, Edward Charles Pickering is recorded saying; "a careful study of the results has been made by Miss. A. C. Maury, a niece of Dr. Draper" before continuing the discussion on the research, which was published under Pickering's name.[4]

In this capacity, Maury observed stellar spectra and published an important catalogue of classifications in 1897.[5] 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.[6]

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 1922 the IAU modified its classification system based on the work done by Maury and Hertzsprung.[7]

In 1891 Maury left the observatory and started teaching in the Gilman School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Pickering asked her to return and complete her observation, and she said that she was uncomfortable completing her research if her work is unacknowledged.[8] She returned for a year in 1893 and 1985 and her work was published in 1897. Her catalog was the first issue to have a women's name on the title,[8] with the acknowledgment appearing as "Discussed by Antonia C. Maury under the direction of Edward Charles Pickering".[9]

Between 1896 and 1918 Maury taught physics and chemistry at the Castle School (Miss C.E. Mason's Suburban school for girls) in Tarrytown, New York. She also gave lectures on astronomy at Cornell.[1]

In 1918, Maury returned to Harvard College Observatory as an adjunct professor. She worked better with Pickering's successor Harlow Shapley, and she stayed in the observatory until her retirement in 1948.

Her most famous work there was the spectroscopic analysis of the binary star Beta Lyrae, published in 1933.[10]

Later yearsEdit

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.[11]

The lunar crater Maury and a number of smaller ejecta craters are co-named for Antonia Maury.[12] 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 e "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). "The role of women in the history of geology". In C. V. Burek & B. Higgs (eds.). Fossil hunters, a cave explorer and a rock analyst; notes on some early women contributors to geology. 281. London, UK: Geological Society of London. pp. 39–49.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b Merrill Fabry (March 21, 2016). "The 'Renegade' Woman Who Sorted the Stars". Time Magazine. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  5. ^ 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 January 12, 2013.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Hoffleit, Dorrit. C. J. Corbally, R. O. Gray (eds.). "Remniscences on Antonia Maury and the c-Characteristic". The MK process at 50 years. A powerful tool for astrophysical insight Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference Series, Proceedings of a Workshop of the Vatican Observatory, held in Tucson Arizona, USA, September 1993, San Francisco: Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP). 60.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  8. ^ a b "Antonia Maury". Retrieved January 29, 2019.
  9. ^ 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 December 8, 2018.
  10. ^ 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 January 12, 2013.
  11. ^ "Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy". American Astronomical Society. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  12. ^ "Planetary Names: Crater, craters: Maury on Moon". International Astronomical Union. Retrieved January 12, 2013.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

  • 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.