Silent Sky in Milwaukee recounts tale of Harvard's famous women astronomers

Posted by David Eicher
on Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The play Silent Sky is now on through October 21st in Milwaukee.

If you find yourself in the area of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, over the coming days, I heartily encourage you to see the play Silent Sky at the Next Act Theater. 

I was privileged to attend a cast reading from the play at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s planetarium about three weeks ago. I’ll see the play itself next week. I can tell you from what I’ve seen that this is a terrific show and a great performance from the actors. 

Many of you undoubtedly know about the story of Harvard College Observatory’s women astronomers of the turn-of-the-20th century: Henrietta Swan Leavitt, Annie Jump Cannon, Williamina Fleming, and others. They were hired by the observatory’s director, Edward C. Pickering, and employed as “computers,” doing much of the calculating and classifying work that laid the foundation for modern astrophysics. Leavitt discovered the Period-Luminosity Relation for Cepheid variable stars, which years later permitted finding the distance scale of the universe. Along with Pickering, Cannon developed the Harvard classification scheme for stellar spectra. Fleming also contributed to the scheme and classified thousands of stars, as well as other accomplishments such as discovering the Horsehead Nebula. 

In their day, the group was termed “Pickering’s Harem” and they were largely passed over for credit they should have received. 

Silent Sky aims to recognize their amazing achievements, as well as provide a dramatic and absorbing tale of their lives. 

For details on the play, and for bookings, see:


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