Profile of the Day: Annie Jump Cannon

Posted December 11, 2020 by Amanda | No Comment

Pioneering astronomer Annie Jump Cannon was born on December 11, 1863 in Dover, Delaware. Nicknamed the “Census Taker of the Sky,” Cannon was instrumental in the development of the current system of stellar classification.

Image: Annie Jump Cannon / Library of Congress

Cannon was the eldest of three daughters born to Wilson Lee Cannon, a ship builder and Delaware state senator, and his second wife, Mary Elizabeth Jump. From a young age, Cannon had a passion for the stars. Her mother was the first to teach her the constellations and encouraged her to follow her interest in science. Although she suffered from hearing loss as a child, she would excel in her studies and go on to study physics and astronomy at Wesley College.

In 1896, she became a member of the Harvard Computers, a group of women hired by Edward C. Pickering, director of the Harvard Observatory, to complete the Henry Draper Catalogue. Their goal was to map and define every star in the sky to the ninth photographic magnitude. Once she began her work, she found the existing classification system lacking for her purposes. She soon developed a new stellar classification system that is still used today. During her lifetime, Cannon manually classified over 350,000 stars. She also discovered 300 variable stars and 5 novas.

Cannon died on April 13, 1941 at the age of 77.

Explore Annie Jump Cannon’s family tree on Geni and share your connection to the “Census Taker of the Sky.”

View Annie Jump Cannon’s Geni Profile

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