Edward Charles Pickering

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Edward Charles Pickering

Birthplace: Boston, MA, United States
Death: February 03, 1919 (72)
Place of Burial: Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Edward R. Pickering and Charlotte Daniel Pickering
Husband of Elizabeth Wadsworth Pickering
Brother of William Henry Pickering

Managed by: Private User
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About Edward Charles Pickering


Edward Charles Pickering (July 19, 1846–February 3, 1919) was an American astronomer and physicist, brother of William Henry Pickering.

Along with Carl Vogel, Pickering discovered the first spectroscopic binary stars. He wrote Elements of Physical Manipulations (2 vol., 1873–76).

Pickering attended Boston Latin School, and received his B.S. from Harvard in 1865. Later, he served as director of Harvard College Observatory from 1877 to his death in 1919, where he made great leaps forward in the gathering of stellar spectra through the use of photography.

At Harvard, he recruited many women to work for him, including Annie Jump Cannon, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, and Antonia Maury. These women, who came to be known as "Pickering's Harem" by the scientific community, made several important discoveries at HCO. Leavitt's discovery of the period-luminosity relationship for Cepheids, published by Pickering, would prove the foundation for the modern understanding of cosmological distances.


Awards and honors

  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1867.
  • Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1886 and 1901)
  • Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences (1888)
  • Bruce Medal (1908)

Named after him

  • The crater Pickering on the Moon
  • The crater Pickering Mars.
  • Asteroid 784 Pickeringia

(all jointly named after him and his brother William Henry Pickering)


  • Pickering, EC (1912). "THE ALLEGHENY OBSERVATORY IN ITS RELATION TO ASTRONOMY.". Science 36 (927): pp. 417–421. 1912 Oct 4. Bibcode 1912Sci....36..417P. doi:10.1126/science.36.927.417. PMID

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Edward Charles Pickering's Timeline

July 19, 1846
Boston, MA, United States
February 3, 1919
Age 72
Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States