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Astronomy was Helen Hogg's lifetime work

Monday, March 25, 2002

Helen Sawyer Hogg was born Aug. 1, 1905, in Lowell, Mass. Viewing Halley's Comet one dark spring night in 1910 sparked her interest in astronomy.

In 1922, Helen began undergraduate studies in chemistry at Mount Holyoke College. However, when she viewed a total solar eclipse in 1925, her education took a different path. A visit from Annie Jump Cannon (the famous "computer" at the Harvard College Observatory who developed a system of classifying stars) in January, 1926, secured Hogg a position at the Harvard Observatory.

In her study of star clusters, Hogg worked closely with the renowned Harlow Shapley, submitting a dozen papers before her doctoral thesis. She received her master's degree in 1928 and doctorate in 1931 from Radcliffe College, because Harvard did not give graduate degrees in science to women.

In 1930, she married fellow student Frank Hogg. After her graduation in 1931, the couple moved to Victoria, British Columbia, where Frank Hogg joined the staff of the Dominion Astrophys-ical Observatory. In 1935, he joined the staff of the University of Toronto, relocating the family to Ontario. Helen joined the university in 1936 as a research assistant. In 1949, she won the Annie J. Cannon prize of the American Astronomical Society.

In 1951, Frank died unexpectedly, leaving Helen to raise their three children. Nonetheless, she continued with her work, taking over her husband's weekly column, "With the Stars," in the Toronto Star. She wrote the column for 30 years. She became a full professor in 1957 and a professor emeritus in 1976. Helen Hogg was the president of the Canadian Astronomical Society and had a minor planet named in her honor. She died in 1993.

-- By Jennifer Cramer, intern, Henry Buhl, Jr. Planetarium & Observatory

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