Henrietta Swan Leavitt

Managing Real Estate Broker with Fathom Realty PB00068179

Henrietta Swan Leavitt was born in Lancaster, Massachusetts back in 1868 to George and Henrietta.  She attended Oberlin College before transferring to Harvard University’s Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women (now Radcliffe College).  during her fourth year she took a course in astronomy earning an A-. 

She started working as one of the women “computers” at the Harvard College Observatory to measure and catalog the brightness of starts as the appeared in the observatory’s photographic plate collection.  In 1898, she became a member of the Harvard staff as their first “Curator of Astronomical Photographs”.  She left for Europe returning in 1903, she was paid $0.30 per hour or about $10.50 per week.  She died in 1921 from stomach cancer, she was 53.

What you may not know about Henrietta is that she discovered the relation between the luminosity and the period of Cepheid variables.  Until that discovery astronomers were only able to measure distances up to about a couple of hundreds of light years.  with her discovery there were able to measure the distances up to about 20 million light years.  Edwin Hubble used her discovery together with the galactic spectral shifts to establish the Milky Way diameter of about 100,000 light years.

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Comments (15)

Raymond E. Camp
Ontario, NY
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester

Good morning James,

And we complain when it takes us an extra minute to go five miles!

Make yourself an awesome day.

May 14, 2021 04:19 AM
Bob "RealMan" Timm
Ward County Notary Services - Minot, ND
Owner of Ward Co Notary Services retired RE Broker

Okay, another case of how knowing your math can help you narrow your answer down to a few hundred or more light years. I know I'm always thinking about that cepheid thing.... I had to look it up: 

  1. a variable star having a regular cycle of brightness with a frequency related to its luminosity, so allowing estimation of its distance from the earth.
May 14, 2021 05:12 AM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning James. Henrietta knew much more about the stars then I ever will. Enjoy your day.

May 14, 2021 05:23 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Good morning, James... another amazing woman and pioneer in science who was great to learn about.

May 14, 2021 05:39 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
www.iCharlotteHomes.com | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

Brilliant woman, Henrietta Swan Leavitt was, James - and she certainly died young, but, left one heck of a legacy!

May 14, 2021 07:03 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Retired Home Stager/Redesign

Hi James- all of this was way over my head but how brilliant was she!

May 14, 2021 09:10 AM
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


What a brilliant woman, and I applaud her.  I have to admit, this way over my head.  Wishing you a wonderful rest of the day, and a great weekend.  A

May 14, 2021 10:00 AM
Rocky Dickerson
Realty One Group - Las Vegas, NV
Superior Service!

Hey therre James! That is quite an interesting discovery. I can't even fathom that

May 14, 2021 10:51 AM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello James and good job with your history lesson on this Friday.  Hope you are having a great day!


May 14, 2021 02:04 PM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello James - like Kathy Streib commented, this one is definitely over my head.  Wow.  Just wow!

May 14, 2021 06:41 PM
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
Fathom Realty Washington LLC - Tacoma, WA
South Puget Sound Washington Agent/Broker!

Those are some fascinating numbers from those two. Thank you for sharing James Dray 

You are blessed my  friend...

May 14, 2021 08:13 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

James my father would have known of her, he was so into history and  stars, he used to try to teach me so much when I was a kid....Endre

May 14, 2021 10:42 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Too bad she died so young. Given what she accomplished in her life no doubt other discoveries would have occurred.

May 15, 2021 09:04 AM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear James,

What a great mind to come up with distances through observations.

May 31, 2021 06:53 AM
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

Henrietta Swan Leavitt was another marvelous women who proved that it is not your gender that determines your success but you brains, hard work and dedication.

Oct 11, 2021 07:19 AM