December 11 Birthday: Annie Jump Cannon. HOW WE ARE SMART

Annie Jump Cannon, astronomer
Dec. 11, 1863-Apr. 13, 1941

How We Are Smart by W. Nikola-Lisa, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Lee and Low Books, 2006)

Cannon was an astronomer and curator of photographs at Harvard Observatory. She was the person responsible for organizing stars into types (O, B, A, F, G, K, M), a classification that is still in use today.

Click on over to the Annie Jump Cannon Homepage at

November 9 Birthday: Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker, mathematician & astronomer
Nov. 9, 1731-Oct. 9, 1806

Dear Benjamin Banneker by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (Voyager, 1998)

Banneker, an 18th century  free African American was passionate about learning. Aside from excelling professionally in the fields of math and astronomy, he published an almanac and corresponded with Thomas Jefferson about slavery. Brian Pinkney’s hallmark style—scratchboard—illuminates this story.

Go to the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park & Museum in Baltimore to learn more about this multi-talented man.

August 1 Birthday: MARIA’S COMET. Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell, astronomer, woman
b. August 1, 1818
d. June 28, 1889

MARIA’S COMET (Aladdin, 2003)

by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by Deborah Lanino


Maria’s wish burns as brightly as a star.
Maria longs to be an astronomer and imagines all the strange worlds she
can travel to by looking though her papa’s telescope. One night Maria
gets her chance to look through the telescope. For the first time, she
sees the night sky stretching endlessly above her, and her dream of
exploring constellations seems close enough to touch.
In this story, inspired by the life of Maria Mitchell, America’s first
woman astronomer, “viewers will find the cobalt-blue nights, lit with
constellations that make imaginary (and actual) pictures in the sky,
every bit as attractive as Maria does.”
As a young girl, budding astronomer Maria Mitchell dreams of searching the night sky and some day finding a new comet.

May 10 Birthday: Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, astronomer
May 10, 1900-Dec. 7, 1979

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy (Charlesbridge, 2005)

“Stellar Atmospheres, A Contribution to the Observational Study of High Temperature in the Reversing Layers of Stars” anyone? That was the title of Payne-Gaposchkin’s dissertation, who excelled at Harvard as a student and a professor.

On a site about notable astronomers, read more about Payne-Gaposchkin.