Category Archives: Events

Radio West: “The Women Who Measured the Cosmos”


Tuesday, we’re talking about the 19th-century women who measured the cosmos. Science journalist Dava Sobel is among our guests. Her latest book is about the women employed by Harvard Observatory to serve as “human computers.” They did calculations based on the observations of their male counterparts, but became astronomical pioneers in their own right. Pygmalion Theatre Company is staging a play based on the life of one of these remarkable women, which gives us an excuse to talk about them and discoveries.

Dava Sobel is a former science reporter for the New York Times. She’s the co-author of six books and the author of five, including her newest, The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars

Mark Fossen directed Pygmalion Theatre Company’s production of Lauren Gunderson’s play Silent Sky. It’s about the life of Henrietta Leavitt, an astronomer at Harvard Observatory in the 19th century.

Hannah Minshew plays Henrietta Leavitt in Pygmalion Theatre Company’s production of Silent Sky.

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Salt Lake theater company unveils ‘Silent Sky,’ another ‘Hidden Figures’ story

SilentSky-Slider-960x720Lauren Gunderson’s play “Silent Sky,” opening this week in a regional premiere at Pygmalion Productions, seems grounded in the cultural zeitgeist as it tells a sweeping, starlit story about another hidden figure in science.

“Sky” is based on the groundbreaking discoveries of Henrietta Leavitt and her female colleagues, who in the early 20th century were employed with other women as human “computers” at Harvard College Observatory, charting the stars for a renowned male astronomer.

Henrietta isn’t allowed to use the sophisticated telescope. But her irrepressible ambition drives her to explore how to calculate the size of the universe based on the variable brightness of stars, while she’s negotiating the scale of other relationships in her life.

“Following this curiosity was not easy,” Henrietta tells her male boss, who has a crush on her. “I had to insist, which requires a dedicated desire unmatched by reason, which is called passion.”

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