Lady Astronomers in Steampunk Romance
As a kid I grew up around science, whether it was astronomy, computers or aerospace engineering in the California Bay Area. When not overseas on deployment, my father would take me out stargazing a few miles away from the naval base we lived on. The beauty about living on the Moffett Field was that it housed the, still functioning, NASA Research Facilities. If I had a question about the stars I only had to walk from Hangar One and ask some of the most talented people on the base.
When I set out to write my Steampunk romantic novella, “The Winter Triangle” I knew that stargazing and astronomy had to be a part of this Valentine tale. Professor Morgan Thibodeaux was created and based on my research about two of the “Pickering” women—Henrietta Swan Leavitt and Annie Jump Cannon. Both ladies worked at different times for Pickering as human “computers” to measure and catalog the brightness of stars.
These findings were later produced into the Henry Draper Catalogue. Annie Jump Cannon, while an undergraduate at Wellesley, contracted scarlet fever and became partially deaf. Not letting that stop her she went onto invent the Harvard Classification Scheme for stars. Henrietta Swan Leavitt’s discovery allowed astronomers to measure the distance between the Earth and distant galaxies. Her discovery of the period-luminosity law for Cepheids is still used by astronomers today.
That kind of dedication and love for the night sky is what I brought to Professor Morgan and she brings that love to Cassandra with the help of her sign language interpreter, Hunter. Professor Morgan has Leavitt’s cheerful personality and it shows throughout “The Invitation" (our Steampunk novella formerly known as "The Winter Triangle”). Morgan’s silent world is not a hindrance. She sees the world around her in all its vibrancy and brings a sense of fun to Cassandra’s world during the eve of Valentine’s Day.
With good humor and cheer, Professor Morgan inspires both Cassandra and Hunter to look at the night with new eyes. Throughout their evening in “The Invitation”, the trio’s adventures fill them with the same awe and wonderment only a clear West Virginia winter night sky can offer.