Cora G. Burwell

Cora Gertrude Burwell (June 25, 1883 – June 20, 1982) was an American astronomical researcher specialized in stellar spectroscopy. She was based at Mount Wilson Observatory from 1907 to 1949.

Cora G. Burwell
An older white woman, smiling, wearing glasses.
Cora G. Burwell, from a 1949 newspaper.
Born(1883-06-25)June 25, 1883
Massachusetts, US
DiedJune 20, 1982(1982-06-20) (aged 98)
Los Angeles, California, US
Alma materMount Holyoke College (BA)
Known forInterpretation of stellar spectral data
Scientific career
InstitutionsMount Wilson Observatory

Early lifeEdit

Cora Gertrude Burwell was born in Massachusetts and raised in Stafford Springs, Connecticut.[1] She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1906[2][3] and was active in Holyoke alumnae activities in the Los Angeles area.[4][5]


In July, 1907,[6] Burwell was appointed to a "human computer" position at Mount Wilson Observatory.[7][8] In 1910, she attended the fourth conference of the International Union for Cooperation in Solar Research, when it was held at Mount Wilson.[9]

Burwell specialized in stellar spectroscopy.[2] She was solo author on some scientific publications,[10][11][12][13][14] and co-authored several others (some of which she was lead author), with notable collaborators including Dorrit Hoffleit,[15] Henrietta Swope,[16] Walter S. Adams,[17] and Paul W. Merrill.[18] With Merrill she compiled several catalogs of Be stars,[19] in 1933, 1943, 1949, and 1950.[20] She also helped to tend the Mount Wilson Observatory Library.[21] She retired from the observatory in 1949,[2] but continued speaking about astronomy to community groups. She also published a book of poetry, Neatly Packed.[22]

Personal lifeEdit

Cora Burwell lived in Pasadena, and later in Monrovia with her sister, Priscilla Burwell.[2] She died in 1982, two days before her 99th birthday, in Los Angeles.


  1. ^ Catalogue of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. Mount Holyoke College. 1903. p. 94 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b c d "Caltech Librarian, Astronomer End Long-Time Scientific Whirl". Pasadena Independent. 1949-07-01. p. 12. Retrieved 2020-12-03 – via
  3. ^ General Catalogue of Officers and Students of Mount Holyoke College, 1837-1911. Mount Holyoke College. 1911. p. 339 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "Entertaining for Visitor from China". The Pasadena Post. 1925-09-05. p. 6. Retrieved 2020-12-03 – via
  5. ^ "Mount Holyoke Club Schedules Spring Meeting". Daily News. 1951-04-18. p. 36. Retrieved 2020-12-03 – via
  6. ^ Mount Wilson Observatory (1906). Annual Report of the Director of the Mount Wilson Observatory. Carnegie Institution of Washington. p. 137.
  7. ^ Vuong, Zen (2015-10-06). "These women were 'human computers' before they were allowed to be astronomers". Pasadena Star News. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  8. ^ Sandage, Allan; Brown, Louis; Allan, Sandage (2004). Centennial History of the Carnegie Institution of Washington: Volume 1, The Mount Wilson Observatory: Breaking the Code of Cosmic Evolution. Cambridge University Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-521-83078-2.
  9. ^ "International Union for Co-operation in Solar Research". Photographic Archive, The University of Chicago. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  10. ^ Burwell, Cora G. (1937-12-01). "A Nova in Sagittarius (June, 1936)". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 49: 342–343. Bibcode:1937PASP...49..342B. doi:10.1086/124871. ISSN 0004-6280.
  11. ^ Burwell, Cora G. (October 1938). "Lines of Ionized Barium in Stellar Spectra". Astrophysical Journal. 88: 278–283. Bibcode:1938ApJ....88..278B. doi:10.1086/143982.
  12. ^ Burwell, Cora G. (1953). "Classifying Stars by Their Spectra". Leaflet of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 6: 307. ISSN 0004-6272.
  13. ^ Burwell, Cora G. (1951). "The Astronomer's Most Useful Chart". Leaflet of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 6: 162. ISSN 0004-6272.
  14. ^ Burwell, Cora G. (1950). "Search for Stars with Glowing Hydrogen". Leaflet of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 6: 59. ISSN 0004-6272.
  15. ^ Burwell, Cora G.; Hoffleit, Dorrit (1943-08-01). "A Faint Nova in Ophiuchus (June 1939)". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 55: 194. doi:10.1086/125544. ISSN 0004-6280.
  16. ^ Burwell, Cora G.; Swope, Henrietta (1941-12-01). "A Faint Nova in Ophiuchus (July 1940)". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 53: 343. doi:10.1086/125374. ISSN 0004-6280.
  17. ^ Adams, Walter S.; Burwell, Cora G. (1915). "Results of an Investigation of the Flash Spectrum without an Eclipse". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 1 (3): 127–130. doi:10.1073/pnas.1.3.127. ISSN 0027-8424. JSTOR 83486.
  18. ^ Merrill, Paul W.; Burwell, Cora G.; Miller, William C. (1947-08-01). "The Spectrum of Nova Sagittarii May 1947". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 59: 194. doi:10.1086/125950. ISSN 0004-6280.
  19. ^ Tipton, Everett (April 28, 1933). "Science Finds Hottest Stars". San Pedro News Pilot. p. 16. Retrieved December 3, 2020 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection.
  20. ^ "Be stars | Shelyak Instruments". Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  21. ^ Connor, Elizabeth (June 1950). "The Mount Wilson Observatory Library". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 62: 98–99.
  22. ^ "Duarte Woman's Club to Honor New Members". Daily News-Post and Monrovia News-Post. 1950-01-14. p. 3. Retrieved 2020-12-03 – via