Margaret Harwood

Margaret Harwood (1885–1979)[1] was an American astronomer, the first director of the Maria Mitchell Observatory in Nantucket, Massachusetts. An asteroid discovered in 1960, was named in her honor, 7040 Harwood.

Margaret Harwood
Margaret Harwood.jpg
Born(1885-03-19)March 19, 1885
DiedFebruary 6, 1979(1979-02-06) (aged 93)
Alma mater
AwardsAnnie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy
Scientific career

Early life and educationEdit

Margaret Harwood was born in 1885 in Littleton, Massachusetts, one of nine children of Herbert Joseph Harwood and Emelie Augusta Green. In 1907 she received her AB from Radcliffe College, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1916, she earned her AM from the University of California.


The Harvard Computers in 1913; Harwood is at back left.

After graduating college, she worked at the Harvard Observatory and taught in private schools in the Boston area. In 1912, an astronomical fellowship was created for women to work at Maria Mitchell Observatory; Harwood was the first recipient of the fellowship, receiving $1,000.[2][3] In 1916, at 30 years old, Harwood was named director of Mitchell Observatory, and worked there from 1916 until her retirement in 1957.[2] Her specialty, photometry, involved measuring variation in the light of stars and asteroids, particularly that of the small planet Eros. A member of the American Astronomical Society and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, she traveled widely in Europe and the United States. She was the first woman to gain access to the Mount Wilson Observatory, the world's largest observatory at the time.[4]

In 1917, she discovered the asteroid 886 Washingtonia four days before its formal recognition by George Peters.[5] At the time, "senior people around her advised her not to report it as a new discovery because it was inappropriate that a woman should be thrust into the limelight with such a claim".[6][7] However, Harwood did send her photographs of her discovery to Peters for him to include in his study of the asteroid's orbit.[6] In 1960, an asteroid discovered at Palomar, was named in her honor, 7040 Harwood.[6][3]

Harwood was a devoted Unitarian. She was a trustee of Nantucket Cottage Hospital and taught at MIT during World War II. She is buried at the Westlawn Cemetery in Littleton.[7]


Harwood was the first woman to receive an honorary Ph.D from Oxford University. In 1960, 2542 P-L was discovered by Cornelis Johannes van Houten and Ingrid van Houten-Groeneveld and named Harwood.[8] In 1962, she received the Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy.[9]


  1. ^ Sobel, Dava (2017). "Harvard Astronomers, Assistants, and Associates". The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars (Illustrated, reprint ed.). Penguin. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-14-311134-4.
  2. ^ a b Sobel, Dava (March 19, 2020). "Scientist of the Day - Margaret Harwood". Linda Hall Library.
  3. ^ a b "7040) Harwood". International Astronomical Union.
  4. ^ Leonardo, Jascin (December 16, 2013). "Nantucket's Daring Daughters: A Brief Look At Margaret Harwood". Nantucket Chronicle. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  5. ^ Friedl, Blaine P. (June 5, 1986). "Familiar Places Go to Outer Spaces". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ a b c Murdin, Paul (2016). Rock Legends: The Asteroids and Their Discoverers. Springer Praxis Books. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-3-319-31836-3.
  7. ^ a b Clark, Thomas (April 10, 2012). "Littleton astronomer Margaret Harwood remembered for achievements". Wicked Local. GateHouse Media. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  8. ^ Schmadel, Lutz (August 5, 2003). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names, Volume 1. Springer Publishing. p. 572. ISBN 9783540002383. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  9. ^ "Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy". American Astronomical Society. Archived from the original on January 29, 2013. Retrieved September 10, 2012.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit