Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Henrietta Leavitt’s Birthday!
This entertaining and enlightening play tells the story of Henrietta Leavitt (1868-1921), the astronomer who provided the key to determining the size of the cosmos. In 1912, working at the Harvard College Observatory, she discovered that one could relate a star’s brightness cycle to its absolute magnitude. This was a valuable stepping stone for other scientists to later be able to measure the distance of stars, star clusters, and galaxies. Leavitt, and other women with whom she worked, called “computers,” mapped the sky working from photographic plates since only men were permitted to look through the telescope at Harvard. She lived during an era of immense scientific discoveries when women’s ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them. As a working woman, she had to balance her dedication to science with family obligations and the possibility of love. Social progress, like scientific progress, can be hard to see when one is trapped among earthly complications. Henrietta Leavitt and her female peers believed in both, and their dedication changed the way we understand both the heavens and Earth.
Silent Sky is written by Lauren Gunderson, the most produced living playwright in America. The script was commissioned by and premiered at South Coast Repertory in 2011, and has been produced throughout the country.