The Contributions of Women to the United States Naval Observatory: The Early Years.

Miss Eleanor Annie Lamson
Eleanor Annie Lamson was born in Washington DC on April 19, 1875 to Franklin S. Lamson and Annie F. Lamson. She remained a lifelong resident of Washington. Miss Lamson studied at George Washington University receiving her BS in 1897 and her MS in 1899 upon the completion of her masters thesis entitled: "Heliocentric and Geocentric Positions of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune for January 30th, May 13th, August 25th and December 7th 1904."
Miss Lamson came to the Naval Observatory in 1900 as a Miscellaneous Computer and according to Captain J. F. Hellweg, "Immediately she showed such unusual interest and ability in astronomical work that she forged ahead." By 1903 she was a full time Computer, and by 1907 she was an Assistant in the computing division. In 1921 she became the first female supervisor at the Naval Observatory with her promotion to the Supervisor of The Computing Bureau.
For all her success however, Eleanor Lamson was a victim of prejudice. She had ambitions of being a "full-rate astronomer" yet she was never allowed to observe. Understandably this was a source of frustration for her. She became an Associate Astronomer in 1925, and the Observatory sent Miss Lamson to Martha's Vineyard to obtain a photograph of the outer extensions of the corona during the January solar eclipse. Miss Lamson supervised and participated in all aspects of the eclipse expedition from building the 38-inch camera with a 6-inch Dallmeyer portrait lens to developing the images (each of which was unfortunately "marred by a faint secondary image".) Her report of the event published in Popular Astronomy describes all the details from site selection, construction of the camera, testing, through the actual event and final processing done of the images. Her enthusiasm for the event might best be seen in her description of totality: "Suddenly the thin bright crescent of the sun seemed to break up into a string of brilliant dots, known as the Baily Beads, and a moment later the corona flashed out in all its beauty."
Miss Lamson was elected to the American Astronomical Society in 1909. She traveled extensively to attend meetings and can be seen in the meeting photographs at the 1911 meeting in Washington, the 1915 meeting in Berkeley California, the 1917 meeting in Albany New York, the 1921 meeting in Connecticut and the 1929 meeting in Ottawa.
On July 27, 1932, at the age of 57, Miss Lamson died in her home after an illness of a few weeks At the time of her death, Miss Lamson was working on the reduction of the gravity work done by Dr. Meinesz of the Netherlands. The Superintendent of the Naval Observatory in tribute to her stated: "All of the publications of the Naval Observatory since 1900 bear the imprint of her painstaking and thorough care and her devotion to duty." With the death of Miss Lamson, the Computing Division was disbanded and each of her employees was promoted to the professional grade. Miss Lamson is credited with publishing several papers in the Astronomische Nachrichten, Popular Astronomy, and The Astronomical Journal, most of which deal with orbits of comets, asteroids, and the planets or with corrections to the constant of nutation. She was a member of the International Astronomical Union, the American Astronomical Society, and a National Research Council Delegate. Miss Lamson was also active in her church work as a member of the Calvary Baptist Church, and was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the University Club. She was buried in Glenwood Cemetery.

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