Here are three uncommon astronomers with a common thread that runs through their story. Even better, the plot has a twist.
John Goodricke was an English astronomer credited with the discovery of the variable stars beta Lyrae and delta Cephei. More notably, he was the first to explain the variability of Algol, the Demon Star, in Perseus. He proposed that it was a binary system and we were witnessing the eclipses of one of the components by the other, which resulted in the dimming of the starlight. Goodricke tragically died very young, at the age of twenty-two, 14 days after being named a Fellow of the Royal Society. It would be a hundred years before his theory of Algol's variability would be proved.
Annie Jump Cannon also discovered variable stars, over 300 of them in her career. She was one of 'Pickering's Women' who worked at Harvard College on the Henry Draper Catalog of 230,000 stars. She is most famous for helping develop the modern stellar classification system based on spectral type. Anyone who has studied stars knows the mnemonic 'Oh be a fine girl, kiss me' representing the spectral classifications O,B,A,F,G,K,M. Among the many honors and awards she earned in her illustrious 40 year career, she was the first woman elected an officer of the American Astronomical Society.
Henrietta Swan Leavitt worked tirelessly for years examining the photographic plates of the Harvard College Observatory. In the process of this work, she discovered and observed the variations in brightness of thousands of variable stars in images of the Magellanic Clouds. Many of these turned out to be Cepheid variables, named for Goodricke's delta Cephei, the prototype of this class of variable star. Leavitt discovered the relationship between the absolute magnitude and the period of these Cepheid variables. The brighter stars had longer periods and the fainter stars had shorter periods. This period-luminosity relationship formed the basis for one of the most important astronomical yardsticks for measuring the distance to stars, eventually proving that Andromeda and other galaxies were indeed island universes much farther away than previously imagined.
Yes, they were all impressive, intelligent people. Yes, they were all astronomers. Yes, they all were involved in variable star research and discovery. But what you probably didn't know is they achieved all this in spite of being deaf.