TSD History Corner

Folks, Annie Jump Cannon [1863-1941} was born in Dover, Delaware. Her mother taught her the constellations and aroused in her an intense interest in astronomy. While matriculating at Wellesley College she studied physics and astronomy and learned to make spectroscopic measurements.

Annie Cannon in 1896 became a member of the Pickering Women. The Pickering Women was a group of women that historians of science have given to women that were hired by Harvard College Observatory director, Edward Pickering.

It should be noted that Dr. Pickering had a Baconian approach to science, i.e. the first step is to accumulate the facts and then extrapolate. Annie Cannon had an eye for the stellar spectra, that to say the least, was phenomenal. She developed an arbitrary divisions of stars into the spectral classes, O, B, A. F, G, K, and so on. These letters were formulated into the phrase, Oh, Be A Fine Girl/Guy–Kiss Me as a mnemonic device that helped several generations of astronomers to readily learn the spectral classification of stars.

Delaware born Annie Jump Cannon was the first woman to be honored with an honorary doctorate from Oxford in 1925. To add to her laurels she was the first woman to be elected an officer of the American Astronomical Society. She has also been dubbed the Census-Taker of the Sky. Annie Cannon had cataloged tens of thousands of stars based on their temperature and did this while a student of astronomer Edward Pickering. Annie Jump Cannon had to overcome a childhood handicap of being hard of hearing that was further complicated by going deaf in one ear.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that she received an Honorary degree from the Unversity of Delaware.

Miss Cannon in one of her last interviews opined at the beginning of WW II; “In these days of great trouble and unrest, it is good to have something outside our own planet, something free and distant and comforting to troubled minds. Let people look to the stars for comfort.”

Grace Noll Crowell {1877-1969} in her poem, STARS, gives meaning to Miss Cannon’s aforementioned quote. “There is an ancient comfort in the stars:
I treasure it–“Lift up your eyes and see,”
“He calleth them by name–not one hath failed…”
O, often through his stars–God comforts me.

A scholium: Miss Cannon’s father, Wilson Lee Cannon {1817-1905}, was a successful shipbuilder in Dover, and was very politically motivated. He was a state senator for Kent County.

Folks, Bushrod Washington {1762-1829} was the nephew of Pres. George Washington. He served as a private in the Continental Army in 1781-1782. Bushrod was nominated by Pres. John Adams to be an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1798 and served on the Court until his death.

He inherited Mount Vernon after the death of George Washington in 1799. His service on the Supreme Court was highlighted by his listing of traditional fundamental rights in Corfield v Coryell. It is acknowledged that his listing greatly influenced subsequent Constitutional Jurisprudence, especially with respect to the Privileges and Immunities Clauses.

It should be noted that the Privileges and Immunity Clause of Article Four, Section Two, Clause One is also known as the Comity Clause because it prevents a state from treating citizens of other states in a discriminatory manner.

Although Bushrod Washington was a slave owner and trader he was instrumental in founding the American Colonization Society in 1816. The Colonization Society was in the business of the resettlement free Blacks back to Africa, not for a noble cause. Bushrod Washington was the first president of the Colonization Society and served in that capacity until he died. He died in Philadelphia and was interred at Mount Vernon.

A scholium: George Washington in a 1783 letter to his nephew Bushrod wrote: “Do not conceive that fine clothes make fine men any more than fine feathers make fine birds.”


Today’s TSD History Corner comes from Alex F. Wysocki, who is a Veteran of WWII, served in the Pacific Theater and was part of the original occupation of Japan. He has a passion for the history of state he was born in, Delaware.

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