[ASA] In Memoriam: Verlie Lee

Luke Barnes L.Barnes2 at westernsydney.edu.au
Tue Jul 23 15:37:25 AEST 2019

From Dr. Toner Stevenson’s article<https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/OVgFCZYM2VFwQ9LXIz35xl?domain=cambridge.org> “Making Visible the First Women in Astronomy in Australia: The Measurers and Computers Employed for the Astrographic Catalogue”:

“The Astrographic Catalogue  was arguably the most significant astronomy project undertaken in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in Australia. … According to Sydney Observatory Astrographic computers, Winsome Bellamy and Verlie Lee (nee Maurice), each plate was assigned to two women to measure, one in the positive, the other in the reverse. Every thirty minutes, or so, the women would swap positions, one measuring, the other notating. In general the measurement was done in the morning and the computational work in the afternoon, and the measurement machine was located near a window facing south for even light.”

Verlie Lee, one of the computers for the Astrographic Catalogue, passed away on 15th June 2019 at age 88. Her obituary in the Nambucca Guardian<https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/XBIRC1WZXri0qNoLTGZYTr?domain=tributes.nambuccaguardian.com.au> reads:

Verlie Lee: Of Faringdon Village, Nambucca Heads and formerly of Eungai Creek. Dearly loved wife of Jack (dec). Adored mother of Stephen, Janet (dec), Dianne and Warren. Loved nanna of her 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. Beloved sister of Betty. Aged 88 years.”

I knew Verlie as a charming and very witty retired lady from the small town I grew up in. A few years ago, I ran into her in Macksville and, on hearing what I do now, she mentioned that she used to work for Harley Wood at the Sydney Observatory (“he was very good at table tennis”). From Stevenson’s article, she was one of 22 women who measured the positions of 740,000 stars from 1400 photographic plates between 1916 and 1963. These painstaking measurements have been combined with Hipparcos data<https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/j95lC2xZYvC48zX0hBDTTQ?domain=archive.org> to derive high-accuracy proper motions of stars. More about the Astrographic Catalogue here<https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/1RGdC3Q8Z2FP2zlWcDIY3g?domain=maas.museum> and here<https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/U3FOC4QZ1RFnlKORcVumBz?domain=maas.museum>.


Dr. Luke Barnes
John Templeton Postdoctoral Fellow
Western Sydney University

Penrith (Kingswood) Campus (Office Y2 13)
NSW, Australia 2751
Phone: +61 2 47360 610
Email: L.Barnes2 at westernsydney.edu.au
Website: lukebarnes.info
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