“In complete ignorance of the requirements needed for this job, I reported for duty and was cordially received, but without fanfare assigned my first task, the photographic determination of the position of the moon.”
So began the career of Charlotte Moore upon graduating from Swarthmoore College in 1920. As was the case for many woman astronomers in that era, she was a “mathematics computer” for Princeton University, tasked with making calculations used in astronomical research. It was “women’s work” dating back to The Harvard Computers. While at Princeton, Moore worked with Henry Norris Russell, the co-developer of the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram.
After five years at Princeton, Moore moved to California to work at Mount Wilson Observatory researching solar spectra. In 1928, she returned to Princeton for a year before resigning to continue her education at the University of California at Berkley. Upon completion, she again worked with Russell at Princeton on atomic spectra.
It was during this period that Moore met her husband, Dr. Bancroft Walker Sitterly, an astronomer, physicist, and faculty member at Wesleyan University. They married on May 30, 1937. The couple did not have any children and remained married until his death in 1977.
In 1945, after recommendation from Russell, Moore went to work at the National Bureau of Standards in the Spectroscopy Section of the Atomic Physics Division. This work culminated in Atomic Energy Levels, volumes published from 1949 to 1958, which were “the definitive reference sources used for decades in such fields as astronomy, laser physics, and spectral chemistry.”
Moore received many awards during her long career, including:
1937 – Annie J. Cannon Prize
1951 – Silver Medal, Department of Commerce
1960 – Gold Medal, Department of Commerce
1961 – Federal Woman’s Award, U.S. Civil Service Commission
1963 – Annie Jump Cannon Centennial Medal, Wesley College
1966 – Career Service Award, National Civil Service League
1968 – Honorary Doctorate, Universitat zu Kiel, Germany
1972 – William F. Meggers Award, Optical Society of America
1990 – Bruce Medalist, Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Moore was born on September 24, 1898 in Ercildoun, Pennsylvania. Her parents were George Winfield Moore, a school superintendent, and Elizabeth Palmer Walton Moore, a schoolteacher. Moore worked until her death at age 91 on March 3, 1990 from heart failure at her home in Washington, D.C.