Tuesday, April 20, 2010

John Goodricke...disability--not a problem

John Goodricke
September 17th 1764 to April 20th, 1786

John Goodricke was deaf and an astronomer. It simply illustrates that many disabilities are not a liability.

Bill Ashworth wrote in the Linda Hall Library Newsletter...

John Goodricke, an English astronomer, died Apr. 20, 1786; he was 21 years old. He was also a deaf-mute. But in his short, silent life, he made quite a stir in astronomical circles. In 1783, he determined the period of a variable star, Algol, or beta Perseus, at just under three days. Even better, he suggested that the variability was caused by a dark planet that regularly passed in front of the star. The modern explanation is that Algol is a binary star, with the eclipse caused by the smaller star, rather than a dark planet, but Goodricke's mechanism was basically on target. The next year, Goodricke discovered that the delta star in Cepheus is also variable, with a period of just over 5 days. There is now a whole class of variable stars, the "delta Cepheids", or "Cepheids", that are very important in helping determine galactic distances; Harlow Shapley used Cepheids to estimate the size of our Galaxy in 1918. Recent research has shown that Goodricke was considerably aided in his discoveries by the suggestions of a close friend and colleague, Edward Pigott. Still, Goodricke’s success against all odds has ever since given strength to other scientists laboring under physical disabilities. There is a plaque in his honor at the Treasurer’s House in York, where Goodricke has his observatory, within sight of the great Gothic cathedral of northern England, York Minster.

John Goodricke [Wikipedia]

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