Draper, Mary Anna Palmer (1839–1914)

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Draper, Mary Anna Palmer (1839–1914)

American philanthropist and benefactor of astronomy. Name variations: Mrs. Henry Draper. Born Mary Anna Palmer, Sept 11, 1839, in Stonington, Connecticut; died Dec 8, 1914, in New York, NY; dau. of Courtlandt Palmer (merchant, real-estate investor) and Mary Ann (Suydam) Palmer; sister of Courtlandt Palmer Jr. (founder and 1st president of Nineteenth Century Club); m. Henry Draper (professor of physiology and chemistry, astronomer), 1867 (died 1882).

Benefactor and assistant to astronomer husband, helped him to conduct pioneering work in nebular and lunar photography and to take 1st photographs of absorption lines in stellar spectra; from inheritance, funded husband's scientific pursuits and later contributed to research of others; accompanied husband to view and photograph solar eclipse in Rawlins, Wyoming (1878); following husband's death (1882), funded work of E.C. Pickering at Harvard College Observatory, establishing Henry Draper Memorial Fund; enabled Pickering to begin massive program of photographing spectra of stars and classifying these on basis of characteristics, thus compiling Draper Catalogue of Stellar Spectra (1890) which classified 10,000 stars and was updated and extended in 11 more vols. (1918–49); visited Harvard observatory regularly and inspected work in progress, giving advice on matters of policy and serving on observatory's visiting committee; contributed as well to National Academy of Sciences, donating Henry Draper Medal (1883). Also known for her knowledge and interest in archeology and for vast collection of archeological artifacts.