International Women’s Day: Remembering Anne Barbara Underhill

The first International Women’s Day occurred in 1911, supported by over one million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere.

Anne Barbara Underhill

This year, the IWD theme is #EachforEqual: An equal world is an enabled world.

To celebrate women’s day we are looking back in Underhill’s 107 year history, and highlighting the daughter of one of Underhill’s founding partners:

Anne Barbara Underhill
Pioneering Woman Astrophysicist
June 12, 1920 – July 3, 2003

Anne Barbara Underhill was a Canadian astrophysicist. She was the daughter of one of Underhill’s founders Frederic Clare Underhill.

  • Anne was the only girl in a family of 5 children
  • She was awarded the Lieutenant Governors medal in high school for outstanding achievement
  • Her mother Anna (nee Creery) Underhill passed away when she was 18, and she assisted in raising her brothers while attending the University of British Columbia
  • Anne lost her twin brother Ronald in WWII in 1944
  • Ronald Island was named after Ronald Underhill. Next to Ronald Island is the Anne Islands which are named after Anne. These islands were part of the “Underhilll Island” survey done by JT Underhill and others in 1921
  • She graduated from UBC with a BA Hons in chemistry in 1942 and received her masters in physics and mathematics in 1944
  • Anne was one of 4 female researchers involved in Canada’s contribution to developing the atomic bomb (The Manhattan Project ) in Montreal
  • Anne continued study at the University of Chicago, receiving her Ph.D in 1948. Her thesis topic was multi-layered stellar atmospheres
  • She received two fellowships from the University Women of Canada
  • Anne specialized in the study of ‘early-type stars’ or ‘OB stars’, that is very hot blue stars
  • In 1970, she became the director of the new optical astronomy laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and worked for NASA in both the United States and Paris until 1977
  • Her career included work at the Copenhagen Observatory, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, Harvard, Princeton and University of Utrecht (Netherlands)
  • She was awarded honorary degrees from York University in 1969 and UBC in 1992

Anne is an amazing example for women of all ages as she rose to overcome many of the female stereotypes in her industry and of the times.


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