Florence Morrow (1904-1979) « Michael Byers

Florence Morrow (1904-1979)

Harvard College Observatory computer
wife to Dick Morrow, companion of Alan Barber

Florence Morrow (née Chambers) gained her B.A. in Mathematics from Radcliffe in 1922 and went on to become one of the nearly dozen women who worked in the Harvard College Observatory ‘computer’ room during Harlow Shapley’s tenure as Director. Born to great privilege in the Back Bay, Florence Chambers married her cousin, Dick Morrow, in Flagstaff in 1928, when Dick Morrow was on staff at Lowell Observatory. The couple honeymooned in Mexico, with Dick Morrow abandoning his position at Lowell to follow his new wife. Florence’s association with Alan Barber appears to have been only platonic, but Alan Barber did name a comet after her (1928 – VII – Florence). Her later work in the Harvard College Observatory plate stacks, where she hunted for old images of Planet X after its discovery was announced, was crucial in finally determining the strange object’s erratic orbit. The Morrows would raise six children together in the Boston area; two grandchildren are currently on staff at major American observatories. The comet Florence is expected to return to the inner solar system in the year 2097.

Mrs. Richard Morrow is in fact a little bit bourgeois in the pride she takes in their apartment, large and well papered in red and with four marble fireplaces and in a very good and indeed nearly excellent spot a block off Commonwealth, with a Wainwright two doors down and the Mrs. Dunhams at the end of the block.  Since she was in diapers Florence has spent her summers keeping company at the great lawns of Seahome or the long shingle of Singing Beach, and every other day she sees on the street some boy she kissed fifteen years ago behind someone’s tennis courts or with whom she has at one point or another taken a little bit of a car ride.  There is a tremendous amount of society one must acknowledge and undertake to maintain, and she goes about it mostly in the usual way; but she has never been all that good at it, being brilliant in a fashion that girls are not generally expected to be and thereby becoming that troublesome thing, hard to evaluate.  Even the girls who take Dos Passos to the island to read in their lawn chairs, tapping their cigarettes into the grass, don’t know what to make of her.