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At Harvard, he recruited over 80 women to work for him, including Annie Jump Cannon, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, and Antonia Maury. These women, the Harvard Computers (also described as "Pickering's Harem" by the scientific community at the time), made several important discoveries at HCO. Leavitt's discovery of the period-luminosity relationship for Cepheids, published by Pickering, would prove the foundation for the modern understanding of cosmological distances.
In 1896, Pickering published observations of previously unknown lines in the spectra of the star ζ-Puppis. These lines became known as the Pickering series (or the Pickering-Fowler series) and Pickering attributed them to hydrogen in 1897.Alfred Fowler gave the same attribution to similar lines that he observed in a hydrogen-helium mixture in 1912. Analysis by Niels Bohr included in his 'trilogy' on atomic structure argued that the spectral lines arose from ionised helium, He+, and not from hydrogen. Fowler was initially-skeptical but was ultimately convinced that Bohr was correct, and by 1915 "spectroscopists had transferred [the Pickering series] definitively [from hydrogen] to helium." Bohr's theoretical work on the Pickering series had demonstrated the need for "a re-examination of problems that seemed already to have been solved within classical theories" and provided important confirmation for his atomic theory.
Pickering is credited for making the Harvard College Observatory known and respected around the world, and it continues today to be a well-respected observatory and program.
^Bunch, Bryan H. and Hellemans, Alexander (2004) The History of Science and Technology: A Browser's Guide to the Great Discoveries, Inventions, and the People Who Made Them, from the Dawn of Time to Today. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.