The Harvard Computers

Jennifer Lee, Producer 
Graham Sack, Writer 

Sloan Grant(s) Received: 2021, Sloan Episodic Fellowship, Sundance Institute 

Project Type: TV Pilot 

Genre: Drama 

Length: 60 pages 

Field of Science: Astronomy 

Stage: Development 


The Harvard Computers tells the true story of America’s first female astronomers. The series centers around Williamina Fleming, a twenty-one-year-old Scottish immigrant abandoned by her husband while pregnant after arriving in Boston. With nowhere to turn, Williamina takes a job as a maid in the home of brothers Edward and Henry Pickering, a pair of Harvard professors obsessed with discovering the secrets of the night sky. Frustrated by the complacency of his male students, Edward hires Williamina into the Harvard Observatory, where she assembles a group of working-class women from Boston’s immigrant ghettos and the first graduates of America’s newly-formed women’s colleges (e.g., Henrietta Swan Levitt, Antonia Maury, and Annie Jump Cannon). At a time when women were systematically excluded from higher education and science, the group’s labor established a beachhead for social progress and laid the foundation for the most important astronomical breakthroughs of the 20th century.