|Born in Toronto, Canada, Wendy Freedman grew up in a family that encouraged her interest in science. Her father especially had a strong interest in astronomy, and introduced young Wendy to the sky.
Despite the family interest in astronomy, Wendy started her university career intending to major in biophysics. But an astronomy professor and a graduate assistant, both
enthusiastic about astronomy, convinced Wendy to become an astronomer. She received her PhD from the University of Toronto in 1984, and shortly thereafter became the fi rst
woman to join the Carnegie Institutionís permanent scientific staff.|
When Freedmanís team received time on the Hubble Telescope, they began their search for a precise Hubble Constant by looking in a galaxy named M100. There they hoped to find Cepheid variable stars to use as their study objects. After looking at four thousand stars over the course of sixty nights, they succeeded in identifying twenty Cepheids that would meet their needs.
Freedmanís success in calculating a Hubble Constant would not have been possible without the power of the Hubble Telescope. Now she leads her team in designing and building another giant telescope, this one to stay on the ground. Named the Giant Magellan Telescope, it will contain seven 27.8-foot mirrors, and produce a resolving power at least ten times that of the Hubble.
One hope for the Giant Magellan is that it will be the first telescope powerful enough to be able to see an Earth-like planet beyond our solar system. Some astronomers estimate
that at least twenty-five percent of all stars have planets. So the discovery of another Earthlike body may come soon after launch.
In reflecting on her career, Wendy Freedman said, "There isnít
a day that goes by that I am not pleased with my decision to become a scientist. Some days I canít believe that I get paid to do what I love."
Her advice to students thinking about careers is to "find
something that you like to do. Science is one option, and it is a very rewarding one. You have only one life, so it is worth taking the time to work hard, and to find something that you really enjoy doing."