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Laura H. McLaughlin was born before Kitty Hawk and lived to see men walk on the Moon and Halley's Comet come a second time. Born Laura E. Hill in Philadelphia, PA, Sept 3, 1893, she was raised in that city at the Methodist Home for Children from the age of six. With the help of that Home, she attended Northwestern University, the first from that Home ever to attend college.
She graduated from Northwestern as the U.S. entered World War I, and pursued a teaching career at three different high schools in South Dakota and New Jersey. In addition to courses in physics and mathematics, she also taught German. She returned to Northwestern to earn a master's degree. At that time, she participated in the parallax program of the Dearborn Observatory, and her name appears in the Dearborn Annals Vol. III (1935). She received an offer from Vassar College where she taught for several years prior to beginning PhD. work at the University of Michigan. Her degree was awarded in 1929 for a microphotometric study of the spectrum of Beta Lyrae, under the direction of R. H. Curtiss. She retained an interest in the field of astronomy, and assisted in the research work of her husband, but her thesis was her last major, independent research effort.
She married the Michigan astronomer Dean B. McLaughlin in 1927. The couple had five children: Elizabeth (Schick), Laura Alberta (Dawson), Dean Jr., Sarah (Camp) and Margaret (Bailey). All survive. Also surviving are 14 grandchildren and an ever-increasing number of great grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, two brothers (Walter E. and James A. Hill), and one grandson, Gregory Farley, (son of Margaret). She is well remembered for her vigor and self reliance, and for her generosity to others. A lifelong member of the Methodist Church, she was an active participant in community activities. She died February 22, 1991.
Obituary written by: Charles R. Cowley
BAAS Citation: BAAS, 1991, 23, 1490
SAO/NASA ADS Bibcode: 1991BAAS...23.1490C