Cannon attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where she contracted scarlet fever. As a result, she became almost completely deaf. Cannon graduated with a degree in physics in 1884, and eventually became the assistant to one of her former professors, Sarah Frances Whiting. Cannon's job allowed her to take graduate courses at the college. She returned to Wellesley in 1894 for graduate study in physics and astronomy. Cannon then decided to enroll at Radcliffe Women's College at Harvard, which had access to the Harvard College Observatory -- and a better telescope. By 1907, she had received a MA from Wellesley.
In 1896, Cannon became a member of "Pickering’s women," the women hired by Harvard Observatory director Edward Charles Pickering to complete the Draper Catalog mapping and defining all the stars in the sky.
Cannon won many other awards and honors:
- In 1925, she received the first honorary doctorate Oxford University ever awarded to a woman.
- In 1929, the National League of Women Voters listed her as one of the 12 "greatest living American women."
- In 1931 awarded the Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.
- In 1932 awarded the Ellen Richards Prize.
- First woman elected an officer of the American Astronomical Society.
- In 1938 named the William Cranch Bond Astronomer at Harvard.
- The crater Cannon on the Moon is named after her.
Photo source 1; photo source 2