I had never heard of Rebecca Elson before, until I came across a piece last year that was written by Maria Popova, who publishes a wonderful newsletter/website called BrainPickings, which I highly recommend. Elson was born in Montreal and became a celebrated astronomer, getting her doctorate from Cambridge, followed by a post-doc research fellowship at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study (which was founded by Albert Einstein) to work on data from the Hubble telescope. Its launch was delayed after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, however, so she found refuge in creative writing, which she wound up teaching at Harvard while on a fellowship there. She was also diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a form of blood cancer. She returned to Cambridge to do research on the Hubble images — and to write poetry — while her disease was in remission, but it eventually returned and she died in 1999 at the age of 39. To celebrate her life, Maria Popova held a reading of her poetry by singer/songwriter Regina Spektor (via BrainPickings)
The Universe in Verse: Regina Spektor reads “Theories of Everything” by Rebecca Elson from Maria Popova on Vimeo.