Caroline Herschel (by )

Caroline is the sister of the more famous astronomer Sir Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel but though he is known and well respected she is often seen as just his assistant.

Born 16 March 1750 to what really amounts to a rather abusive family in Germany she owed a lot to her brother for rescuing her at risk of his own freedom. He bought her to England where he had already started to establish himself as an astronomer. The siblings were basically self made financially and work hard.

Though she started off just assisting him she ended up carrying out the brunt of the work rising before her brother to write things up and generally going to bed after him.

She also made a great many discoveries on her own and even after her brothers death worked hard to varify his discoveries something that is often seen as dull but is if anything more valuable to the world at large. She produced a catalogue of nebulae which she recieved a Gold Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society in 1828. This helped her nephew John Herschel in his work - she took on the role of raising John and was the honoured guest at his graduation dispite an initial falling out with her sister-in-law.

Caroline and Mary Somerville were also elected as the first honorary women members of the Royal Astronomical Society In 1835. She obtain many other rewards and has craters and asterial bodies named after her - she was still going at 96 with the astronomy!

During work with her brother they both sustained physical hardship and injuries such as frost bite and in Carolines case being impaled on a peg holding down the telescope 🙁

She was a brave woman who had to over come alot on a personal front, her brothers hogging of the lime light is more an artifact of the age they lived in than a reflection on them. But even in such an age she won awards that would not be awarded to a women again in well over a hundred years.

And though she did not have any children she none the less raised a child and continued in her scientific endervours without neglect of his needs.

This is why I have chosen Caroline for this years Ada Lovelace Day - whilst I was in the meteoritics department I came across articles about her and it inspired me to keep going 🙂


  • By Shauna Kemp, Fri 26th Mar 2010 @ 5:47 am

    Thanks for posting about Ada Lovelace Day! I found out about through you I think through twitter and #amwriting so that was pretty cool to learn about. And then I posted about it too. And I'm a female civil engineer so I was very interested to hear about her. Thanks so much! Mine is here

    Take care, Shauna

  • By sarah, Mon 29th Mar 2010 @ 7:42 am

    Thankyou 🙂 Sorry I didn't approve the comment sooner - things have been a bit busy here :/ Who are you on twitter by the way?

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