Date: 1750 – 1848 (98 years old)
Who was Caroline Herschel ?
Caroline was the first woman to discover acomet.
She helped discover the planet Uranus, and also discovered nebulae on her own.She was the first woman officially recognized in a scientific position, as well as the first woman to receive honorarymembership into Britain’s prestigious Royal Society.
Caroline Herschel made a significant contribution to the field ofastronomy. Many of the comets she discovered are named for her, as well as a lunar crater (C. Herschel) and an asteroid (Lucretia).
Top 5 facts about Caroline Herschel:
She was the first woman to discover a comet
My dear nephew was only in his sixth year when I came to be detached from the family circle. But this did not hinder John and I from remaining the most affectionate friends, and many a half or whole holiday he was allowed to spend with me, was dedicated to making experiments in chemistry, where generally all boxes, tops of tea-canisters, pepper-boxes, teacups, &c., served for the necessary vessels, and the sand-tub furnished the matter to be analysed. I only had to take care to exclude water, which would have produced havoc on my carpet.
Caroline was born in Hanover, Germany, as Karoline Lucretia Herschel on March 16, 1750. She was one of six children, and her nickname as a child was ‘Lina’.
At the age of ten, Caroline became ill with a disease called typhus, which stunted her growth, so that she never grew past four-foot three. Caroline’s mother did not have many ambitions for her daughter, and thought that she would only be a maid, when she was older. Life was not very exciting.
Sir William Herschel and Caroline Herschel
Training as an astronomer
However, Caroline moved to England at the age of 22, to join her brother, William. At that time, he was working as a musician, and he also had a strong interest in astronomy. He helped Caroline to develop her singing and also trained her to be his assistant in his astronomy work.
During this time, Caroline also learned mathematics, and she also started to make her own investigations and observations too.
In 1781, William discovered the planet Uranus, and credited Caroline for her help in this discovery. William was then knighted by King George III who appointed him as court astronomer, and Caroline decided to spend all her time and energy on astronomy.
Caroline’s Astronomical Discoveries
Although Caroline had been assisting her brother for years as an apprentice, her own skills as an astronomer were now being truly recognized. She made several important discoveries.
Caroline discovered new nebulae in 1783; Andromeda and Cetus, and 14 more nebulae soon after.
In 1876, she discovered a comet using her new telescope, (a 27-inch focal length Newtonian telescope, and a gift from her brother). This discovery was important as she wasthe very first woman to have done so.
In 1787, King George III employed her as William’s assistantofficially, complete with a modest salary (£50 per year) and making her the first woman to be paid for scientificservices.
Caroline also cross-indexed the existing star catalogue
compiled by England’s first “astronomer royal”, John
Flamsteed, listing the details of more than 550 stars that had not been included in the original catalogue, leading to the publication of the ‘Catalogue of Star’ by the Royal Society in 1798.
After her brother William got married in 1788, Caroline was free from many of the household chores and responsibilities and had more time for astronomy.
Caroline made many discoveries independently of William, and continued to work alone on a number of the astronomical discoveries which helped herbecome famous in the scientific world, including the rediscovery of CometEncke in 1795.