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Caroline Herschel, Age 92 from original lithograph by George Muller

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The woman who looked up by Allison Oats

Famous and important women can sometimes seem to be hard to find in history.  However, there are an abundant amount whether their role is primary or secondary.  One such historic woman is Caroline Herschel.  She is an important woman because of her contributions and dedication to the continuation of astronomy. Caroline Lucretia Herschel was born on March 16, 1750 in Hanover.  Her father Issac Herschel gave her basic lessons in mathematics, music, and French.  Caroline, along with her brother William, was musically talented and they both developed a passion for astronomy.  After her father died in 1767, she moved to England to live with her brother William.  She soon became immersed in her brother’s obsession.  They built a huge telescope to help them view everything the sky had to offer. William would call out what he saw in the night sky and Caroline would record and catalogue it.  In 1781, William discovered the planet Uranus.  Caroline’s research impressed King George III so much that she was eventually given money by his majesty to continue her research as an employee to the court.  Caroline is credited with the discovery of eight comets and she submitted a new index to Flamsteed’s Observations of the Fixed Stars adding 560 stars which had not been included in the previous edition.  She received honorary membership of the Royal Society of England in 1835 and was the first of two women to do so.  She received other honors and medals from the Irish and the King of Prussia.  In 1889 an asteroid was named 281 Lucretia in her honor and a lunar crater was named C-Herschel as well.  Caroline Herschel is irreplaceable in the history of astronomy.  Her dedication helped astronomers like her brother and young nephew to excel in their field and she herself was a remarkable astronomer.  She had the respect of her male counterparts at home and abroad and proved that, even though she came from humble beginnings and had the disadvantage of being a woman during her time, she could make a great difference.  Caroline Herschel was a role model around the world and inspired future generations of women to reach for the stars.

Sources:

Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey.  Caroline Herschel’s Contributions to Astronomy.  Annals of             Science, 32.  1975: 149-161.

Hoskin, Michael.  Caroline Herschel: ‘the unquiet heart.’  Science Direct. 2005.  Volume         29 (Issue 1).  22-27.

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