Caroline Herschel

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Herschel Caroline 1829.jpg

Caroline Herschel (16 March 1750 – 9 January 1848) was a German astronomer who spent most of her life in England. Herschel was the first woman astronomer.

Early life[change | change source]

Herschel was born on March 16, 1750 in Hanover, Germany. She was encouraged by her father to get an education. Herschel learned geometry on her own. She had a hard life because people that she loved died. After her father's death, her brother William Herschel suggested she join him in England. Herschel left Hanover for England on August 16, 1772, with her brother.

Horizons Expand[change | change source]

Herschel left for England in August, 1772. Her neighbor taught how to cook, market, and to speak English. This expanded her horizons. William encouraged Herschel to be independent. She signed up to learn how to sing and to play the harpsichord. This led her to being a part of William’s musical shows in small gatherings. Herschel and William discussed astronomy in their free time. This caused her interest for constellations to grow. Herschel began including English society in her everyday life. This was because of the influence William had on her. Herschel was asked to be a soloist for oratorios. She eventually decided to devote her time to astronomy. This helped William because he needed Herschel’s talents in copying papers. 

Discoveries[change | change source]

Herschel helped her brother with his studies and career in science. She helped him to discover Uranus with a six-foot telescope. Herschel’s brother was credited with the discovery of Uranus. He was knighted because of their discovery, and she became his assistant. Herschel was the first woman to have a governmental position in England. She dedicated herself to helping her brother. She recorded and completed tasks for him. Her calculations and record keeping were always accurate. They saved her brother a lot of time. Herschel often worked on discoveries of her own. She discovered the Andromeda and Cetus nebulae. Nebulae are clouds of gasses that turn into stars. Herschel had discovered 14 other nebulae by the end of the year. She also discovered eight comets.[1]

Family Life[change | change source]

Herschel's family loved each other very much. She had a brother, William Herschel which was very famous for his work. William Herschel got married in 1788 and Caroline Herschel was worried about having to share a home with him and his wife. His wife became one of her good friends. Herschel's brother died in 1822 and left her without his financial support. She returned to Hanover after his death and received her stipend from the British royal family. She also helped her brother's son finish his father's work.

Awards[change | change source]

Caroline Herschel was awarded a gold medal for her works in science from the Royal Astronomical Society in 1828. She was made an honorary member at the Royal Astronomical Society ten years later. Herschel also received a similar award from the Royal Irish Academy. She was awarded the gold medal for science by the King of Prussia on her ninety-sixth birthday.

Late Life and Legacy[change | change source]

Herschel died on January 9, 1848 in Germany. She died at the age of 97. Herschel was never married.

An asteroid was discovered in 1888. It was called Lucretia, Herschel's middle name. Herschel continued to have a legacy after her death because she discovered several comets.

Comets[change | change source]

She was the first woman to discover a comet. She discovered seven more comets between 1789 and 1797. The comet 35P/Herschel-Rigollet is named in her honor, as well as the lunar crater C. Herschel, and the planetoid (281) Lucretia. She also is famous for her work with her brother. She aided him in his studies. She reorganized John Flamsteed's British Catalogue, which listed nearly 3,000 stars.

References[change | change source]

  1. "Caroline Lucretia Herschel." Encyclopedia of World Biography, vol. 20, Gale, 2000. Student Resources in Context, Accessed 29 Mar. 2017.