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Caroline Herschel

1750 - 1848

Caroline Herschel

Caroline Herschel has traditionally been neglected by history, living in the shadow of her famous brother, William Herschel. But recent research has demonstrated that she made valuable contributions to science in her own right.

  • Nationality
  • German-British

  • Subject
  • Astronomy

  • Fields
  • Star mapping

  • Distinctions
  • The comet 35P/Herschel-Rigollet is named after her discovery.

    Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1828.

    Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1835.

    Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy, 1838.

    Gold Medal for Science, by King of Prussia, 1846.

  • Posts
  • The state paid Caroline for her help to her famous brother, William. This makes her the first woman to be paid for scientific work.

  • Publications
  • Catalogue of Stars, a cross-indexed reference of John Flamsteed's earlier star catalogue. Published by the Royal Society in 1798, it contains many of Caroline Herschel's additions (560 stars) and improvements.

    Catalogue of Nebulae, 1820s, for which she received a Gold Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society (the next woman to receive such an award would be Vera Rubin in 1996).

  • Experiments/Discoveries
  • Caroline Herschel discovered a number of comets, including the rediscovery of Comet Enke in 1795.

    She discovered other bodies, such as M110(NGC 205), a dwarf elliptical galaxy, a companion of the Andromeda Galaxy.

Hazardous waste
A statue to the Hershels being unveiled at the Herschel Museum, Bath, in the presence of Patrick Moore

She contracted typhus at the age of 10, and this stunted her growth, leaving her 128cm in height. As a result, she dedicated herself to being of service to her brother's household, where she became interested in his astronomical work. She became proficient in telescope construction and operation, and learnt to keep accurate records of their observations.

After her brother's death in 1822, Caroline returned to Hanover, where she continued her observations, and was of considerable assistance to her nephew, John Herschel, also an astronomer, like his illustrious father.

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