Women in Science on the Air
Mon January 15, 2007
CAROLINE HERSCHEL Audio Biography
(1750-1848) – THIS 18TH CENTURY CINDERELLA OF SCIENCE ROSE FROM A LIFE OF SERVITUDE TO RECEIVE ROYAL HONORS AND WORLDWIDE ACCLAIM AS THE FIRST LADY OF ASTRONOMY. I'M KATE MULGREW WITH HER STORY.
Caroline Herschel's father told her she would never marry. At the age of three a bout with smallpox scarred her face. At ten Typhus stunted her growth. But what Caroline lacked in physical beauty, she made up for in intellect. Her father, a band leader in the Prussian Army encouraged Caroline to study music and French with her five brothers...but her mother had other plans. Caroline was to live out her days as a maid, and servant in her parents home.
At 22 her fate took a turn when her brother William brought her to live with him in Bath, England. William taught his sister music and mathematics. Caroline became a fine soprano and sang professionally. She also took an interest in her brothers hobby, astronomy. Caroline helped William build telescopes, grinding and polishing lenses for hours at a time. Together they invented the modern mathematical approach to astronomy. Though she never mastered multiplication tables, Caroline accurately made complicated mathematical calculations on their observations of the sky.
In 1781 With Caroline's help, William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus. A short time later the Herschel siblings made astronomy full time pursuit. King George the third paid William for his work. Caroline too, drew a royal salary after becoming the first women in history to discover a comet. Carolines first solo discovery made her famous. In her lifetime she would find 7 more comets, and three new Nebula. In 1789 Caroline Herschel published an updated version of Flamsteed's Catalogue of Stars. After Williams death in 1822, she returned to Germany where she completed a catalogue of 25 hundred nebulae.
Caroline visited the royal observatory and enjoyed the hospitality of several members of the British Royal Family. She was the first woman granted membership in the Royal Astronomical society and the Royal Irish Academy and the Kings of Denmark and Germany presented her with gold medals for her work. The eyes of her who is glorified here below, turned toward the starry heavens.'
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HER-STORY: THEN & NOW was made possible by support from the National Science Foundation.