Herschel, Caroline

ASTRONOMER, SINGER, MATHEMATICIAN (GERMANY)
BORN 16 Mar 1750, Hannover, Niedersachsen - DIED 9 Jan 1848, Hannover, Niedersachsen
REAL NAME Herschel, Caroline Lucretia
GRAVE LOCATION Hannover, Niedersachsen: Ehemaliger Gartenfriedhof, Marienstrasse 6

Caroline Herschel was the first woman to discover a comet.

She came from a working class family in Hanover. When she was twenty her brother William asked her to come Bath, because he liked her and he needed a housekeeper. William was a fine musician and conductor and he earned his living as a chorus director. Thanks to her sister lessons she attracted attention as a soprano in Bath.

William spent a lot of time on his hobby, astronomy. He became well known as a telescope maker and with the support of King George III he was able to give up music and concentrate on telescopes and astronomy.

When Caroline was 32 she had outgrown her housekeeping duties and started helping William with his work. She started looking for comets on her own and she also calculated the positions of objects by her brother and herself. In 1783 she discovered three nebulae.

William's reputation grew after he discovered the planet Uranus. He was appointed court astronomer and Caroline became a professional astronomer as well: she received 50 pounds annually for her work. While William was on leave to Germany Caroline discovered a comet herself. They wrked together for several years, but after her brother married he spent most of his time differently. Caroline regretted this, but carried on at the observatory. She discovered several other comets. After William died in 1822 she gave up astronomy and returned to Hanover.

In Hanover she catalogued all discoveries that she and her brother had made. Because of this she was made a honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Irish Academy. She also received a Gold Medal of Science from the king of Prussia.

Caroline wrote her own biography in English when she was 90 years old. She lived on to be 97 and after she died she was buried next to the Gartenkirche, the church she visited during her childhood.

Sources
Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909
• Aubert, Joachim, Handbuch der Grabstätten berühmten Deutscher, Österreicher und Schweizer, Deutscher Kunstverlag, München, 1973
Caroline Herschel
Caroline Herschel (Astronomer and Mathematician)
Caroline Herschel (Astronomer and Mathematician)

Images

The tomb of Caroline Herschel at the Ehemaliger Gartenfriedhof, Hannover.
Picture by Androom (15 Dec 2002)

 


Hertwig, Richard von

Published: 1 Jan 2006
Last update: 18 Dec 2010