Caroline Lucretia Herschel


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Caroline Lucretia Herschel was born on March 16, 1750. She was born in Hanover Germany to her mother, Anna Ilse Moritzen, and her father, Isaak Herschel. She had Typhus as a child and never grew past four foot three so she was never married. Her mother did not want her to learn because she was not going to marry and she was just to take care of her brothers. Her father taught her math anyway because he wanted his children to do well in that area. When her father died she began working in her family's kitchen as a hand. When she turned 17 she was left to work in her family's kitchen until a invitation to join her brother came. She went to live with her brother, Sir Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel,and he taught her to be a concert singer.

Her brothers astronomy interest had started out as just a hobby and grew to be more of a profession. It started with him just building telescopes and her assisting. Every night her would work on astronomy to pass the time and the next morning he would give a lecture about what her had discovered, which is what got Caroline Herschel interested more and more. She gravitated more away from singing and began helping her brother more with his astronomy. All the while he was teaching her algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. She was not that interested in mathematics though, just what she could use to apply to astronomy.

Caroline Herschel began officially assisting her brother with his astronomy work and mathematic work. She was still training to be a professional singer until her brother discovered Uranus with her help and then she gave up singing to be his apprentice in his astronomy work. This was partially because her brother quit music also when he started working for King George III as the court astronomer. She and her brother continued to work, but he would often have to go away on business, so she would take over. Soon people began to recognize her authority and she became more a part of his work. Eventually King George III gave her a fifty pound pension. This was the first time a women was recognized for having a position in the scientific world.

carline_and_wilhem.jpgOne of her first feats on her own was discovering a nebulae.Since she had helped her brother build telescopes she knew how to work them on her own. She went on to discover 14 more nebulae. Her first big accomplishment in mathematics was cataloging the nebulae she had discovered. She not only calculated the position of her own nebulae, but also her brothers and put them into publication. Even with doing all that she still didn't know her multiplication tables and had to walk around with them on a piece of paper.

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Caroline Herschel's biggest accomplishment was discovering the comet Abstract. (http://womenshistory.about.com/od/scienceastronomy/p/herschel.htm) While her brother was away on a trip to Germany she was out using a telescope he had just brought her and she discovered a comet, making her the first women ever to do so. This was also huge for the scientific community as well as her brother who was very excited that his sister had done this on her own. It brought them a lot closer together. She went on to discover more comets in her career, but none of them were as well known as this one because of the doors she had opened by discovering this comet.


Caroline Herschel discovering the comet almost didn't happen because of her brother getting married to a woman named Mary. When her brother was married their relationship became strained and working with him became harder, all because of his wife. She contemplated leaving and moving back to Germany because she felt that there was no room for her in her brothers house anymore, but instead she just moved to lodging house in Upton. She was very angry at Mary for causing this rift between her and her brother and causing her astronomy career to be dwindling down to nothing. She eventually became friends with Mary though, which allowed her to become more involved in astronomy because Mary had taken over the house work. It was at this time that she cataloged all her works and published them. (http://www.gapsystem.org/~history/Biographies/Herschel_Caroline.html)

She went on to help other people, including her nephew, to publish their indexes until her brother died. Once Wilhelm died she moved back to Germany. She continued in astronomy and discovered three new comets. She also cataloged every discovery she and her brother had ever made. For this she received the Gold Metal of the Royal Astronomical Society. She later received awards such as being inducted into Britain Royal Society in 1835, election into the royal Irish academy in 1838 and the Gold Metal for Science by the King of Prussia in 1846.( http://cometography.com/biographies/herschelc.html)

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She is better known for working as an astronomer with her brother, Sir Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel, than for her mathematic work, but what many people don't know is that she helped bridge the gap between mathematics and astronomy. It was a huge advancement that made all the difference when doing astronomy and trying to record data of the position of comets. She took a huge step in the scientific world and a step for women also, showing that they could learn to. Even though she was disable Caroline Herschel did not let that stop her from achieving what she wanted to achieve. she might have been small in size but she had a huge amount of determination and because of that she is thanked for her great accomplishment.