Caroline Herschel (1750-1848)

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Caroline Herschel (1750-1848)

Caroline Herschel(1750-1848) By: Nadine Shadruff


Who was the first woman scientist to discover a comet?

Caroline Herschel's Background:Caroline Herschel was born in Hanover, Germany on March 16, 1750. Herschel was a German-born English astronomer who is well-known for discovering new nebulae and star clusters. She was also the very first woman to discover a comet! She was one of six children, and Caroline Herschel becaame ill with Typhus when she was only ten years old, which stunted her growth. Due to this, she only grew to be 4' 3". Before officially becoming an astronomer on her own, Herschel helped and assist her brother, a scietntist, with his scientific work and observations as well. She was the very first woman to earn money for her scientific work. She never married. She received her final scientific award at the age of 96 years old. She died at the age of 98 years old in Germany.

Motivation for Going into Science/Roadblocks: Herschel described herself as "the Cinderella of the family." She did tedious household chores and tasks, and after being a house servant for her parents' home for years, she ran her brother's household. It was actually her mother who wanted her to be a house servant. Her brother, William Herschel, was an astronomer, and that made her want to follow in his footsteps. She started off basically as an assistant to her brother, recording her observations with the telescope for him. She even helped assist her brother in the building of telescopes. She became a well-established astronomer on her own, even becoming the first woman to get paid for her scientific work and contributions, which was a major achievement considering women were not considered a part of the scientific community yet back in her time period, the (1750s and the early 1800s).


Contributions to Science:Caroline Herschel was the first woman to discover a comet. She discovered a total of 8 comets! The first comet that she found became known as, "The First Lady's Comet." Her scientific work increased the number of known star clusters from 100-2,500. Herschel found an open cluster known now as "NGC 2360." She also discovered 14 new nebulae known as "NGC 205," which is the companion to the "Andromeda Galaxy." She received a Gold Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society. In the year 1838, she was elected as a member of the Royal Irish Accademy, and when she was 96 years old, she was awarded the Gold Medal for Science by the King of Prussia. Caroline Herschel was one of the very first women to be officially recognized as a scientist and astronomer in the scientific community. In fact, she is best-known for being the first woman to locate a comet and to earn a salary, incredibly impressive considering the time period, for her helpful scientific discoveries, work, and observations regarding comets, nebulas, and star clusters. She was also the very first woman to receive honorary membership into Britain's Royal Society. After receiving her final award at the age of 96, she died when she was 98 years old in Germany.


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