The Historical Birthday-Tea Party March 15th

No official candidate for today so lets skip ahead a day and celebrate with

Caroline Herschel

16 March 1750 – 9 January 1848.

Caroline was born in Germany and moved to England at the age of 22 to keep house for her older brother William, having been brought up by her mother to effectively be her servant, despite being trained in mathematics and music. Caroline was only four foot three inches in height owing to contracting typhus as a child.
William was teaching music and running musical evenings in Bath (he was an accomplished composer, there are a couple of recordings of his music available, worth keeping an eye out for). Caroline contributed to these events, and when her brother took up astronomy, she assisted with this too, keeping all the records, watching for astronomical events when William couldn’t be bothered, and grinding lenses and mirrors for his telescopes. William taught her trigonometry and algebra so that she was able to make the complex calculations needed. In 1782 William was made Astronomer Royal. Once William married, (and presumably his wife either took over the housekeeping or insisted on employing someone, Caroline had more time to devote to her own astronomy.
She discovered eight comets, one of which is named for her, and was granted a salary by George III in acknowledgement of her work as William’s assistant, making her the first professional female astronomer.
Caroline spent a long time working on cataloguing and correcting John Flamsteed’s work on astronomy, (again because William couldn’t be bothered with the time-consuming cross referencing). The resulted of her efforts was the Catalogue of Stars, published in 1798.
The Royal Astronomical Society awarded her the Gold Medal in 1828, (not awarded to another woman for over 150 years) and she was later admitted to the society as an honorary member.

You could say (and I will) that Caroline was a bit of a star. (Sorry couldn’t resist).

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