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Caroline Herschel started her scientific career as a helper for her brother, but is now considered to have been the first professional female astronomer and a pioneer in the field.
See the fact file below for more information on the Caroline Herschel or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Caroline Herschel worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Caroline Lucretia Herschel was born on March 16, 1750 in Hanover, Germany. She was the 8th child of Anna Ilse Moritzen and Isaac Herschel.
- When Caroline was 3, she had smallpox, which left scars on her face.
- When she was 10, she contracted typhus, which stunted her growth and left her blind in her left eye.
- Both her parents believed that she would have difficulty finding a husband, and so her mother decided that she would be the family’s domestic servant.
- Isaac sometimes tutored her alone, or with his brother when Anna was not around. Caroline was also permitted to learn dress-making for a while.
- On August 16, 1772, after her father died, Caroline left Hanover with her brother, William.
- In Bath, Caroline took regular arithmetic, English, and singing lessons from William, and dance lessons from a teacher.
- She became a reputable vocalist and was offered to perform at the Birmingham festival, but she refused to sing if William was not the conductor.
- Her singing career began to decline and she was eventually replaced by other soloists as William wished to spend more of his time on astronomy.
- From being a musician, William became an astronomer.
- Caroline helped William to grind mirrors and lenses for the telescope he was making, and also prepared food that she would feed to him as he worked.
- She copied and learned the astronomical catalogues and other publications that her brother borrowed.
- Caroline recognized that astronomical works needed precision, accuracy, and speed, so she also learned to record, summarize, and organize William’s astronomical observations.
- In 1871, William discovered Uranus, giving credit to Caroline for her help.
- King George III then made William a court astronomer, paying a stipend so the latter could quit his singing career and focus on astronomy.
- In August 1782, the siblings moved from Bath to Datchet.
- Caroline began doing laborious calculations connected to William’s observations to help him.
- Caroline was also tasked to “sweep” the night skies using a small Newtonian reflector.
- O February 26, 1783, she made her very first discovery, a nebula that wasn’t in the Messier catalogue.
- On the same night, she found the second companion of the Andromeda Galaxy, the Messier 110.
- William built a comet-searching telescope for Caroline in 1783, and by the start of October of the same year, the Herschels were already using a reflecting telescope of 20ft length to search for nebulae.
- The siblings worked together: William observed through the telescope, shouting his observations to Caroline, who recorded them.
- She had to use John Flamsteed’s catalog to know the star that William was using as a reference point for the nebulae. The catalogue was, however, organized by constellation, making it less useful for the siblings.
- Caroline decided to create a catalogue of her own, organized by north polar distance.
- That year, she discovered the nebulae Cetus and Andromeda, and 14 more by the end of the year.
- On August 1, 1786, Caroline discovered her first comet. The king summoned William to demonstrate to the royal guests the new comet, which he called “My Sister’s Comet”.
- In a letter to Astronomer Royal, Caroline announced her second comet. The third and fourth comets were discovered on January 7, 1790 and April 17, 1790, respectively.
- The king heard of Caroline’s discoveries and decided to pay her a stipend of 50 pounds annually, making her the first woman in England to have a paid government appointment and to be paid for her astronomical work.
- In 1791, she began using a 9-inch telescope to search for comets, and found three more.
- The fifth and sixth comet discoveries were made on December 15, 1791 and October 7, 1795, respectively.
- In 1797, she discovered her 8th and last comet, without using any optical aid.
- In 1798, the Royal Society published the Catalogue of Stars, Taken from Mr. Flamsteed’s Observation contained in the second volume of the Historia Coelestis, and Not Inserted in the British Catalogue. This was made by Caroline upon the suggestion of William. It took her 20 months to finish the project.
- In August 1799, Caroline spent a week as a royal family guest in Greenwich, and was recognized for her works independently.
- In the 1802 publication of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, Caroline’s catalogue was published under William’s name.
- The catalogue introduced 500 new clusters and nebulae.
LATER LIFE AND LEGACY
- When William died in 1822, Caroline moved back to Hanover. She continued her studies to confirm and verify her brother’s findings.
- She made a catalog of two-and-a-half thousand nebulae and clusters of stars arranged into zones with similar polar distances. This catalog was re-examined by William’s son, John Herschel.
- The list was later expanded and renamed the New General Catalogue.
- In 1828, she was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society for her work on the catalog.
- In 1835, she became an elected Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society, along with Mary Somerville. They were the first women members of the society.
- In 1838, she also became an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.
- The King of Prussia gave her a Gold Medal for Science in 1846.
- In her last years, Caroline wrote her memoirs and lamented on the limitations of her body that kept her from making more new discoveries.
- She died peacefully on January 9, 1848 in Hanover and is buried next to her parents at 35 Marienstrasse, Hanover, with a lock of William’s hair.
- The inscription on her tomb reads, “The eyes of her who is glorified here below turned to the starry heavens”.
- A moon crater, the crater C. Herschel, and the asteroid 281 Lucretia were named in honor of her.
- In 1968, Adrienne Rich celebrated Caroline’s life in her poem Planetarium.
- Caroline was also honored by Google with a Google Doodle on March 16, 2016, for her 266th birthday.
Caroline Herschel Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Caroline Herschel across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Caroline Herschel worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Caroline Herschel who started her scientific career as a helper for her brother, but is now considered to have been the first professional female astronomer and a pioneer in the field.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Lady Comet-Hunter
- Known Time
- Stricken Caroline
- Meaningful Night Sky
- Trendy in the ’50s
- Chords of Music
- Comet Box
- Full of Thoughts
- Dear Anna Ilse
- First Lady Astronomer
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Link will appear as Caroline Herschel Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, April 20, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.