Badass Scientist of the Week: Caroline Herschel
Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) grew up in Germany, as the daughter of a professional musician. Her father gave all his children a broad basic education in art, music, and science. His wife did not approve of educating her daughter, and when her father died, Caroline’s mother put her to work in the kitchen. Caroline had had several childhood diseases that had left her slightly disfigured, and her mother didn’t think she’d be good enough to marry, so she settled on a life of housework for her daughter. Meanwhile, one of Caroline’s older brothers, William Herschel, had moved to England, where he was working as a composer and music director, and built telescopes in his spare time. When he found out that his mother had put his sister to work as a servant, he invited Caroline to move in with him in England. She did, and quickly got a successful career as a singer. While Caroline stayed with William, he made a discovery that would change both of their lives. Using a telescope he built himself, William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus in 1781. He was hired by King George III as “King’s Astronomer”, and quit his music career to devote all his time to science. Caroline helped him out, first by cleaning lenses and taking notes, but later with astronomical observations of her own. She discovered a number of comets, including one that was named after her, and as reward for her work, the state paid Caroline a regular stipend, making her the very first woman to receive a salary for scientific work.
Guest article written by Eva, who writes about scientists/musicians on easternblot.net and on Tumblr as MusiSci