Today’s Illustrated Women in History is a written submission by James Purvis.
Caroline Herschel 1750 - 1848
Caroline Herschel was an astronomer and singer, and was the first woman to be paid for her contribution to science.
At the age of 22 Herschel, who had received training in music against the wishes of her mother, left her home in Hanover to join her brother William, who had established himself as an Organist in Bath, England. Herschel soon distinguished herself by becoming the principal singer in her brother’s Oratorio concerts, and received offers to perform across the country.
Alongside his musical career, William Herschel’s interest in astronomy grew, and with the assistance of Herschel he was eventually offered the position of court astronomer to King George III. At this time, Herschel chose to leave her singing career and become her brother’s scientific assistant, although some of her later writings suggest that this was perhaps not an easy decision.
Her skill as an astronomer was formidable, and in her obituary, the Royal Astronomical Society praised her ‘indefatigable zeal, diligence and singular accuracy of calculation’ as being significant contributors to her brother’s astronomical success. Herschel was awarded a salary by the court as an assistant astronomer, becoming the first woman to be paid as a scientist.
Her work included the grinding of mirrors for reflecting telescopes, taking observations of stretches of the sky, and detailing the precise timings and positions of the observed astronomical objects, as well as a great deal of calculation in order to translate these times and positions into usable data.
Between the assistance that she rendered to her brother’s work, Herschel found time for her own research, discovering a number of comets, as well as previously unobserved nebulae and star clusters, and compiling catalogues of the stars.
Herschel was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, and was later made an honorary member. Today, she is commemorated by a crater on the moon which is named after her.
If you would like to submit a biography of a woman in history to be illustrated and featured, please send me a message!
Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, Total Eclipse of the Sun Observed July 29, 1878, at Creston, Wyoming Territory, (1876)
Created as part of a series of large-format pastel illustrations that Trouvelot prepared for the US Naval Observatories1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and later published as a chromolithograph as part of a 167 page manual entitled The Trouvelot Astranomical Drawings. (C. Scribner’s Sons, 1882)
Beautiful astronomical illustrations from Delle stelle fisse (The Fixed Stars), a book by the Sixteenth Century Italian philosopher/humanist Alessandro Piccolomini which we hold in the special collections of our library.
Christmas cards bearing the illustrations are now available from the museum shop!
46 — John Philipps Emslie made infographics way before they were cool
Nowadays, infographics are very popular. They are a lovely tool to visualize complex information quickly and clearly, but also: creatively. But in spite of what many people think, Infographics are not characteristic for this time only. Scientific engravers have been organizing and illustrating dense
statistics for centuries. John Philipps Emslie (1839–1913) for instance was a British topographical artist and folklorist. He illustrated a large
number of maps and contributed to the British topographical archive in
the mid to late 1800s. Besides these impressive astronomical and geographical illustrations
he also gathered local folklore from around England, making notes and topographical drawings.