The Caroline Herschel Biography and Cinderella

Caroline Herschel

The Caroline Herschel Biography calls her the Cinderella of Astronomy. It isn’t a fairy tale but her life. It wasn’t Prince Charming nor a glass slipper but a telescope lens and a loving brother named William Herschel.

Caroline Herschel’s Fairy Tale Life

Caroline Lucretia Herschel was born in Hanover, Germany on March 16, 1750. She was the fifth child of Isaac and Anna Ilse. Going against his wife’s wishes, Isaac gave his daughter a basic education.

Caroline’s face was scarred and her left eye was disfigured from smallpox. Her father told her she would never marry and her mother prepared her to be a maid.

Her favorite brother Fritz, better known as Sir William Herschel, rescued her from being her mother’s maid by taking her back to England with him. Once there, William taught her music and singing. She was well known in the opera houses, but this isn’t the reason history remembers her.

When William started his permanent career in Astronomy, he trained Caroline to be his assistant. The Caroline Herschel Biography tells of her being unable to memorize the multiplication tables but accomplished all the mathematical calculations relating to her brother’s work.

William gave Caroline her own small Newtonian telescope and during her leisure hours she would scan the skies. Using her small telescope, she detected three amazing nebulae and eight comets. Caroline discovered her first comet on August 1, 1786. This was the first to be discovered by a woman. This guaranteed her a place in history.

Following her discovery of the Comet Encke, Caroline began to receive a salary as William’s assistant, making her the first woman to be officially recognized in a scientific position. That same year Caroline presented the Royal Society with an index to the Flamsteed observations plus a catalogue of 561 stars that had been omitted from the British catalogue. Caroline also gave them a list of errors in the British Catalogue.

She would receive the Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal. The next woman to receive this award would be Vera Rubin in 1996. She received a gold medal from he King of Prussia, the king of Denmark gave her a medal, plus honorary memberships in the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Irish Academy.

The real life fairy tale known as the Caroline Herschel Biography ends in Hanover, Germany on January 9, 1848.

Named for Caroline Lucretia Herschel :

  • 35P/Herschel-Rigollet – periodic comet
  • 281 Lucretia asteroid
  • C. Herschel crater – in the Sirius Iridium on the Moon

    Return to the Astronomy For Kids Online homepage from this Caroline Herschel Biography page