Caroline Herschel: Five things you need to know about first woman to be paid for contributing to science

She become the first woman to be awarded with the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1838

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The German astronomer Caroline Herschel was born 266 years ago and Google has marked her birthday with a Doodle.

As a pioneering female scientist, Herschel discovered eight comets, rediscovered another and completed a comprehensive catalogue of stars including 560 stars previously unrecorded.

Here are five things you need to know about Ms Herschel:

1. She was the first woman to be paid for her contribution to science

Ms Herschel was given an annual salary of £50 by King George III in 1796 for her role as assistant to her brother, astronomer Sir William Herschel.

After her brother married, she began more independent astronomical work for which she become the first woman to be awarded with the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1838.

A woman did not receive this award again till Vera Rubin won in 1996.

2. There is a comet named after her

In recognition of her discovering it in 1788, the periodic 35P/Herschel-Rigollet comet was named in her honour. It has an orbital period of 155 years. 

In addition, a crater in the "Sea of showers" on the moon is known as C Herschel after her.

3. She had staying power

Ms Herschel contracted typhus aged 10, which stunted her growth and meant she only grew to a height of 4ft 3".

Despite this, she outlived her brother by 26 years – the life expectancy at the time was 55.

Best Google Doodles

4. She was an accomplished singer before turning to astronomy

Due to her father's role as a oboist and conductor in Bath, both she and her brother were taught music.

Before devoting herself to mathematics and astronomy, Ms Herschel became a well-regarded soprano singer.

5. She worked closely alongside two of the greatest astronomers of the time

On returning home to Hanover, Germany, after her brother's death in 1822, she continued astronomical work with Sir William's son and her nephew, John Hershel.

Sir John Herschel Bt named seven moons of Saturn and four moons of uranus.