A Brief Biography of Caroline Herschel

By Tim Lambert

Caroline Herschel was a famous woman astronomer of the 18th century. Caroline was born on 16 March 1750 in Hanover, Germany. She was one of 8 children. Her father Isaac Herschel was a musician. Her mother was called Anna. Caroline’s mother did not want her daughters to be educated but fortunately, her father disagreed.

Her brother William Herschel moved to England. However, in 1772 he returned to Hanover and took Caroline with him back to England.

William Herschel was a famous astronomer who discovered the planet Uranus in 1781. In 1782 William and Caroline moved to Windsor. Caroline began to assist her brother as an astronomer.

Caroline Herschel soon proved to be a great astronomer in her own right. She discovered new nebulae. In 1786 Caroline became the first woman to discover a comet. Caroline went on to discover a total of 8 new comets. In 1787 Caroline Herschel was given a royal pension and in 1788 her brother married allowing her more independence. In 1798 a new star catalog by Caroline Herschel was published. Her brother William Herschel died in 1822 and Caroline moved back to Germany where she continued to work.

In 1828 The Royal Astronomical Society awarded Caroline Herschel the gold medal for science. In 1835 she was made an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society. Then in 1846, Caroline Herschel was given the Prussian Gold Medal for science. Finally, Caroline Herschel died on 9 January 1848 at the great age of 97. She was buried in Hanover.

There is a crater on the Moon named after Caroline Herschel.