When and where was she born?

16 March 1750 in Hanover which was part of the Holy Roman Empire but is now Germany. However, she lived for much of her life in England, first in Bath and then near Windsor. She died in Hanover in 1848 aged 97.

Fun facts about her life

  • Caroline was a pioneer of her time – she was self-educated and catalogued stars and nebulae and discovered comets.
  • Caroline was also a talented singer and learned to play the Harpsichord. She often sang solos in the concerts her brother William conducted and used to sing a lot of music by Handel.
  • She called her work “minding the stars/heavens”.
  • Her brother William (with whom she worked), discovered Uranus and Infra-Red Radiation.
  • She also made parts for the telescopes grinding and polishing a mirror to exactly the right shape and shininess with a tiny curve which could take a year to make!
  • There is a moon crater names after her.

What’s important about her scientific work?

She discovered several comets and charted astronomical objects. Using her telescope, she detected three nebulae in 1783, and in 1786 she became the first woman to discover a comet. She also created a system of categorising comets and other objects in space, which is still used today.

 

What do we know about her childhood?

When she was 10, Caroline got typhus and Smallpox which stopped her from growing. She never grew taller than 4 feet 3 inches. She also couldn’t see very well out of her left eye. Her family assumed that she would never marry and her mother felt it was best for her to train to be a housemaid and not study anything complicated.

 

What struggles did she face?

  • Although her mother thought she wasn’t worth educating, she would often sit with her brothers and sisters when her father taught them. She moved to England to live with her bother William and continued her studies there.
  • When William married a rich widow, it caused problems and she moved to her own lodgings and started being recognised for her own independent work and not just helping with his.

What did she achieve?

  • Caroline was the first female scientist to be paid for her work and to hold a government position earning £50 a year from King George III;
  • Caroline was the first woman to receive a a Gold Medal from London’s Royal Astronomical Society, in 1828;
  • For her 96th birthday, Prussian King Frederick William IV awarded her The Gold Medal for Science.

 


 

 


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