On this week’s episode of the great Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast hosts Tracey V. Wilson and Holly Frey highlight Caroline Herschel, often called the “Cinderella of Astronomy.” Her brother William tends to get most of the credit — like telescopes named after him — but Caroline’s contributions to astronomy were also noteworthy.
Caroline was born in 1750, and her family had low expectations for what she would accomplish in life. A childhood illness stunted her growth and as an adult she was under five feet tall. Her parents expected her to be a scullery maid, but she was more ambitious. When she went to live with her brother William in 1772, who was then working as astronomer, she became his assistant.
She did more than simply take notes for her brother. Eventually she began making discoveries of her own and became the first woman in Great Britain to be a paid scientist.
There’s a lot more great information in the episode, and if you don’t already subscribe to Stuff You Missed in History Class I highly recommend it. You can subscribe in iTunes or get the episode directly from the show’s site in the via link below.
- Our Friend Bill Nye took astronomy classes from Carl Sagan
- Why do we draw stars with spikes when actual stars are round?
- William Herschel discovered Uranus, but wanted to name it George