Miss Herschel

I’m not sure if I have blogged about this before.  If I have, I do apologize but I do not see anything in my files – though it does ring a bell.

The item you see here is a small piece of what once was.  Upon her visit to Europe as a young woman’s chaperone in 1857 –1858, Maria Mitchell visited many of the major observatories of Europe and met many of the movers and shakers in the scientific, art, and literary worlds of the continent.

While Caroline Herschel (1750 – 1848) and her brother, Sir William (1738 – 1822), were long dead, Maria was able to meet Caroline’s nephew (William’s son), Sir John Herschel (1792 – 1871).  All three were astronomers, though Caroline found herself having to give credit – or have her brother accept credit – for much of her work because she was a woman.  She has often been credited with the being the first woman to discover a comet.  She was likely not – and the other woman who was the first lost credit through history as she had to “give” her comet discovery to her husband.  See a pattern?  Caroline was just one of many women in a long line of, “She couldn’t possibly do that – she is a woman!”  As Maria once said, “But a woman, what more could you ask to be?”

But back to this small item.  It was a page from one of Caroline Herschel’s notebook’s, torn from its home by John Herschel to serve a s a memento for Maria of her visit to the family’s home.  Maria was a bit shocked but . . . she took it!  Over the years, the paper tore and ripped and just crumbled away until Maria finally decided that to save it, she needed to past it into one of her own journals.  And thus, we have what we have.  I assume Caroline’s notations refer to her brother William – “Wol” and Woll.”  It could be an “I” but it really looks like an “O.”

She is considered the world’s first professional woman astronomer – she would be compensated for her work after some time – and she warrants a greater look at – too much for a blog.  So I encourage you to go take a look at her.  Maria would want you to!