• Tahuhu Korero

Caroline Herschel – Minder of the Heavens

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

**Note: This blogpost is designed to be read alongside the latest podcast entitled "Women in the Two Ages of Wonder: Episode 2 - Caroline Herschel"

Caroline Herschel (1750 – 1848) was an astronomer who became the first woman to have her work published in the Transactions of the Royal Society. Michaela and Badger discuss her life in the podcast. References to our sources follow these pictures which they discuss during the podcast.

The only known portrait of Caroline Herschel as a young woman.

From the Herschel Family Archive, this simple muslin dress would have been worn by Caroline when she was about fifty. Several patches and repairs are visible.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the dress is its size, which is rather small for a mature woman. She never grew taller than 4’3”. (1.3 m)

Romantic Science: Caroline helping William polish his mirrors

Caroline’s Two-Foot Small Sweeper Telescope.

Caroline’s first academic publication “An Account of a Comet” (1786)

Two pages from Caroline’s astronomical observation log showing details of comets she discovered.

Engraving of Caroline from 1750.

Timeline for Caroline Herschel.


Clerke, A M, The Herschels and Modern Astronomy (1895).

Herschel, Mrs. John, Memoir and Correspondence of Caroline Herschel . Library of Alexandria. Kindle Edition.

Herschel, W., 1781. XXXII. Account of a comet. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, (71), pp.492-501. (1781)

Holmes, R, The Age of Wonder: How the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science, Vintage, (2010).

Hoskin, Michael, Caroline Herschel: Assistant astronomer or astronomical assistant?. History of science, 40(4), pp.425-444 (2002)

Sydney, Ross, Scientist: The story of a word. Annals of Science, 18:2, 65-85, DOI: 10.1080/000337962002A2722. (1962)

Winterburn, Emily, Caroline Herschel: agency and self-presentation. Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science, 69(1), pp.69-83. (2014)

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