Caroline Herschel

   German astronomer Caroline Lucretia Herschel (1750-1848) left home in 1772 and joined her brother, organist, choirmaster, and amateur astronomer William Herschel, in England. Herschel trained to become a professional singer while learning mathematics from her brother. She soon began to assist William in his astronomical studies by polishing and grinding mirrors for his telescope and copying his notes. The siblings found themselves dedicating more and more of their time to astronomy and less to music. In 1781, following William's discovery of the planet Uranus, the brother-and-sister team began receiving a yearly salary from King George III. This salary allowed them to become full-time astronomers.
   Eventually Herschel began making her own contributions to astronomy. In 1783 she discovered three new nebulae (clouds of gas and dust), and over the next decade she discovered eight comets. In 1787 King George decided to pay Herschel her own salary, something very rare for a woman then. Herschel went on to make a complete index of the star catalogue created by John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal, England's honorary chief-astronomer. When her brother William died in 1822, Herschel returned to Hanover, Germany, where she lived to the age of ninety-seven. She continued working with William's son, astronomer John Herschel, for whom she put together a new catalogue of nebulae. Herschel was one of the first two women granted membership in the Royal Society, England's elite science organization. She won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society at age seventy-eight; was elected to the Royal Irish Academy at eighty-six; and won the King of Prussia's Gold Medal for Science at age ninety-six.