Caroline Herschel -
Caroline, nicknamed Lina, was born in Hanover, Germany on March 16, 1750, the fifth of six children of Isaac Herschel and Anna Ilse Moritzen. Isaac, an oboist and gardener, gave his daughter a rudimentary education, despite his wife's disapproval.
Caroline suffered childhood diseases which scarred her for life. At age three, her cheeks were scar-pocked and her left eye was slightly disfigured by Smallpox. Her diminutive height of 4'3" was caused by Typhus at the age of 10. Her father told her she would never marry and her mother's plans for her were that of maid.
When Caroline was 22, it was her favorite brother, Freidrich Wilhelm (nicknamed Fritz and later known as William), who rescued her from a dreary existence as their mother's scullery maid. He had moved to England seven years earlier where he had made a life for himself as a musician. On a visit to Hanover, he vowed to save his dear "Lina" and brought her with him upon his return to Bath, England.
William taught his petite sister music and helped her develop her voice. Though she would only sing where her brother conducted, she was well regarded in her own right throughout the opera houses in England.
But it is not her music for which Caroline took her place in history. When William turned his eye to astronomy, he trained his sister to be his assistant. Although Caroline never memorized her multiplication tables, it was she who did the complicated calculations from her brother's observations.
In 1781, William discovered the planet Uranus and astronomy became his livelihood, with his sister by his side. It was only while William was away that Caroline was able to make her own observations, discoveries which guaranteed her place in history.
On August 1, 1786, Caroline discovered her first comet and became history's first woman with this distinction. Her comet came to be known as the "first lady's comet" and brought with it the fame that secured her own place in history books.
Caroline was rescued by her prince of a brother and found salvation through the glass of a telescope. She is one of the few historical women astronomers whose life is well documented, so we will end her fairy tale story here. Below are links with additional information, as well as a short biography.
Links on the Web
There are many sites on the Web about Caroline Herschel. Here are a few we found of interest. A search, using your favorite search engine, will find many more.