AAS 203rd Meeting, January 2004
Session 29 Doggett Prize Lecture
Invited, Monday, January 5, 2004, 11:40am-12:30pm, Centennial I/II

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[29.01] The REAL Caroline Herschel

M. A. Hoskin (Fellow, Churchill College, Cambridge, UK)

Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) is famous as the discoverer of eight comets, and the author of an Index to Flamsteed's British Catalogue of Stars, which the Royal Society published at its own expense. She was the devoted collaborator of her brother William during the twenty years he spent 'sweeping' for nebulae; and in old age she reorganized William's 2500 nebulae into a zone catalog that enabled his son John to re-examine these objects systematically, a work for which she was awarded a Gold Medal of the RAS.

Nevertheless, study of her autobiographies and other manuscripts shows that her attitude to astronomy was ambivalent. William had rescued her from drudgery in Hanover, and her primary concern was to express her gratitude to him, even when his interests turned from music to astronomy and as a result she was required to abandon her career as a singer. Yet although the decision was hers, she often resented the sacrifice she had made. She emerges as a complex and often troubled personality, very different from the serene observer of legend.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: michael.hoskin@ntlworld.com

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35#5
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.