Caroline Herschel

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Caroline Herschel Wow!

Caroline Herschel was the first woman to discover a comet!

Caroline Herschel was born on March 16, 1750 in Hanover, Germany. Her father Isaac was a talented musician. Isaac Herschel encouraged all six of his children to train in mathematics, French and music. Caroline's mother did not see the need for a girl to become educated and preferred to make Caroline a house servant to the rest of the family.

At the age of ten Caroline was stricken with typhus. The disease permanently stunted her growth. Her parents concluded that she would never marry but would live her life as an old maid. Caroline remained in her parents' home until, at the age of twenty-two, her brother, William took her to live with him in Bath, England. Caroline became her brother's housekeeper.

William was an accomplished musician and a conductor. He gave Caroline voice lessons and trained her in mathematics as well. Caroline became a well known soprano and began to sing professionally. William's hobby was astronomy and he devoted most of his free time to making more and more powerful telescopes with which to look deeper into space.

William's reputation as a telescope maker grew to such an extent that he quit his job as a musician and devoted all of his time to the making of telescopes and to astronomy. Caroline began to help her brother in the manufacture of telescopes and to share his passion for astronomy. Caroline first served as her brother's apprentice then began to function more and more on her own. She helped her brother develop the modern mathematical approach to astronomy.

In 1783 Caroline Herschel discovered three new nebulae ( hazy clouds where stars form). Between 1786 and 1797 she discovered eight comets. In later years, Caroline catalogued every discovery she and William had made. Two of the astronomical catalogues published by Caroline Herschel are still in use today. On her ninety sixth birthday, Caroline Herschel was awarded the King of Prussia's Gold Medal of Science for her life long achievements.

A Question

Caroline Herschel lived to be 98 years of age. In what year did she die?

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