March 16 – Caroline Herschel

Caroline Herschel was the sister of the more famous William.  She was born this day in 1750 in the German town of Hannover, but moved to London in 1772 to join her elder brother, after which she became a lean, mean, comet hunting machine, finding eight of them in eleven years.  She also discovered an impressive clutch of deep sky objects, mostly open clusters, and was awarded the Gold Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society.  After William’s death she moved back to Hannover, where she died in 1848.

Caroline Herschel
Caroline Herschel

Herschel wasn’t the tallest astronomer in history, and at 4 foot 3 inches she might possibly be the shortest person ever to find a comet (I need to check up on that).  Her diminutive stature was caused by a bout of typhus at the age of ten.  Her father sounds less than doting, and is reported to have told his fifth child that, because of the deformity caused by this illness, she would never marry.  Nice man.