Women, Astronomy & Greenwich

Cover of the ROG/RS booklet.

I’m delighted to announce that 3,000 copies of a free booklet which I wrote for the Royal Observatory Greenwich are now available from the ROG! ‘Women, Astronomy and Greenwich,’ published with a generous grant from The Royal Society, helps celebrate the 350th anniversary of the RS, and focuses on five female astronomers with connections to the Royal Observatory.
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The contemporary astronomer Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell is highlighted in the booklet. I was fortunate to meet Jocelyn at a discussion of her poetry anthology, ‘Dark Matter: Poems of Space,’ where Pippa Goldshmidt of the Genomics Forum and I were invited to read.

One of the few extant images of Caroline Herschel.

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Another female astronomer in the booklet is Caroline Herschel: my historical novel-in-progress, Double the Stars, is about Caroline. I’ve discovered in my research that The Royal Observatory Greenwich has the remaining pieces of William Herschel’s (Caroline’s brother’s) largest telescope, the 40-foot, as well as telescope lenses made by Caroline’s brothers William and Alexander. The Science Museum has Caroline’s sweeper (very exciting!) and large specula made by William, and The Whipple Museum in Cambridge has one of five telescopes commissioned by King George III, which William built, but I believe was never paid in full for (such is the government…) The Herschel House in Bath, of course, has a great number of items belonging to the family.
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What a pleasure to have these resources at my fingertips: and at present I’m attending a series of lectures in astronomy at the ROG on Tuesday evenings; this is giving me insight into some of the technical aspects of the Herschel’s work, and allowing me to empathize with the frustrations of not being able to view the sky on an overcast night!

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