Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Enigma of Alan Turing

Turing853
Alan Turing, linocut 2012, by Ele Willoughby

I've written previoulsy about Turing, for the centenary of his birth. To celebrate his 103rd birthday, I'm sharing my portrait of him complete with a schematic of the Enigma machine. I had long thought to portray Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954), British mathematician, cryptanalyst, computer scientist, prophet and hero, but was stumped. My scientists are shown with images of something quintessential to their science, or the reason they are famous (or should be), but Turing had so many accomplishments, it wasn't obvious what to portray or how. Turing is the subject of this year's biopic The Imitation Game. You might recall his portrayal in Neal Stephenson's 'Cryptonomicon'. I was introduced to him many year ago by Douglas Hofstadter's 'Gödel, Escher, Bach'. You may also be familiar with the Turing Test or at least its portrayal in Blade Runner. Turing foresaw not only that machines might quite likely develop the capacity to think (after all, our brains are only made of matter, and complex systems of neurons, which either fire or not, much like an electronic switch), but that we needed an objective, double-blind test to determine whether something/someone was able to think, as early as 1950, when most people were only dimly aware of the existence of any sort of computer. But Turing quite literally defined what we now mean by computation itself (with his concept of Turing Machines) back in 1936. During the WWII he worked as a codebreaker and invented the device which was finally able to crack the notorious German cryptographic Enigma machine (in its more complex later incarnation)! His work undoubtedly saved many lives, and today we recognize him as a genius and a hero. In my print, I've included a simplified diagram of the mechanism behind the Enigma with its rotors or scramblers which acted as monoalphabetic substitution ciphers, literally scrambling letters at each turn. During, his all too short life, he also made important contributions to mathematical biology and explaining morphogenesis (the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape) and the existence of Fibonacci numbers in biology. To indicate this later work, I've made the pattern of his tie look like the sort of Turing pattern produced by reaction–diffusion systems. This work presaged much later work in chaos theory.

Tragically, he lived in a time even more biased and bigoted than our own. Rather than recognizing the magnitude of his contributions to society during his lifetime, he was prosecuted for his homosexuality (still illegal in Britain in 1952) and forced to undergo chemical castration. He died two years later, after eating a cyanide-poisoned apple (determined by the coroner to be a suicide - something his mother vigorously denied). It is truly abominable they way he was treated; while we can't address the past injustice we can remember, recognize and celebrate his remarkable achievements today.

There are many serious looking photos of Turing. I chose one of him smiling as inspiration for this portrait. He clearly enjoyed his work, and had a sense of humour (evident in the silly names he gave mathematical techniques he discovered), so I chose to remember him laughing.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Chien-Shung Wu & the Violation of Parity

Mme Wu
Madame Wu and the Violation of Parity, 2nd ed. linocut, 2012, Ele Willoughby

Happy birthday to Mme. Wu! Chien-Shiung Wu (May 31, 1912- February 16, 1997, Chinese-born American physicist, whose nicknames included the “First Lady of Physics”, “Chinese Marie Curie,” and “Madame Wu”) came up with a truly beautiful experiment to test whether the weak force conserves parity (whether beta decay would be the same if reflected in the mirror). In my print on the left I show Mme. Wu in her lab and a schematic diagram in the box of her beautiful experiment. On the right I show her reflection, as in the mirror, and in the box I show the mirror reflection of the experimental set-up and the shocking result, that the reaction is not the mirror opposite.

In 1956, theoretical physicists Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang suggested that perhaps the weak force might not be the same 'through the looking-glass'. The idea that the "Law of Conservation of Parity" might be broken was hard to believe. The laws of physics are the same in the mirror for anything else. Face a friend, as in the mirror. If you drop a pencil from your right hand, and your friend mirrors you and drops a pencil with his or her left, the pencils will fall at the same rate. This is because Parity is conserved by the force of gravity - as it is with the electromagnetic force and even the strong (nuclear) force within atomic nuclei. Lee and Yang pointed out that no one had checked to make sure that the weak force, which controls beta decay in radioactive materials, also conserves parity. Lee convinced the brilliant experimentalist to test this.

Madame Wu did a subtle and technically difficult experiment with her collaborators which is shown schematically in the print. She took Cobalt-60 (shown as the cobalt blue sphere in the box), which is radioactive. Its neutrons spontaneously give off electrons and become protons. The electrons are the tiny blue dots. On the left, we see that the Cobalt-60 in an electromagnet (a wire wrapped metal horseshoe with a source of power). Because of the spiral-wrap of the wire, we know that the North pole of the magnet will be on the bottom (you can figure this out by mimicking the curl of the wire with the fingers of your right hand and look at the direction your thumb points). It turns out that the emitted electrons are given off preferentially towards the North pole.

Next, she reversed the set-up as in the mirror. On the right you see the horseshoe and wire spiral reflected. If you use your right hand to check the direction of the magnet field, you'll see that it is the opposite way; the North pole is now on the top. It turns out that the electrons are preferentially emitted upwards toward the North pole. Thus, beta decay IS NOT the same in the mirror! Madame Wu showed that a "Law" of physics did not hold! This result was staggering and shocked the physics world. Lee and Yang won the Nobel prize for their theoretical work. Many physicists thought Mme. Wu should have been included in this win.

She won many honours for her incredible career. Wu took part in the Manhattan Project (she is believed to be the only Chinese person to do so) and literally wrote the book on beta decay. She was the first: Chinese-American to be elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; Female instructor in the Physics Department of Princeton University; Woman with an honorary doctorate from Princeton University; Female President of the American Physical Society, elected in 1975; winner of the Wolf Prize in Physics (1978); Living scientist to have an asteroid named after her. She won many awards and fellowships including: the Research Corporation Award 1958; the Achievement Award, American Association of University Women 1960; John Price Wetherill Medal, The Franklin Institute, 1962; Comstock Prize in Physics, National Academy of Sciences 1964; Chi-Tsin Achievement Award, Chi-Tsin Culture Foundation, Taiwan 1965; Scientist of the Year Award, Industrial Research Magazine 1974; Tom W. Bonner Prize, American Physical Society 1975; National Medal of Science (U.S.) 1975; the aforementioned Wolf Prize in Physics, Israel 1978; Honorary Fellow Royal Society of Edinburgh; Fellow American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Fellow American Association for the Advancement of Science; Fellow American Physical Society. And I bet you hadn't heard of her! I'm trying to redress that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

There be dragons...

"Carta Marina" by Olaus Magnus Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

What to do at the edge of known territory, or how to demark the gaps in data in any sort of data visualization - geographical maps in particular - has long been an issue we grapple with. Medieval and even Renaissance mapmakers famously decorated the unmapped regions of their maps with fanciful creatures. These creatures would not fit with our modern conceptions of science, but in fairness, were not necessarily complete fabrications, but actual attempts to document animals which had been described by early explorers, but unseen by the mapmakers, rather than simple mythological ornaments. It's also been argued that they intended to scare foreign fishermen away from certain waters and reflected the idea land creatures had a marine equivalent (sea dogs, sea cows, even sea chickens apparently - see the Tetrapod Zoology review of Sea Monsters of Medieval and Renaissance Maps). The early map of Scandinavia, the Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus (1490–1557), is a prime example of the sorts of fabulous creatures of the maps. You can find the same creatures, including the ziphius (a whale sized creature) porcus marinus (like it sounds, essentially a pig mermaid, or boar-whale perhaps an attempt to depict a sea lion), and the rosmarine (or boar-whale, a tusked creature perhaps derived from the walrus) on many other maps, often appearing to be copied or inspired by previous maps.
A ziphius sea monster eats a seal, while attacked by another monster
(detail of the 1575 edition of the Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus)


Toronto artist Bailey Henderson has done a magical thing. She's created a series of bronze sculptures, Monstorum Marines, depicting these creatures in full textured 3D. Each is coloured with pigments and acrylics. The texture both micmics the lines of woodcut maps, like the Carta Marina, and enhances further, creating a naturalistic yet fantastic creature.

A ziphius eats a seal while biten by another creature in naturalist Conrad Gesner's 1560 Icones Animalium 

Famous cartographer Abraham Ortelius's 1603 edition of his well-known Theatrum Orbis Terrarum map includes this tame whale with fearsome teeth, he calls the Steipereidur, explaining that it "fights other whales on behalf of fishermen."
Bailey Henderson,
Ziphius et Orca
2014
Cold cast bronze, acrylic paint, powdered pigment
17 3/4 x 11 1/4 x 7 inches

Henderson writes,
Ziphius is based on a sea monster commonly depicted on renaissance and medieval maps. It was believed to cut boats in half with its sharp dorsal fin. Here sculpted in a life-like form. Creatures like Orca are based on whales, and were commonly depicted on maps in various forms.

I see a little Ortelius and Gesner, by way of Magnus in this sculpture.

Rosmarine, or boar-whale by Gesner, 1555
detail, Carta Marina (1575) by Olaus Magnus, including the rosmarine or pinniped with his tusks
Bailey Henderson, Pinniped,
2013
Cast Resin, acrylic paint
11 x 4.75 x 4.75


Sea pig, detail from Olaus Magnus' 1539 Carta Marina. This purported creature was compared to heretics that "distorted truth and lived like swine" (according to Hanah Waters, "The Enchanting Sea Monsters on Medieval Maps" on Smithsonian.com)
Of the sea pig, or hog, Olaus Magnus wrote, "Now I shall revive the memory of a monstrous Hog that was found afterwards, Anno 1537, in the same German Ocean, and it was a Monster in every part of it. For it had a Hog's head, and a quarter of a Circle, like the Moon, in the hinder part of its head, four feet like a Dragon's, two eyes on both sides of his Loyns, and a third in his belly inkling toward his Navel; behind he had a Forked-Tail, like to other Fish commonly."(via strange science)

Bailey Henderson, Porcus Marinus
2014
Cold cast bronze, powdered pigment, acrylic paint
16 x 8 1/2 x 7 inches


Be sure to the rest of her portfolio, for other sculpture creatures and illustrations.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Inge Lehmann & the Earth's Solid Inner Core

Inge Lehmann print
Inge Lehmann, linocut, 8" x 8", by Ele Willoughby, 2011

Happy birthday to Inge Lehmann! Inge Lehmann (May 13, 1888 – February 21, 1993) was a Danish seismologist who first demonstrated that the Earth's core is not one single molten sphere, but contained an inner (solid) core, in 1936. She was a pioneer woman in science, a brilliant seismologist and lived to be 105, so I've selected her for my offering for the Mad Scientists of Etsy April challenge on earthquake seismology. Each is 8" (20.5 cm) square and printed in dark cyan and red-orange ink on white Japanese kozo (mulberry) paper.

We now know, as she first postulated, that the earth has roughly three equal concentric sections: mantle, liquid outer core and solid inner core. The crust, on which we live is merely a thin, um, scum really, on top of this slowly boiling pot. The only way to probe deep into the earth's core is to employ massive earthquakes, the waves they generate and the paths they follow. There are two main types of seismic waves used for studies of the globe, unimaginatively named Primary (or P, or compressional) and Secondary (or S, or shear). Imagine a glass of water with a straw; the straw will appear broken at the air-water interface, because light bends as it enters the water. Just like light travelling through different media, these seismic waves can bend, reflect or be transmitted at any boundary. The difference in physical properties between the mantle and outer core causes a P-wave shadow. (For S-waves, the shadow zone is absolute because liquids, like the outer core, do not support shear - imagine trying to cut water with a pair of shears and you can see this for yourself. Thus, no shear waves can make it through the outer core, and thus we can be certain the outer core is fluid). That means, the compressional waves from an earthquake can be recorded at seismic stations out to 105 degrees from an epicentre and then there is a zone which is in the core's shadow. Lehmann found that there were some late-arriving P-waves are much larger angles (142 to 180 degrees) which had been vaguely labelled 'diffractions'. She showed that these could be explained instead by deflections of the waves which travelled through the outer core at her postulated inner core boundary.

She later discovered a discontinuity in the mantle (confusingly also called the Lehmann discontinuity). She did important work well into her 70s.

When she received the Bowie medal in 1971 (she was the first woman to receive the highest honour of the American Geophysical Union), her citation noted that the "Lehmann discontinuity was discovered through exacting scrutiny of seismic records by a master of a black art for which no amount of computerization is likely to be a complete substitute...".

I think her accomplishment is downright astonishing. To have the exactitude to work with the data and the daring to neglect the irrelevant and offer up a simple, elegant - correct! - explanation is a rare and marvellous thing. To be the top of her field in 1936, when she was a pioneer for women in science and had to compete in vain with incompetent men (her words) is heroic.

I based my portrait on an earlier photo, to match the date of her phenomenal P' paper. I also show her model of the earth in red-orange ink, complete with mantle, inner and outer core, and travel paths for rays through the layers, including into the shadow zone.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Florence Nightingale; Nursing, Statistics and Data Visualization Pioneer

Florence Nightingale portrait
Florence Nightingale, 2nd edition linocut on kozo, Ele Willoughby, 2014

I confess that Florence Nightingale (12 May 1820 – 13 August 1910) wasn't on my shortlist of women in science I wished to portray. I felt a little like she was an old-fashioned heroine, from a time where if a woman wasn't going to be defined strictly as a person who served and cared for her family, it was okay if (and only if) she cared for other people. This bias was somewhat reinforced by my own family history: my mother is a nurse, her mother was a nurse, whereas I am a physicist. I know my grandmother wanted to be a pharmacist, and my mother felt her career options were school teacher or nurse. Plus, I take after my father's side of the family and have been known to have a vasovagal response to the mere description of medical procedures; I have a high pain threshold, but am squeemish, and faint like the rest of them. All of which means I partially define myself by not being a nurse. However, I was (luckily) commissioned to make a portrait of Florence Nightingale. The more I read, the more interesting she became to me.

Nightingale earned the nickname "The Lady with the Lamp" during the Crimean War, from a phrase used by The Times, describing her as a “ministering angel” making her solitary rounds of the hospital at night with “a little lamp in her hand”. The image was immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1857 poem Santa Filomena in the stanza:


Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.

So, I’ve shown Nightingale with her little lamp, based on contemporary photos and illustrations. But inventing modern nursing wasn't her only accomplishment. Taking up a profession, travelling to a war zone, nursing the wounded, taking on hospital administration and the training of a professional class of nurses weren't the only things she did which were so unusual for a woman of her time to do. It turns out that her father fostered her gift for mathematics, and she made significant contributions to statistics and data visualization too.

Behind Nightingale is her own ‘Diagram of Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East’ plotted as a polar area diagram – her own statistical and data visualization innovation, sometimes called a Nightingale Rose Diagram. It illustrates the causes of death in the military hospital she managed during the Crimean War. April 1855 to March 1856 is shown on the left and April 1854 to March 1855 to the right. When she researched the causes of mortality, looking back at the data, she saw clearly that the lack of hygiene was a far greater risk to soldiers’ lives than being wounded. The sections represent one month of data {J,F,M,A,M, J,J,A,S,O,N,D} for each month of the year. The green “wedges measured from the centre of the circle represent area for area the deaths from Preventible or Mitigable Zymotic diseases, the [yellow] wedges measured from the centre the deaths from wounds, & the [orange] wedges measured from the centre the deaths from all other causes. The […] line across the [yellow] triangle in Nov. 1854 marks the boundary of the deaths from all other causes during the month. In October 1854, & April 1855, the [orange] area coincides with the [yellow], in January & February 1856, the [green] coincides with the [orange]. The entire areas may be compared by following the [green], the [yellow], & the […] lines enclosing them.” This "Diagram of the causes of mortality in the army in the East" was published in Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency, and Hospital Administration of the British Army and sent to Queen Victoria in 1858.

This experience influenced her later career and she campaigned for sanitary living conditions, knowing how dangerous unsanitary conditions can be to survival. She also made extensive use of similar polar area diagrams on the nature and magnitude of the conditions of medical care in the Crimean War, or sanitation conditions of the British army in rural India, to make such statistics transparent to Members of Parliament and civil servants who would have been unlikely to read or understand traditional statistical reports. This is an excellent example of how careful selection of how data is presented can influence whether the information is successfully communicated and how important that can be - occassionally even influencing people's survival!

In 1859, Nightingale was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society. She later became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.

Though her own opinion  of other women was often harsh, she has been credited with contributing to feminist literature with a book she wrote while sorting out her thoughts on her role in the world, including the essay Cassandra, which protested the over-feminisation of women into near helplessness. She helped abolish laws regulating prostitution that were overly harsh to women. She also clearly expanded the acceptable forms of female participation in the workforce.

This, and in particularly, the way she insisted on making decisions based on scientific evidence, and using data to save lives, makes her an apt addition to the women in science portrait series.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Star Wars Taxonomy

The Han solo agnostid trilobite is called "solo" because it's the
only species in the genus Han (via). Sure. I buy that.

Since the days of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) and his major works Systema Naturae (1st Edition in 1735), and in fact, to some degree beforehand, categorizing life as we know it and building the greater family tree of organisms has been a major scientific endeavour which has helped us to understand where we all come from. The taxonomists I have known, do fascinating and important work, to map who is out there and where they came from and what they are doing.

Today is Taxonomy Appreciation Day (#TaxonomyDay). So, I thought I would take the chance to appreciate not only their fundamental research contributions to categorizing the organisms of the world, but their inventiveness in naming and relating discoveries to important culture - specifically Star Wars. Because this is what serious science is all about.

Consider the one and only species in the genus Han, an agnostif trilobite (above), officially named after the Han Chinese (the fossil is from northern Hunan Province, China). As the sole Han, a monotypic taxon, it must of course be called 'solo'. The similarity of the name Han solo and Han Solo of the original Star Wars triology are purely coincidental, no doubt. (via Buzzfeed)

The 1997 "Special Edition" of Star Wars depicts Greedo
firing a shot at Han Solo shortly before Han reponds in kind.
In the original 1977 release, Han is the only one to fire. (wikipedia)

Many Star Wars fans will recall the 'Han shot first' controversy. The original 1977 version of Star Wars shows Han shooting the body hunter Greedo first; this was changed for the 1997 Special Edition.  A fairly recently-discovered species of  suckermouth armored catfish was named Peckoltia greedoi by an Auburn University trio led by Jonathan Armbruster. Because life is odd, the choice is less of a stretch than you might imagine. See for yourself:

Images: Auburn University via Flickr & Greedo picture courtesy starwarshelmets.com





The trapdoor spider Aptostichus sarlacc (Bond, 2012) is named for the sarlacc sand-pit creature from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi who consumes people and animals thrown into his gaping maw. I don't actually know what type of trapdoor spider is shown below, but I think it illustrates why they might remind you of the hole in the sand from which no one returns.


The Great Pit of Carkoon with the original
sarlacc from Return of the Jedi (1983) (via wikipedia)

A trapdoor spider (via)
Scanning electron microscope image of the oribatid mite Darthvaderum apparently reminded Hunt (1996) of a certain villain's helmut.



Darthvaderum versus Darth Vader (via quazoo)


"Yoda purpurata, or "purple Yoda."The reddish-purple acorn worm was found about 1.5 miles beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, and the large lips in either side of its head region that reminded researchers of the floppy-eared Stars Wars character Yoda." Credit: David Shale via livescience
Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back via wikipedia
Well-loved, diminuative, ancient, green jedi teacher Yoda is honoured in the names of both with an acorn worm, Yoda purpurata, and a parasitic isopod Albunione yoda, with lips and lateral flaps, respectively, which protrude from their heads and remind researchers of Yoda's long, pointy ears. Neither geography, nor shape explains the Tetramorium jedi ant, named for the Star Wars jedi knights. They do not even have any light sabers.

So here's to the taxonomers; may the force with with you.

(with thanks to Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Caroline Herschel: Scientific Cinderella to Comet Sweeper

Caroline Herschel
Caroline Herschel, linocut by Ele Willoughby, 2014
Happy birthday Caroline Herschel! German-born Caroline Herschel (16 March 1750 – 9 January 1848), while overshadowed by her brother William (who discovered Uranus, amongst his other astronomical accomplishments), was a real pioneer as a woman in astronomy and made her own important contributions. In fact, she became the first salaried female scientist, when King George III hired her to assist her brother, at a time when there were few professional scientists anywhere. Hers was a real life sort of Cinderella story, where rather than marrying a prince, she made a life and career for herself. Marriage was the expected role for a woman of her time, but she was deemed unmarriageable, since a childhood bout of typhus stunted her growth. Her mother thought she should train to be a servant, and purposely stood in the way of her learning French, or music, to prevent her from seeking employment as a governess. She wanted a perpetual unpaid maid. Her father sometimes managed to include her in William's lessons when their mother was absent. William had fled to England after the Seven Years War and made a life as a musician and composer in Bath. William managed to rescue his younger sister from their mother's clutches, under the pretext that she might have the voice to be a solo singer in Handel's oratorios, as she too was a natural musician. Of course, he also wanted a woman to manage his bachelor household. Meanwhile, he developed a real passion for astronomy. So, by the time she arrived, all his spare time away from music was devoted to astronomy and she found that despite her singing talent, she was roped into assisting with the construction of telescopes, rather than receiving music lessons. By 1781, William had discovered a new planet - Uranus , which he cannily dubbed the 'Georgian Star' after King George III. This had the desired effect of securing himself a pension, so that he could spend his time on astronomy (so long as he would present it to the King when asked).

William and Caroline worked together at Slough, observing the night sky with a variety of telescopes. William built some very large telescopes and had Caroline take notes of what he observed, while she used smaller 'sweeper' telescopes to sweep the skies for interesting object. She discovered 11 nebulae (2 of which turned out to be galaxies) which were previously unknown! She also found 8 or 9 comets, as well as making and sharing observations of comets discovered by others. The portrait is based on a miniature of Caroline, as well as her own notes and diagrams from 1 August 1786, when she discovered her first comet, now known as Comet C/1786 P1 (Herschel). On the left, her sketches of the object "like a star out of focus" which she correctly identified as a comet, is at the centre of the three circular diagrams labelled I, II and III. On the right, her Fig I and Fig II show her observations the following night, noting the position of the comet relative to the constellations of Ursa Major and Coma Berenices.

She also independently re-discovered Comet Encke in 1795, first recorded by Pierre Méchain in 1786. Later, in 1819, her observations help Johann Franz Encke recognize it was a periodic comet, like Halley's comet. Encke was able to calculate its orbit, partially due to her observations. The comet shown behind Caroline is based on a recent photo of Comet Encke, which returns every 3 years.

In order to calculate orbits of newly discovered comets, it was important to let other astronomers know as soon as possible. The letter post was often not fast enough, if the weather turned cloudy. She discovered her 8th comet while her brother was away. So, she took matters into her own hands. After an hour's sleep, she saddled a horse, and road the roughly twenty-six miles to the Greenwich Observatory of the Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne, much to his astonishment.

One of her important impacts on astronomy was that her early success showed her brother how even an amateur using a small telescope could find previously unobserved nebulae, and hence that there was real value in making systematic sweeps of the night sky. Partnering together, with William sweeping the sky with his 20 foot telescope and Caroline taking notes by lamplight just inside the window, they went on to discover 2507 nebulae and clusters over two decades of work. Further, she acted as 'computer', doing the mathematical grunt work for her brother's observations. William's study completely revolutionized astronomy, and it couldn't have happened without Caroline's help.

They worked side by side nightly until 1788, when William married (at age 49). Caroline was no longer needed to run his household, and he offered her money as compensation. She, however, convinced him to request her own salary from the King, which she received. She moved to a cottage in the garden. She did a lot of her own observing for the next nine years (while William was otherwise occupied at nights), and gained more fame in her own right.

In 1797 the standard star catalogue used by astronomers was published by John Flamsteed. It was tough to use since it appeared in two volumes, with discrepancies. William suggested that a proper cross-reference would be a great help and a project for Caroline. She produced the resulting Catalogue of Stars, published by the Royal Society in 1798. It contained a index of all of Flamsteed's observed stars, all of the errors in his volumes and a further 560 additional stars.

When William died in 1822, she returned to Hanover, where she was born, but she continued her cataloguing and confirming of William's observations. Her catalogue of nebulae aided her nephew John Herschel in his astronomical work. The Royal Astronomical Society presented her with their Gold Medal in 1828 for this catalogue. She was the first woman to receive the honour (and remained the only woman until Vera Rubin in 1996).

She and Mary Sommerville were the first women admitted to the Royal Astronomical Society, when they were elected Honorary Members in 1835. In 1838 she was elected an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. In 1846, at age 96 she also received a Gold Medal from the King of Prussia, for her astronomical work (presented by none other than Alexander von Humboldt). An asteroid and moon crater have been named in her honour.

You can find more in the great article  on Caroline Herschel by Micheal Hoskin AAS Comittee on the Status of Women site (to which this blog post is indebted), Caroline Herschel's wikipedia entry,  and the ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY entry on her notes.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails