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LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

Caroline on Our Minds

To the Editors:

J. Donald Fernie's "The Inimitable Caroline" (Marginalia, November-December) was a fine reminder of the career of a pathbreaking astronomer.

Ms. Herschel's memory is also preserved by her off-stage role in Patrick O'Brian's series of novels about Captain Jack Aubrey of the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. For example, in The Mauritius Command, Aubrey, an amateur astronomer and telescope maker, describes how he finished polishing a six-inch speculum with "the finest Pomeranian sludge—Miss Herschel's help invaluable." And in The Commodore, Aubrey credits "Herschel's sister" with showing him how to position cross-hairs in his "glass."

One can reasonably assume that schoolchildren will continue to learn about William Herschel and the discovery of Uranus, and perhaps Caroline Herschel will get a mention.  However, the Aubrey series may be Caroline's best chance at immortality in the popular mind.

William Maher
Alexandria, VA

 

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