Annie S. D. Maunder Astronomer - Forgotten Women in science

Annie was born in Ireland attended Cambridge, did pioneering work in Astronomy, specifically the Sun, and published a book about it. Why do we not know more about her? Lets find out.

Education

Annie Scott Dill Russell was born in Ireland in 1868. Her siblings were all high achievers. Annie herself went on to study at Cambridge passing her exams but as will be a common theme throughout Annie's life, degrees were not awarded to women until 1948.

Astronaut large tote bag

Astronaut large tote bag

Lady computers

The Astronomer Royal, William Christie had a problem, he needed more assistants, but he did not have the money to pay for them. It was time for an experiment! Lady computers! Usually this position was fulfilled by boys who were paid a tiny salary, which he continued to pay the women. The women helped with the calculations of celestial bodies by measuring photographs. As the Times points out 

"This is a new opening for ladies who have received a higher education, and doubtless when the Government sanctioned their employment, it was with a view to testing the capabilities of ladies for office and scientific work"

Despite being highly capable many of the woman left or were forced to resign as married women were not allowed to work for the civil service

Star gazing in the snow with big dipper

Star gazing in the snow with big dipper

Royal Astronomical Society

Annie and other women submitted applications to the RAS but were refused and it was not until 1916 that women were allowed to join. During their admission attempt it was said women would make the society too social and "and all we shall require is a piano and a fiddle”

Life after Marriage

Despite having to unfairly leave her role at the Greenwich Observatory one silver lining was her husband Walter Maunder. Walter worked at the observatory and was sent on many mission to observe celestial bodies which enabled her to continue her studies. Fortunately his views were diametrically opposed to his employers and on publication of their book "The Heavens and their Story" was "almost wholly the work of my wife."

Annie did eventually return to the observatory again, but again this was due to a lack of resources due to men being in the trenches in the first world war.

Life on mars t shirt

Life on mars t-shirt

Remembered

Annie's work was pioneering and a huge contribution to the study of the sun spots. She was also responsible to bringing astronomy to a wider audience.  The Annie Maunder medal by the RAS is given to people who have engaged the public in astronomy. It was first given in 2016 as a commemoration of women being allowed into the society in 1916.

Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope (Amat) was commissioned in 2018. This telescope has enable Greenwich observatory to be a functional for the first time in over 60 years.

Sadly like many women in science their achievements are only fully recognised  after their time.

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