Caroline Herschel Award

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Caroline Herschel Award

The annual Caroline Herschel Award was launched in 2017 to celebrate the extraordinary impact that Herschel Alumnae have made in South Africa and the world beyond. The award seeks to recognise and celebrate the valued, lasting contributions of Herschel alumnae in making a significant difference in a community, industry, arena of life or field of study.

Details and Criteria

  • The Caroline Herschel Award may only be awarded to a Herschel Alumna once in her lifetime.
  • The candidate must be a living Herschel Alumna, nominated by a fellow Herschel Alumna for the award.
  • A Herschel Alumna may be nominated more than once and, in different years, provided that she has not already been awarded the Caroline Herschel Award.
  • Nominations will be requested between May and September of each year, with the selection of the recipient being made in November of that same year.
  • Nominees will be requested to furnish the Herschel Alumna Union with additional information in support of their nomination.
  • Members of the Herschel Alumnae Union will be invited to vote for the nominees during the month of October.
  • The top-voted nominations will be submitted to an external panel of judges at the end of October. The external panel will consist of three female individuals sourced from the education, philanthropy and business sectors. The judges will have no ties to Herschel in any form.
  • The judge’s decision will be final.
  • The HAU members and external judges will select the recipient of the Caroline Herschel Award each year based on the following criteria:
  • The candidate must have contributed extraordinarily to her community, industry, field of study or other arenas
  • Her contributions must be recognised and valued by peers and community leaders
  • The achievements must be determined by her personal attributes, whether those be in leadership, through motivation or change agency, or through inspiration
  • The achievements would be considered above and beyond the call of duty
  • The recipient will be informed of their selection as soon as the external panel has made its selection in November to allow the recipient time to make travel arrangements (if necessary) to receive their award on Founder’s Day the following year.

The recipient of the award will:

  • Be invited to receive the award in person on Founder’s Day (mid-February) in the year after she is named the recipient of the award. The school will contribute to the travel costs for the recipient to receive the award.
  • Be invited to present an acceptance address to the Preparatory and Senior Schools and at the Founder’s Day luncheon hosted for the Herschel Alumnae.

Nomination Forms are available from the HAU Secretary [email protected] or can be filled in here and are due before 30 September.

Caroline Herschel young woman e1657286216639
Caroline Lucretia Herschel

History of Caroline Lucretia Herschel

Caroline Lucretia Herschel (1750-1848) was the first woman to receive full recognition in the field of astronomy. Born in Hanover, Germany, Caroline Herschel was the eighth child of a rural German family. When she was 10 years old she fell ill with typhus, which stunted her growth and left her scarred. She never grew taller than four feet three inches.

She moved to England to join her brother, William Herschel (astronomer and composer) – in Bath when she was 22. She began to train as a singer and sang as a soprano in many performances. In 1781 William discovered the planet Uranus. Following this major discovery, he was knighted and appointed to the position of King’s Astronomer for George III. In her early thirties, Caroline joined William as a scientific assistant, helping him with his observations and to grind and polish the mirrors for his telescopes. Whole nights through, she and William observed the heavens, noting the positions of the stars from the giant telescope that they had built.

Inspired by her brother’s success, Caroline began her own astronomical research, specializing in the search for comets. Between 1786 and 1797 she discovered eight new comets. She evaluated the nocturnal notations and recalculated them, wrote treatises for Philosophical Transactions, discovered fourteen nebulae, calculated hundreds more, and began a catalogue for star clusters and nebular patches. In addition, she compiled a supplemental catalogue to Flamsteed’s Atlas which included 561 stars, as well as a comprehensive index to it. The moon crater C. Herschel was named after her, as was the asteroid 281 Lucretia – her second given name.

In recognition of her work as William’s assistant, King George III started paying Caroline an annual salary. This made her the first woman to be paid for her contribution to science and together with her brother, she discovered over 2400 astronomical objects over twenty years. In 1828, at the age of 75, the Royal Astronomical Society awarded Caroline Herschel a gold medal for her monumental works in science. The next woman to win the Gold Medal Award was Vera Rubin in 1996. Ten years later, she was made an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society. She received a similar honour from the Royal Irish Academy. On her 96th birthday, Caroline Herschel was awarded the gold medal of science by the King of Prussia.

Caroline remained modest throughout her remarkable career. She loved literature and art and had eight unpublished novels. She once remarked: “As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.”

School Song

We are assembled here in love,
We are united, we care for one another.
The greatest lesson of all is the one
That teaches us to live together, together.

Everyone’s a spark and in the night
Together we make a light, a fire burning bright
Ad Dei Gloriam; Inkosi mayibongwe:
To the glory of our God: this is what we believe.

In times of trouble we support
Our fellows; we are taught to be there for our friends.
And all around us, there will be
That special unity, that binds us all together.

If we come back after many years,
We will think fondly of the things that we remember,
And the friends that we made then,
These will be friends forever, forever.

By Thandi Siebert, Head Girl 1993