Agnes Mary Clerke

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Agnes Mary Clerke
Clerke Agnes Mary.jpg
Born (1842-02-10)10 February 1842
Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland
Died 20 January 1907(1907-01-20) (aged 64)
London

Agnes Mary Clerke (10 February 1842 – 20 January 1907) was an astronomer and writer, mainly in the field of astronomy. She was born in Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland, and died in London.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

Family[edit]

Agnes Clerke was the daughter of John William Clerke (ca. 1814–1890) who was, at the time, a bank manager in Skibbereen,[8] and his wife Catherine Mary Deasy (b. ca. 1819) whose father was a judge's registrar.[9][10] She had two siblings; her older sister, Ellen Mary, was born in 1840, and her younger brother, Aubrey St. John, was born in 1843.[11] All of the Clerke children were entirely home schooled.[11]

Life and work[edit]

Following in her father's footsteps—while studying classics, he had also taken courses in astronomy—she developed an interest in astronomy from an early age, using her father's 4 inch telescope in her observations and had begun to write a history of astronomy at the age of 15.[8] In 1861, aged 19, her family moved to Dublin, and in 1863 to Queenstown. At the age of 25, partly for health reasons[12] together with her elder sister Ellen, she went to Italy where she stayed until 1877, chiefly at Florence, studying science, languages, and other subjects that would be useful in their later lives. In 1877 she settled in London.[8]

Upon her return, she was able to get two articles, Brigandage in Sicily and Copernicus in Italy, written while she had been in Italy, published in the Edinburgh Review of October 1877. This led to her being asked by Adam and Charles Black, publishers of the Review, who also published the Encyclopaedia Britannica, to write biographies of a number of famous scientists for the ninth edition of the encyclopedia. This work let to a number of other commissions, including the publication of the article on Astronomy for the Catholic Encyclopedia.[8]

In 1885, she published her best known work A Popular History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century, which has received recognition beyond the time it was written.[8]

Clerke was not a practical astronomer, instead collating, interpreting and summarising the results of astronomical research. In 1888 she spent three months at the Cape Observatory as the guest of the director, Sir David Gill, and his wife, and there became sufficiently familiar with spectroscopic work to be able to write about this newer branch of the science with increased clearness and confidence.

In 1892 she was awarded the Actonian Prize of 100 guineas by the Royal Institution. As a member of the British Astronomical Association she attended its meetings regularly, as well as those of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1903, with Lady Huggins, she was elected an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society, a rank previously held only by two other women, Caroline Herschel and Mary Somerville.

Her sister, Ellen Mary Clerke (1840–1906), also wrote about astronomy.

The lunar crater Clerke is named after her.[13]

In 2002, the retired astronomy lecturer Mary Brück wrote a book on her, Agnes Mary Clerke and the Rise of Astrophysics.[14]

Selected writings[edit]

  • A Popular History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century. Edinburgh, 1885 (4th rev. ed. London, 1902)
  • The System of the Stars. London, 1890 (2nd ed. London, 1905)
  • The Herschels and Modern Astronomy. London, 1895
  • The Concise Knowledge Astronomy (co-authored with John Ellard Gore and Alfred Fowler. London, 1898
  • Problems in Astrophysics. London, 1903
  • Modern Cosmogonies. London, 1905
  • Familiar Studies in Homer. London, 1892

She also wrote 55 articles for the Edinburgh Review, mainly on subjects connected with astrophysics, and several articles for the Dictionary of National Biography, the Encyclopædia Britannica and the Catholic Encyclopedia, and several other periodicals.

References[edit]

  1. ^ For details of the life and work of Agnes Clerk, see Weitzenhoffer, Kenneth (1985). "The Prolific Pen of Agnes Clerke". Sky and Telescope (9): 211–212. Bibcode:1985S&T....70..211W. 
  2. ^ Huggins, Margaret L. (1907). "Agnes Mary Clerke". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. London: Royal Astronomical Society. 67 (4): 230–231. Bibcode:1907MNRAS..67..230.. doi:10.1093/mnras/67.4.230. 
  3. ^ "Obituary–Agnes Mary Clerke". The Observatory. 30: 107–108. 1907. Bibcode:1907Obs....30..107. 
  4. ^ Lynn, William T. (1907). "Miss Agnes Mary Clerke". Journal of the British Astronomical Association. London: British Astronomical Association. 17 (4): 188–189. Bibcode:1907JBAA...17..188. 
  5. ^ Huggins, Margaret L. (1907). "Agnes Mary Clerke". Astrophysical Journal. 25 (3): 226–230. Bibcode:1907ApJ....25..226H. doi:10.1086/141436. 
  6. ^ Dent, Elsie A. (1907). "Agnes Mary Clerke". Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. 1 (2): 81–84. Bibcode:1907JRASC...1...81D. 
  7. ^ See, Thomas J. J. (1907). "Some Recollections of Miss Agnes M. Clerke". Popular Astronomy. 15 (6): 323–326. Bibcode:1907PA.....15..323S. 
  8. ^ a b c d e O'Connor, J J; Robertson, E F (July 2008). "Agnes Mary Clerke". School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  9. ^ "Miss Agnes Mary Clerke (transcription)" (38236). London: The Times. 22 January 1907. p. 12; col D. Retrieved 6 December 2008. 
  10. ^ England 1871 census Class: RG10; Piece: 870; Folio: 118; Page: 24; GSU roll: 827769.
  11. ^ a b Ogilvie, Marilyn; Harvey, Joy (eds.). The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science A-K. 1. Routledge: New York and London. pp. 269–271. ISBN 0-415-92039-6. 
  12. ^ Cliver, E W (2007). "Agnes Mary Clerke: Real—time historian of astronomy". Astronomy & Geophysics. 48 (3): 25–26. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  13. ^ Haines, Catharine (2001). International women in science: a biographical dictionary to 1950. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 67. ISBN 1-57607-090-5. 
  14. ^ Brück, Mary T. (2002). Agnes Mary Clerke and the Rise of Astrophysics. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Bibcode:2002amcr.book.....B. ISBN 0521808448. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]