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essay about women and science

Essay about Women and Science



21 March 1702.


The sun had set a few hours ago and it was pitch black outside, no clouds in the sky, the perfect weather to observe the stars. Maria had been observing them for hours, each one of them brighter than the other. She knew exactly what she was looking for, a variable star, one her husband Gottfried had found the previous evening. She would not go to sleep without finding it, she never gave up in these situations. On the left there was the milky way, a bit higher up Orion and next to it Gemini. According to her husbands calculations, the variable star had to be on the top left of Gemini. Slowly she analyzed every star that composed the Gemini constellation, moving up, star by star until she reached the top left part of it. It took her a great amount of concentration to compare her mental image of the constellation to the stars she could actually see in the sky.


And there it was.


The variable star Gottfried had discovered the previous evening was shining and bright, exactly where he told her she would find it, on the top left corner of the Gemini constellation.


Reassured by the sight of the star, Maria leaned back into her chair and gazed at the night sky. Her husband was a great astronomer, but she had no problem following his discoveries, helping him with his works and doing her own analyses.


Maria decided to have a last look at the star and go to sleep. She leaned against the telescope, approached her eye and searched once again for the variable star. It only took her a few minutes to find it this time, her visual memory had always been strong. She still felt the excitement of finding the star and sharing thus her husbands discovery. As she was about to move the stetoscope and take her eyes away something new suddenly puzzled her.


She distinguished a linear shape, bright and longer. She had been staring at the stars for hours now, maybe her eyes were just tired and disfigured the stars through her telescope. Curiosity led her to having a second look. The long bright shape was still present. I was nothing imaginary. Maria’s heart began to beat quickly, her pulse accelerating. Did she just discover something no one had seen before? She tried to remember all the stars and elements that could be seen in the sky near the Gemini constellation. But she couldn’t recall anything of a linear shape. Something important was happening.


Maria sat back in her chair and closed her eyes. Clearing her mind had always helped her think. A bright star with a linear shape, that could only be…that could only be a comet. It was hard to believe that she would come across a comet that her husband didn’t see the previous evening, but no other word fit the description and Gottfried woundn’t have forgotten to tell her about a comet if he’s seen one.


Gottfried was also the person who would confirm that this star was a comet. She silently walked inside their house and gently woke up her husband. It was hard to contain her excitement and not throw him out of their bed.


Gottfried joined her outside on the balcony and looked in the telescope. It was indeed a comet. Maria Margarethe Kirch had discovered a comet.


22 March 1702.


The comet was named the “Comet of 1702”. Every single journal was talking about it, about how Gottfried Kirch discovered the comet while observing a variable star.


Maria knew that she couldn’t claim the discovery. She was the first woman in history who discovered a comet. But her husband got the appraisal for the discovery.


A few years later.


When Gottfried died in 1710, Maria applied for her husband’s place as astronomer in the Royal Academy of Science, but her application was rejected due to her gender. Shortly before his death, Gottfried admitted the truth regarding the discovery.




Comets are usually named after the person who discovers them. The Comet of 1702 is still called the Comet of 1702. Renaming it the Comet Maria Margarethe Kirch would be an extra step taken towards the recognition of the works of women in science.


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