There’s not exactly a lot of women listed in the historical development of astrophysics but there’s a notable exception in Ireland – Lady Margaret Huggins. She spent over thirty years working with her husband William Huggins as they laid a significant foundation for the development of astrophysics.
This remarkable lady was born Margaret Murray in Dublin during the year of 1848, pretty much self educated although she did attend a school in Brighton briefly. She soon became fascinated with astronomy, and bought herself a small telescope and read everything on the subject that was available.
She then read something that would change her life completely. It was an article in the 1873 edition of the magazine – Good Words – the subject was astronomical spectroscopy and it was written by William Huggins. Margaret became a fan at that point even before she had even met her future husband. She eventually met him through a friend Howard Grubb amd in 1875 the 27 year old Margaret Murray got married to the 51 year old William Huggins.
It was a marriage based on a shared interest and intellectual pursuits, thet never had any children and their London home resembled a laboratory. Their first joint project was successful in producing the dry gelatine photographic place and applying it to the study of astronomical spectroscopy.
They worked together and jointly published a large number of papers dating from 1889 onward. They produced studies of the spectra of the planets and the Orion Nebula plus the truth about the amazing Wolf-Rayet stars and the nova which occurred in 1892.
This was just a small part of their work though, and further studies were posted about the spectra of calcium and magnesium including where they originated from. They inputted and worked openly on many different projects – even being the first to accurately illustrate Saha Law.
More and more research followed and you can read about this wonderful lady on lots of websites at the moment. In fact there’s an interesting documentary being shown on the Irish National broadcaster – RTE currently. For those who don’t live in Ireland at the moment you will probably get blocked but this post entitled – watch RTE player in the USA – will help anyone watch this channel from anywhere in the world.
Addendum: Found another source – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-6JjuQGHJw