Annie Russell Maunder

Hired as a 'lady computer' at the Royal Observatory in 1891, Annie spent five years calculating and observing at Greenwich. In 1895 she then married E. Walter Maunder, the First Assistant in charge of the Photographic and Spectroscopic Department. And, unusually for this period, marriage did not spell the end of her career in astronomy.

Who was Annie Maunder?

An Irish astronomer and mathematician, Annie Maunder was born 14 April 1868. She attended one of Cambridge’s new women’s colleges.

Later she went on to work at the Royal Observatory as one of the few female computers.

Women were hired as computers on a short term basis in order to save money. The women were paid £4 a month, rising to £6 as 'soon as efficiency in the use of the Photographic Equatorial is acquired'.

What did Annie Maunder do?

An Irish astronomer and mathematician, Annie Maunder was born 14 April 1868. She attended one of Cambridge’s new women’s colleges.

Later she went on to work at the Royal Observatory as one of the few female computers.

Women were hired as computers on a short term basis in order to save money. The women were paid £4 a month, rising to £6 as 'soon as efficiency in the use of the Photographic Equatorial is acquired'.

 

Image of The Dallmeyer photoheliograph
The Dallmeyer photoheliograph, used by Annie Russell to measure sunspots.

Who did Annie Maunder work with?

When Annie married her supervisor, Edward Walter Maunder in 1895, she had to give up her job in accordance with civil service rules.

Despite this, she continued to volunteer, developing her astronomical skills. She organised solar eclipse expeditions with her husband through the British Astronomical Association. This allowed Annie access to the equipment and resources needed for serious astronomical work.

She was a keen photographer. During the brief few minutes of a total solar eclipse she achieved considerable success in capturing images of the sun’s atmosphere. 

On 22 January 1898, she photographed an enormous ray-like structure appearing to burst from the Sun: a coronal streamer. She was in India to capture the total solar eclipse, using a camera she has retrofitted herself.

Learn how to photograph the sun

Legacy

The husband-and-wife team often published their articles in joint names. Much of Annie's work was published under Edward's name, until she became a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. 

They sought to bring astronomy to new audiences through newspaper articles and books on popular astronomy. These books included The Heavens and their Story (1910), in which Walter admits that it was 'almost wholly the work of my wife.' This book features Annie's photographs of the sun and the Milky Way. 

During the First World War, the Maunders filled roles at the Observatory that had been left vacant by staff serving in the trenches.

By 1916, the Royal Astronomical Society had elected to admit women members and Annie Maunder was one of the first Fellows.

She survived her husband by almost 20 years and late in life became an authority in ancient astronomies.

The Royal Astronomical Society awards the Annie Maunder Outreach Medal. It is awarded to those involved in outreach or public engagement for astronomy or geophysics.

Find out more about the Royal Astronomical Society

Annie Maunder Day 

On 14 April 2019 we celebrate Annie's 150th birthday. 

Did you know?

There is a crater on the moon named Maunder, after Annie and Edward jointly. 

The Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope

The first new telescope in over 60 years was installed in the Altazimuth Pavilion at the Royal Observatory in 2018. It is especially designed for use with digital cameras.

It will help astronomers research the wonders of the Universe, as well as communicate them to the widest possible public. It is designed in the spirit of its namesake, Annie Maunder.

Find out more

Image of the Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope in the Altazimuth Pavilion
The Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope in the Altazimuth Pavilion

 

Banner image: Annie Scott Dill Maunder (née Russell) by Lafayette 1931 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Find out more about Annie and other amazing women scientists in Forgotten Women: The Scientists by Zing Tsjeng