To celebrate Annie Maunder's birthday on 14 April, we are live streaming a sun-viewing on our Facebook page from 1pm. Tune in to see amazing images of the sun captured with the Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope (AMAT). Also, the curator of the Royal Observatory Greenwich, Dr. Louise Devoy, wrote a special blog piece to mark this inaugural Annie Maunder Day.
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.
What did Annie Maunder do?
In 1891 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'. She spent five years calculating and observing at Greenwich.
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.
However, unusual for this period, marriage did not spell the end of her career in astronomy. 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.
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.
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.
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