The Comet Sweeper by Claire Broke

On my trip to London last month, I went to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and there I’ve discovered The Comet Sweeper by Claire Broke in the gift shop. I bought the book, as I wanted to read more about Caroline Herschel. Funnily enough, three important things happened in March for Caroline, first of all, she was born in Hanover, Germany on 16th March 1750. 27 years later, on 5th March she made her debut as a singer in Bath. Furthermore, her brother, William Herschel discovered Uranus on 13th March 1781. She was working as his assistant at that time.
The name of the book is the Comet Sweeper because Caroline discovered her first comet on 1st August 1786, when William was away. She went on to discover more comets and gained international scientific fame.

The Comet Sweeper by Claire Broke

Her mother forced her into domestic servitude in Germany, but William asked her to join him in England. She taught herself to sing while the rest of the family was out of the house, while doing needlework for her family. She moved to Bath and started her singing career, before learning astronomy from her brother. He also taught her maths, so she could help him better as an assistant. She was interested in this in the beginning, but went on to make important scientific discoveries, as I mentioned earlier. King George III awarded her a salary in 1787 and this made her the first woman in Britain to earn her living from science.

She kept diaries and letters and those were very important for Brock to tell the story of Caroline Herschel.

Items from Herschel Museum of Astronomy in Bath. Caroline's dress on the left and a table the family used on the right
Items from Herschel Museum of Astronomy in Bath. Caroline’s dress on the left and a table the family used on the right. More pictures from the museum on my lifestyle blog.

William and Caroline Herschel
William and Caroline Herschel, paintings on display at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, London

I only gave 3 stars because, while Caroline was very interesting, the way Broke presented her wasn’t as exciting as I was hoping it would be. Broke repetitively mentioned what other historians said about Caroline, but I didn’t find that relevant, especially as this was the first book I’ve read about her.

The Comet Sweeper by Claire Broke

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 3/5 Stars.
Would I recommend it: Yes
Published by: Icon Books
Year it was published: 2017 (originally published in 2007)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Biography
Pages: 292

About the author: Claire Broke studied for her BA and MA at Cardiff University, before getting a PhD from the University of Warwick. She is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Leicester.
Other books by her: British Women Surgeons and their Patients, 1860-1918 and The Feminization of Fame, 1750-1830.
Website & Social Media Links: –

3 thoughts on “The Comet Sweeper by Claire Broke”

  • Caroline is an inspirational woman. I don’t know much about her, but she sounds like a great role model. I wonder if there are other biographies of Caroline that might be a more enjoyable read.

  • I always admire women who manage to step out of the conformity of their time and achieve successes like this. Perhaps you’ll find another biography of her at some point that is better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.