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Barnes, E.J. – Caroline’s Catalog



Caroline’s Catalog

Have you ever had one of those days when you realize that you don’t know as much about the universe as you thought you did? Or, rather, how the important bits of the universe were discovered? This comic is all about Caroline Herschel, who worked with her brother for years in the early 1800’s to discover and catalog comets, nebulas (nebulae?) and star formations where the people involved didn’t yet know what they were looking at. Her brother was an earlier tinkerer with different types of telescopes, constantly looking for better ways to view the stars and get a closer look at things that were very far away. A lot of those old telescopes look frankly ludicrous in modern times, but really it’s more the outside covering than anything else. Giant telescopes are still alive and well today, after all. Anyway, Caroline ends up helping her brother quite a bit, with their research almost becoming interchangeable over the years, and this book details the ways in which she was and was not recognized for her work. Frankly, I was expecting her plight to be worse, as it’s not like the early 1800’s were a particularly enlightened time in regards to women being recognized for their scientific achievements. She did get some slight recognition (nowhere close to the amount that her brother got, but there didn’t seem to be a systemic effort to take her achievements away) and had a comfortable life with the money she made doing this work. Oh, and her brother discovered Uranus. Maybe I should have led with that. This is a fascinating story to anybody who’s interested in the stars and how humans got really good at cataloging them and other celestial objects, told in a relatable way from the perspective of an older woman (she’s depicted as 82 here) who has had time to contemplate her life and work. Which isn’t a shock, as E.J. has been doing great work for years now, but it’s very much worth checking out. $3