Clerke, Agnes Mary

Agnes Mary Clerke (1842-1907)

Agnes Mary Clerke was born in Skibbereen, County Cork in 1842. She was educated at home in Latin, Greek, mathematics and astronomy. In 1867 Agnes and her sister Ellen moved to Florence for ten years and finally settled in London.

As a writer, Clerke's main interest was the history of science, in particular, astronomy. She was a regular contributor to the Edinburgh Review during her lifetime. She contributed the main article on the history of astronomy and biographies of thirty astronomers to the eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Clerke's first book was A Popular History of Astronomy During the Nineteenth Century (1885). This was essentially a popular science book but it brought Agnes Clerke to the notice of the astronomical community. Her second book The System of the Stars (1890) dealt with the contents and structure of the visible universe. Her third book Problems in Astrophysics (1903) brought the story of astrophysics up to date and her final book Modern Cosmogonies (1905) was an account of theories of the evolution of the universe.

Clerke was made an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society (1903) and she received the Actonian Prize (1893) of the Royal Institution for science writing. A crater on the moon was named in her honour on the Moon near the landing site of Apollo 12.

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