Margaret Huggins

Thanks to modern studies of women in science, and in particular an insightful study by Barbara Becker (reference below), it is now well-known that Margaret was not simply William Huggins assistant, but rather played a role we would describe today as “co-investigator.” Informants indicate that Margaret was very interested in astronomy from a young age, and even made a spectroscope which she used to observe Fraunhofer lines in the Sun. She also learned photography, which was an important new technology in astronomy. She married William Huggins when she was 27 and he was 51. Records of observations and photographs in her own hand strongly suggested that she and William shared the work. Unfortunately it was not possible for her to receive recognition given the role that women were allowed to play in 19th century science.

Becker, Barbara "Dispelling the Myth of the Able Assistant: Margaret and William Huggins at Work in the Tulse Hill Observatory" in Helena Pycior, et al. eds., Creative Couples in the Sciences. 1996, Rutgers University Press.

Barbara Becker’s lecture notes are also online at: