Maunder, Annie Russell (1868–1947)

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Maunder, Annie Russell (1868–1947)

Irish astronomer . Born in 1868 in County Tyrone, Ireland; died in 1947; daughter of W.A. Russell (an Anglican vicar); attended Victoria College in Belfast; graduated from Girton College in Cambridge, 1889; married Edward Maunder (an astronomer), in 1895.

The daughter of an Anglican vicar, Annie Russell Maunder was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, in 1868. She received her primary education at home before attending Victoria College in Belfast. Continuing her studies at Girton College in Cambridge, she received the school's highest honor granted to a woman when she was named Senior Optime in the Mathematical Tripos in 1889. She then secured a position at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, measuring and examining photographs of sunspots, which was one of the subjects that most interested her. Along with two other women, and despite her growing prominence as an astronomer, Maunder was denied admission to the Royal Astronomical Society in 1892. During her tenure at Greenwich, she met noted astronomer Edward Maunder, the head of the solar photography department at Greenwich who was also the founder of the British Astronomical Society, an organization which welcomed participation by women. The two struck up both a personal and a professional relationship, and she became the first editor of the Journal of the British Astronomical Society in 1894. She and Edward were married the following year.

Although Maunder's contributions to astronomy did not include any new theories, her work on sunspots and her photographic survey of the Milky Way galaxy secured her a place in the history of science. She also made field trips to Norway and India to study and document eclipses. With her husband, she published The Heavens and Their Story, a history of astronomy, in 1908. Maunder was otherwise not active as a scientist between 1898 and 1915, but she returned to her position at the Royal Observatory from 1915 to 1920, and resumed the editorship of the Journal of the British Astronomical Society from 1917 to 1930. She died in 1947.


Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey. Women in Science: Antiquity through the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986.

Grant Eldridge , freelance writer, Pontiac, Michigan