Wilson, Fiammetta Worthington (1864–1920)

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Wilson, Fiammetta Worthington (1864–1920)

English astronomer who observed over 10,000 meteors and discovered the 1913 return of Westphal's comet . Born in 1864 in Lowestoft, Suffolk, England; died in 1920; daughter of Helen Till Worthington and F.S. Worthington (a physician); educated by governesses; studied languages at schools in Lausanne, Switzerland (four years) and Germany (one year); studied music in Italy; no formal training in astronomy; married S.A. Wilson.

Selected writings:

published several papers on astronomical subjects, the most notable being "The Meteoric Shower of January" in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (January 1918, pp. 198–199).

Fiammetta Worthington Wilson was born in Lowestoft in the Waveney district, Suffolk, England, in 1864. Her parents, Helen Till Worthington and Dr. F.S. Worthington, educated her at home under the care of governesses, but Fiammetta's father may have been her greatest educational influence. Dr. Worthington was an avid natural science enthusiast who spent his retirement performing microscopic studies. Although his daughter was tremendously gifted in languages and music, Dr. Worthington urged her to be aware of and to understand nature and her surroundings. Fiammetta attended private schools in Lausanne, Switzerland, and in Germany to study languages. She then went to Italy to study music and returned to London, England, to begin a career as a teacher at the Guildhall School of Music, where she also conducted the orchestra.

Wilson's interest in astronomy began when she attended astrophysicist Alfred Fowler's lecture series. She joined the British Astronomical Association and specialized in astronomical observations of meteors. World War I found Wilson serving as acting director (along with A. Grace Cook ) of the British Astronomical Society's Meteor Section. From 1910 to 1920, Wilson observed over 10,000 meteors. She also became an expert in comets, zodiacal light, and the aurora borealis. In 1913, she discovered the return of Westphal's comet. After publishing several papers on meteors, Wilson was elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1916. In July 1920, the Harvard College Observatory awarded her a year-long research position, the E.C. Pickering Fellowship. However, she died that July, before being apprised of the honor.


Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey. Women in Science. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge Press, 1993.

Gillian S. Holmes , freelance writer, Hayward, California

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Wilson, Fiammetta Worthington (1864–1920)

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