Book Review: The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter

Title: The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter

Author: John Pipkin

Page count: 480 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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I hardly know where to begin with this astounding story. At its heart are two Carolines (one Irish, one German, with some 30 odd years between their ages) who are swept into astronomy by the obsessions of their strong-willed male relatives. Each goes on to make their own fascinating discoveries about the solar system, the universe, and the forces that govern it. Each Caroline also has a physical deformity which she is told makes it impossible for her to marry, and so each devotes her life to science instead of possible love and future happiness.

My heart broke for both, though especially the younger Irish Caroline, who had no idea who she was or that there had been someone who’d loved her all along. Her scientific discoveries came to naught, since, as a female, her male colleagues didn’t believe her discoveries held merit.

Overall it’s a beautiful story of adversity, passion, and obsession, accurately portraying how scientific discovery held a kind of mania over the populace at the time and those society deemed intelligent (or male) enough to obtain it.