Annie Maunder

1st Woman Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society

Who is Annie Maunder?

Annie Maunder (1868 – 1947) was an Irish-British astronomer and mathematician who recorded the first evidence of the movement of sunspot emergence from the poles toward the equator over the sun’s 11-year cycle.


Annie pursued her secondary education at the Ladies Collegiate School in Belfast, later known as Victoria College. Later, she won a three-year scholarship that allowed her to study mathematics at Girton College, Cambridge. She graduated with honors in 1889 as the top mathematician at Girton and also earned the rank of Senior Optime, the first woman to receive such a rank in Ireland. However, she was not allowed to receive her Bachelor’s degree since Cambridge did not grant women degrees at that time.

Her Accomplishments and Legacy

Annie faced many challenges as a woman in a male-dominated area. She joined the Royal Greenwich Observatory at the age of 23, where she was part of the team of ‘lady computers’ who studied data from the Sun, sunspots, and magnetic storms. She was poorly paid despite her education. Her most notable contribution to astronomy was her work on sunspots and solar flares. She discovered that sunspots were cooler than their surroundings, which led her to conclude that they were caused by magnetic fields blocking heat from the Sun’s surface. Many of her observations were published in scientific journals under her husband’s name before she was named a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. This does make a person wonder how many breakthroughs through the centuries were actually discovered by women. The Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope (AMAT) was installed at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, in 2018, in recognition of her contribution to the field of Astronomy.

Learn more about Annie Maunder from National Schools Observatory.

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