Biography of Maria Winckelmann Kirch

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Biography of Maria Winckelmann Kirch

Maria Kirch (1670-1720) was regarded as a German astronomer when she became the first woman astronomer to discover such a finding. She was born on the 25th of February, 1670, in Panitsch in Germany and was christened as Maria Margarethe Wincklemann. She received her education at home from her father who was a Lutheran minister. She showed great interest in astronomy and hence from a very tender age she studied under Christopher Arnold who was a self - taught farmer who was well known for his observations of a great comet that he discovered in 1683 and also for the transit of Mercury in 1690.

Later Maria met Gottfried Kirch through Arnold and married him in 1692. Kirch was one of the greatest astronomers of Germany, who was 30 years Maria's senior. They had three daughters and a son. Kirch was one of the very first astronomers who made use of the telescope when carrying out systematic observations and discovered many comets.

He also gave further training to his wife Maria in astronomy though at that time women were not allowed to attend universities. Both astronomers worked in tandem with each other by dividing their work between them, making observations and carrying out calculations and recorded important information about the weather. Even their children became interested in what the parents were doing and soon joined them in their work. All the data such as the different phases of the moon, eclipses, the position and setting of the sun and the planets, that was collected by the Kirch family was made use of in calendars, almanacs and for navigation.

One night on 21st April 1702, when on one of her nightly observations, Maria Kirch found a comet that was previously unknown and became the first woman...