Elizabeth Brown (1830-1899)
Elizabeth Brown was the first British Quaker to make a contribution to the advance of astronomy. She was first introduced to the use of telescopes by her father, Thomas Brown of Cirencester. Both were keen meteorologists, and recorded daily rainfall for the Royal Meteorological Society, but she became fascinated by the movements of the sun. It was not until after her father’s death in 1883, when she was both released from domestic duties and independently wealthy enough to travel, that she began to devote herself to solar astronomy. For her this was a natural progression from her meteorological interest.
Elizabeth Brown travelled widely to seek for solar eclipses, an adventure she describes in her work In pursuit of a shadow (1887). The title of the book reveals the influence of the earlier Quaker meteorologist Luke Howard who famously used the phrase to describe his work on clouds.
Her work on the daily recording sunspots, including meticulous drawings, earned her a distinguished reputation among the astronomers of her day.
A solar eclipse would also play a significant role in the work of Arthur S. Eddington (1882-1944) who was one of the most significant figures in the development of modern astrophysics.
[Lib. Ref. Vol. 513/6]