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Blue plaque unveiled in honour of iconic Strabane female astronomer

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Blue plaque unveiled in honour of iconic Strabane female astronomer thumbnailDorrie Giles, great-granddaughter of Walter Maunders, is pictured with Maoliosa McHugh, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, at the unveiling of the blue plaque

A SPECIAL blue plaque has been unveiled in honour of one of Tyrone's most ground-breaking female icons - astronomer and mathematician Annie Russell Maunder.

Leading the event was the Mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council, Maolíosa McHugh. He was joined by Dorrie Giles, the great granddaughter of Walter Maunder, who flew specially from England for the unveiling.

The Ulster History Circle, with support for Derry City and Strabane District Council, installed the blue plaque in memory of the Strabane woman, in the year marking her 150th birthday.

The permanent tribute to her pioneering work and remarkable life can now be viewed at Patrick Street outside Oysters Restaurant.

Annie was born in Strabane where her father was the minister of the local Presbyterian Church up until 1882. Despite the limitations at the time on education for women, Annie excelled in her work in solar observation, and her research, which she carried out alongside her husband Walter, eventually secured her a place in the male dominated Royal Astronomical Society.

A crater of the moon has been named in honour of the Maunders and their work and Annie eventually died aged 79, in Wandsworth London, in 1947.

Dr Myrtle Hill, vice-chair of the Ulster History Circle thanked council for supporting the initiative.

'Honour'

"We welcome the opportunity to honour this Strabane woman's major contributions to the Science of Astronomy, and although a Fellow of the Royal Society of Astronomy, she has nonetheless been forgotten by Science and had until recent years slipped from our history.

"Thanks are due to Derry City and Strabane District Council for funding this latest plaque in the Circle's five-year partnership with the Council," she said.

Mayor McHugh added: "The tracking work of sun spots carried out by Annie and her husband was so significant and I can only hope that the blue plaque presentation will bring this to the attention of not only the people of Strabane but to those much further afield.''

Also speaking at the event was local historian, Michael Harron, who has carried out extensive research on the Maunders.

''Their earlier work focused on sunspots and Annie obtained an important photograph of a great solar flare during the Indian eclipse of 1889 which was the largest observed.

''These flares and sunspots were known to be the cause of disruption of electrical communications on earth and the knowledge at that time did not relate to our modern digital society and the detrimental consequences and potential risks possible," he explained.

However Mr and Mrs Maunders work was not restricted to the effects of the sun they also studied constellations and bible references.

Mr Harron added: ''It gives me great personal satisfaction that today Strabane has finally given recognition to an outstanding scientist who was born here in the Manse of the Second Presbyterian Church.''

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