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Blue plaque to be unveiled in memory of top Strabane scientist

14 May 2018

A special tribute to one of Strabane’s most inspirational female figures will be unveiled in the town next week as the Ulster History Circle installs a blue plaque in honour of scientist Annie Russell Maunder.

This year marks Annie’s 150th birthday, and presents the perfect opportunity for local people to look back at her life and the ground breaking work she completed in astronomical exploration. The plaque will be revealed to the public by the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh, at Oysters on Patrick Street, on Monday, 21st May at 12noon.

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, eventually secured her a place in the male dominated Royal Astronomical Society.

Speaking ahead of the unveiling, Mayor McHugh paid tribute to the pioneering Strabane scientist. “I am delighted to see this permanent memorial to Annie Maunder. Her determination and skill earned her the respect of her male peers at a time when women struggled to achieve recognition particularly in the sphere of science and exploration. She was a fantastic ambassador for her town and of course an inspiration for local women both of her own generation and today.”

Curator with Council’s Museums and Visitor Services, Roisin Doherty said: “It’s so important to mark the achievements of local trail blazers such as Annie and to ensure theirs is a lasting legacy for future generations. Annie’s perseverance and her determination to challenge social convention are an example to us all, and this tribute is well deserved and timely.”

Dr Myrtle Hill, Vice Chair of the Ulster History Circle thanked Council for supporting the initiative. “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.”

Annie Maunder studied at Victoria College before she went on to Cambridge and became a teacher. Through her love for Astrology she secured a post at Greenwich Observatory as a Lady Computer and there met her future husband Walter Maunder. Annie travelled the world to photograph solar eclipses at a time when women in science was unheard of, and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in November 1916 – 24 years after she was first nominated for the position. 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.

The plaque will be unveiled on Monday May 21st outside Oysters restaurant, by the Ulster History Circle supported by Derry City and Strabane District Council.