English astronomer Mary Adela Blagg was born in Cheadle, Staffordshire on May 17, 1858.

It was when Mary was approaching middle age that she first took up an interest in astronomy, at which time she attended a course of lectures given at Cheadle by Joseph Alfred Hardcastle (a grandson of John Herschel). Hardcastle introduced her to Samuel Arthur Saunder, then President (1902-1904) of the British Astronomical Association, with whom she collaborated to produce ‘A Collated List of Lunar Formations’ published in 1913.

She carried out a great deal of useful work on variable stars (in collaboration with Herbert Hall Turner) but is probably best remembered for her contributions towards the development of a uniform system of lunar nomenclature. It should be pointed out that, although the labelling of lunar formations is now standardized, there was no naming system in operation up to the early-19th century. Different lunar maps of the period had discrepancies in terms of identification, with the same crater or other feature having anything up to three or four different names, depending on who drew up the map. The work put in by Mary Adela Blagg and Samuel Arthur Saunder went a long way towards rectifying this situation.

After the publication of several research papers for the Royal Astronomical Society, she was elected as a fellow in 1916, after being nominated by Professor Turner. She was one of five women to be elected simultaneously, the first women to become Fellows of the society.

In 1920, Mary joined the newly formed International Astronomical Union (IAU), where she continued her work on lunar nomenclature. This culminated in 1935 with the publication of her two-volume ‘Named Lunar Formations’, written in collaboration with the Czech astronomer Karl Müller for the Lunar Commission of the IAU, and which was destined to become a standard reference on the subject.


Mona Evans
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