The story of Irish astronomer Rose O’Halloran

The Tipperary woman, who emigrated to the US, is credited as being the first to see a giant sunspot emerge on the sun’s limb

Rose O’Halloran and her telescope. Image sketched by a San Francisco Call artist in 1895.

Rose O’Halloran and her telescope. Image sketched by a San Francisco Call artist in 1895.

In 1895, Marie Evelyn, a journalist from the San Francisco Call was sent to interview an eccentric local figure, one Ms Rose O’Halloran, amateur astronomer, described as “The woman with the pet telescope”.

O’Halloran was a prime example of the opportunities emigration could offer women. Born in 1843, records of her early life are scant. Her father, Edmund O’Halloran, is recorded as having been born in Carrick-on-Suir in Co Tipperary and was a landowner. Rose herself told her friend, United Coast and Geodetic Survey’s George Davidson, that upon her father’s death the estate wasn’t large enough to support the family. She came to San Francisco to earn a living becoming a private teacher to young women.

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