99 Immigrants Who Made Britain Great

By Canbury Press

From Handel to Mo Farah, let’s celebrate the immigrants who have shaped modern Britain

Caroline Herschel

Caroline Lucretia Herschel was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1750 to Isaac Herschel and Anna Ilse Moritzen, one of eight siblings. When she was ten years old, she fell ill with typhus which stunted her growth and severely damaged her eyesight. As a consequence, she was not expected to marry, and her young life became centred on fulfilling household chores in accordance with her mother’s wishes, preparing her for a future as a maid. Following her father’s death, Caroline ignored her mother’s wishes and moved to Bath, England in 1772 with her brother William, a professional musician. William performed in churches in England, but pursued astronomy as a hobby in his spare time, making and using his own telescopes. Recognising his sister’s capability, he offered to tutor her in singing and in mathematics, among other subjects, allowing Caroline to work professionally as a vocalist and in her spare time to help William with astronomical calculations. She began to assist her brother regularly, becoming increasingly interested and adept at the discipline. She made observations and discoveries of her own as she worked more autonomously, including three previously unseen nebulae. In 1781, William discovered the planet Uranus, and was employed by King George III as court astronomer a year later. Recognising the great contributions Caroline was making to William’s work, the King employed her too in 1787, officially making her the world’s first female astronomer. Over the next thirty years, Caroline discovered eight new comets, as well as 560 stars that were absent from records, cataloguing and presenting her findings along with critiques of existing research to the Royal Society. Two of the catalogues produced by Caroline are still referred to by astronomers and scientists today. Following William’s death in 1822, she returned to Hanover and finalised the catalogues of discoveries made with her brother; an outstanding work for which she was awarded the Astronomical Society’s gold medal in 1828. A year before her death, Caroline was awarded a gold medal for science by the King of Prussia before passing away in Hanover, aged ninety-seven. Asteroid ‘281 Lucretia’ and crater ‘C. Herschel’ on the moon were posthumously named after Caroline.

Eugène Rimmel

Eugène Rimmel was born in France, the son of a perfume maker, who taught his trade to his son. Eugène moved to London, where he opened a perfume shop, The House of Rimmel, on Bond Street in 1834. He became an expert in manufacturing products and supplied high society with his scents and makeups and hygiene products, earning him the title of “The Prince of Perfumers”.

Eugène’s emporium was extremely successful with high profile and influential customers including Queen Victoria, who employed Eugène as her personal perfumer.

Eugène experimented with scents and colours that had not been seen before and it is believed that he travelled the world to develop his products. His best-known items were perfumes, fragranced pomades, cosmetics, mouth rinses and mascara. Each product in his store was beautifully packaged and some even bore the Royal Warrant stamp of approval, highlighting another exceptional skill of Eugène’s: marketing. He understood that the popularity of his products in the upper classes would morph into the mass market and developed advertisements and well-designed catalogues to sell to the wider public. In 1887, Eugène died and the store was passed to his family but was eventually bought up by Coty, Inc. Today the Rimmel London is Britain’s best-known cosmetics brands.

Joan Armatrading

Joan Armatrading was born in Basseterre on the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts in 1950. At the age of just seven she moved to Birmingham with her family. As a teenager she performed music at local clubs around Birmingham, writing her own music and playing guitar. Her talent was quickly recognised and in 1972 she released her first album, Whatever’s for Us, and performed on the John Peel Show on BBC Radio 1. In 1976, she received critical acclaim for her album Joan Armatrading, which reached the UK top 20 and included the top 10 single “Love and Affection.” She also captured the attention of audiences in the United States and is said to be the first black British female to have received international acclaim. Her music blended a wide array of genres including blues, rock, jazz, folk and reggae

While her career in the U.S. was a resounding success, Joan continued to contribute to the British music scene with numerous appearances on the popular shows such as the John Peel Show, Later... with Jools Holland and Desert Island Discs. For her music, she has received Grammy and BRIT Award nominations and, in 1996, she was awarded an Ivor Novello Award for her outstanding song collection. She also received a lifetime achievement award from the BBC and was named as one of the 100 most influential women in rock music. Outside of her music career, Joan served as the President of the Women of the Year Lunches for five years. In 2001, she was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Her soulful, melodic and deeply emotional lyrics and music has inspired a generation of songwriters across the world. Joan continues to write music and released her nineteenth studio album, Not Too Far Away, in 2018.

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