Brothers and Sisters: James and Harriet Martineau and other famous pairs of siblings

James and Harriet Martineau

It is comparatively rare for a brother and sister to reach national (and even sometimes international) prominence. But both James Martineau (1805-1900) and his sister Harriet (1802-1876) did just that. James was a most distinguished philosopher and theologian. Harriet, very unusually for her time, was a highly successful writer and journalist.

Other famous siblings include:

William Herschel (1738-1822) and Caroline Herschel (1740-1848).

The Hanover-born William Herschel, a professional musician who became an organist at Halifax in 1765 and Bath in 1766, is best known as the astronmer who discovered the planet Uranus in 1781. He was the 'most renowned astronomer' of his day. Caroline went to live with William in Bath in 1772. Taught by her brother, she became a successful singer. But she, too, became absorbed in astronomy. Between 1786 and 1797 she discovered eight comets. She was one of the first women to be elected to honorary membership of the Royal Society.

Find out more about William Herschel

Find out more about Caroline Herschel

The Herschels were a talented family. Visit the William Herschel Museum in Bath and find out more about other members of the family.

Mary Lamb (1764-1847) and Charles Lamb (1775-1834)

are famed for their Tales from Shakespearewhich was published in 1807. Mary recounted the comedies and Charles worked on the tragedies. Charles was pre-eminent as an essayist, his collection being published as Essays of Elia

Find out more about the Lambs

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855)

William Wordsworth is one of England's foremost poets. His sister Dorothy was also something of a poet but remains important rather for her diaries which were published in 1933 as The Grasmere Journal. The book provides a vivid record of William and Dorothy's lives together in the Lake District and of their friends, including Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Lamb and Robert Southey.

Find out about the genesis of William Wordworth's famous poem about the 'host of golden daffodils'

Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847) and Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Both Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn were composers, the latter perhaps best known for his oratorio Elijah and for the Hebrides Overture. Fanny's compositions were primarily for the voice or for the piano and her work is still much less well known than that of her brother.

Find out more about Fanny Mendelssohn

Find out more about Felix Mendelssohn

Gwen John (1876-1939) and Augustus John (1878-1961).

The sister and brother both achieved fame as artists. Both were born in Haverfordwest in Wales. Both studied at the Slade School of Art in London, Augustus going there in 1894 and Gwen going a year later. From then on their lives and their art developed in separate ways.

Find out more about Gwen John

Find out more about Augustus John

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