Katherine Prescott (Kaster) (1901-1980)

“A Co-ed Comet Calculator” (Photo: Oakland Tribune, December 1927)

The daughter of a physician, Katherine Prescott grew up in a prosperous family in Boston. She earned an undergraduate degree in both astronomy and physics from Berkeley in 1923. On the basis of undergraduate research she was elected to Sigma Xi, a scientific research honors society. As a graduate student in astronomy, Prescott was named a Fellow at Lick Observatory. The Oakland Tribune published an article “A Co-ed Comet Calculator” about Prescott and a fellow student who plotted the path of an oncoming comet in 1927. Prescott wrote her dissertation “On the motions of perijove of the fifth satellite of Jupiter” and earned the doctorate in 1933. While in graduate school she married Howard B. Kaster, a Berkeley alumnus of the class of 1922 with a BA in astronomy. As a grad student, Kaster wrote at least one research paper with her husband, Howard Kaster: “The Orbit of a Comet a 1925” published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.[1] Claiming cruelty, Katherine Kaster sued for divorce in 1934 after six years of marriage. The Oakland Tribune reported that Howard Kaster “began to complain about her cooking.”[2] Katherine Kaster continued to publish in astronomy journals through the 1940s. Lick Observatory, where she was employed as a Research Fellow in Astronomy, records her activity there from 1924 -1937.  In 1942, Prescott published a short history of two coastal islands in Maine, associated with the Prescott family: Cousins and Littlejohn’s Islands, 1645- 1893.

Katherine Prescott 1922 in The Blues Chaser Vol. 1, UC Berkeley Astronomy Department

From Celestial Observers: Sixteen Berkeley Women Doctoral Graduates in Astronomy 1913-1952
By Sheila Humphreys

Prescott married Eugene Tinker in 1943 on Littlejohn Island, Maine.  She held teaching positions in astronomy at Dean Junior College, Vassar College (1944-1948, where one of her students was Vera Rubin), Smith College (1948-1949), Mount Holyoke College (1949-1950) and the University of Maine in Portland (1965-1969).[3][4]  She donated her land in 1970 and it is now the Katherine Tinker Preserve on Cousins Island.[5]

[1] Howard B. Kaster and Katherine Prescott. “The Orbit of a Comet a 1925”. Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Vol. 37. No 217, June 1925, 145-147.
[2] Oakland Tribune, At some point in the 1930s, Howard Kaster was a Naval officer and faculty member at the College of San Mateo, where he established a scholarship for students in the sciences.
[3] Portland Press Herald, obituary for “Katherine P. Tinker”, November 5, 1980.
[4] Portland Press Herald, “Ex-Lady Astronomer Lives Off Land At Cousins Island”, November 11, 1956.
[5] https://www.yarmouthcommunityservices.org/copy-of-fels-grove-farm-preserve