Everett, Alice (1865–1949), astronomer and physicist, was born 15 May 1865 in Blythswood, Glasgow, one of three daughters and three sons of Joseph David Everett (1831–1904), lecturer in natural philosophy at Glasgow University, and his wife Jessie, daughter of Alexander Fraser, presbyterian minister. She was two years old when her father became professor of natural philosophy at QCB. He was professor there for thirty years, training distinguished scientists such as John Perry (qv) and Joseph Larmor (qv). Highly regarded as an educator, as a textbook writer, and as the main supporter of the introduction of metric units into physics, he was elected FRS in 1879; his pamphlet on the subject was internationally known and influential. On his appointment to QCB the family moved to Belfast, and Alice was educated at the coeducational Methodist College, Belfast. In 1882 she attended lectures at QCB in preparation for the examinations of the RUI, eventually taking first place in the first-year scholarship examination in science, an event that caused the university authorities to consider the eligibility of women for scholarships (eventually granted in 1895). She entered Girton College, Cambridge (1886), where Elizabeth Welsh (qv) was mistress, and where Everett met Annie Maunder (qv), with whom she became good friends. In 1889 she passed the mathematics tripos with honours. During her time at Cambridge she also sat and passed the RUI's examinations in mathematics and mathematical physics (1887) and was awarded MA (1889).
After graduation she was appointed as a ‘lady computer’ at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, a routine job at a menial salary. She was assigned to the project of the astrographic catalogue – an international project, which aimed to survey the entire sky photographically and catalogue all stars brighter than eleventh magnitude. Other duties involved making observations in the transit department using the transit circle.
She joined the British Astronomical Association (1891), acted as its secretary (1893), and contributed papers on her observations of the total lunar eclipse of November 1891 and the Nova Aurigae of 1892. In November 1895 she began a three-year tenure as a scientific assistant at the astrophysical observatory in Potsdam, becoming the first woman to be employed in an observatory in Germany. Her duties were concerned primarily with the astrographic catalogue. In one year, 1897, she helped measure the positions of 22,000 stars. She left Germany in 1898 to take up a one-year position at the observatory of Vassar College, USA, and wrote two papers with Mary Whitney on observations of minor planets and a comet for the Astrophysical Journal (xx (1900), 47, 76). At the time it was difficult for women to acquire research positions and, despite applying to several American observatories, she returned to England in 1900. Her astronomical career was effectively over at the age of 35.
Undaunted, she shifted her interests to optics and, in collaboration with her father, translated and edited Hovestadt's Jena glass and its scientific and industrial applications (1902). In the same year, her father communicated a paper by her to the Physical Society of London describing experiments on zonal observations in lenses. This was the first paper by a woman to appear in the society's journal (xviii (1903), 376). Her father died in 1904 and little is known about her career after this, until the outbreak of the first world war brought new opportunities; women were appointed to fill technical posts left vacant by men serving in the forces. After a year spent in the optical laboratory of the firm of Hilgers in London, she joined the National Physical Laboratory as a junior assistant in the physics division (1917), where she worked in the optical section. Her research duties concerned the design of optical instruments, photometry, and spectrophotometry, while she specialised in the calculation of aberrations in lens and mirror systems. She retired from her post in 1925, aged 60, and began attending evening courses in practical wireless at the Regent St. Polytechnic, London, and then commenced research in the electrical engineering department of the City & Guilds College. She was among the founding members of the Television Society, established in 1927 to promote research into television. In 1933 she designed and patented, jointly with the Baird Television Company, an improved version of Logie Baird's ‘mirror drum’, the scanning device used in early transmissions. She was awarded a civil pension of £100 a year in 1938 in recognition of her contribution to physical science.
She died in London 29 July 1949, aged 84, leaving her scientific library to the Television Society.