William Herschel

William Herschel
William Herschel01.jpg
1785 portrait by Lemuel Francis Abbott
Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel

(1738-11-15)15 November 1738
Died25 August 1822(1822-08-25) (aged 83)
Slough, England, UK
Resting placeSt Laurence's Church, Slough
ResidenceObservatory House
NationalityHanoverian; later British
Known for
Spouse(s)Mary Baldwin Herschel
ChildrenJohn Herschel (son)
AwardsCopley Medal (1781)
Scientific career
FieldsAstronomy and music
William Herschel Signature.svg

Frederick William Herschel,[1] KH, FRS (ɛər-/;[2] German: Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel; 15 November 1738 – 25 August 1822) was a German-born British[3] astronomer, composer and brother of fellow astronomer Caroline Herschel, with whom he worked. Born in the Electorate of Hanover, Herschel followed his father into the Military Band of Hanover, before migrating to Great Britain in 1757 at the age of nineteen.

Herschel constructed his first large telescope in 1774, after which he spent nine years carrying out sky surveys to investigate double stars. Herschel published catalogues of nebulae in 1802 (2,500 objects) and in 1820 (5,000 objects). The resolving power of the Herschel telescopes revealed that many objects called nebulae in the Messier catalogue were actually clusters of stars. On 13 March 1781 while making observations he made note of a new object in the constellation of Gemini. This would, after several weeks of verification and consultation with other astronomers, be confirmed to be a new planet, eventually given the name of Uranus. This was the first planet to be discovered since antiquity and Herschel became famous overnight. As a result of this discovery, George III appointed him Court Astronomer. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society and grants were provided for the construction of new telescopes.

Herschel pioneered the use of astronomical spectrophotometry, using prisms and temperature measuring equipment to measure the wavelength distribution of stellar spectra. In addition, Herschel discovered infrared radiation.[4]Other work included an improved determination of the rotation period of Mars,[5] the discovery that the Martian polar caps vary seasonally, the discovery of Titania and Oberon (moons of Uranus) and Enceladus and Mimas (moons of Saturn). Herschel was made a Knight of the Royal Guelphic Order in 1816. He was the first President of the Royal Astronomical Society when it was founded in 1820. He died in August 1822, and his work was continued by his only son, John Herschel.

Early life and musical activities

Herschel was born in the Electorate of Hanover in Germany, then part of the Holy Roman Empire, one of ten children of Isaac Herschel by his marriage to Anna Ilse Moritzen, of German Lutheran ancestry. It has been proposed by Hershel's biographer Holden that his father's family traced its roots back to Jews from Moravia who converted to Christianity in the seventeenth century,[6][7] and they themselves were Lutheran Christians.[8]

Herschel's father was an oboist in the Hanover Military Band. In 1755 the Hanoverian Guards regiment, in whose band Wilhelm and his brother Jakob were engaged as oboists, was ordered to England. At the time the crowns of Great Britain and Hanover were united under King George II. As the threat of war with France loomed, the Hanoverian Guards were recalled from England to defend Hanover. After they were defeated at the Battle of Hastenbeck, Herschel's father Isaak sent his two sons to seek refuge in England in late 1757. Although his older brother Jakob had received his dismissal from the Hanoverian Guards, Wilhelm was accused of desertion[9] (for which he was pardoned by George III in 1782).[10]

Wilhelm, nineteen years old at this time, was a quick student of the English language. In England he went by the English rendition of his name, Frederick William Herschel. In addition to the oboe, he played the violin and harpsichord and later the organ.[11] He composed numerous musical works, including 24 symphonies and many concertos, as well as some church music.[12] Six of his symphonies were recorded in April 2002 by the London Mozart Players, conducted by Matthias Bamert (Chandos 10048).[13]

Original manuscript of Symphony No. 15 in E flat major (1762)

Herschel moved to Sunderland in 1761 when Charles Avison immediately engaged him as first violin and soloist for his Newcastle orchestra, where he played for one season. In "Sunderland in the County of Durh: apprill [sic] 20th 1761" he wrote his Symphony No. 8 in C Minor. He was head of the Durham Militia band from 1760 to 1761.[14] He visited the home of Sir Ralph Milbanke at Halnaby Hall near Darlington in 1760,[8]:14 where he wrote two symphonies, as well as giving performances himself. After Newcastle, he moved to Leeds and Halifax where he was the first organist at St John the Baptist church (now Halifax Minster).[7]:411

In 1766, Herschel became organist of the Octagon Chapel, Bath, a fashionable chapel in a well-known spa, in which city he was also Director of Public Concerts.[15] He was appointed as the organist in 1766 and gave his introductory concert on 1 January 1767. As the organ was still incomplete, he showed off his versatility by performing his own compositions including a violin concerto, an oboe concerto and a harpsichord sonata.[16] On 4 October 1767, he performed on the organ for the official opening of the Octagon Chapel.[17]

His sister Caroline arrived in England on 24 August 1772 to live with William in New King Street, Bath.[1]:1–25 The house they shared is now the location of the Herschel Museum of Astronomy.[18] Herschel's brothers Dietrich, Alexander and Jakob (1734–1792) also appeared as musicians of Bath.[19] In 1780, Herschel was appointed director of the Bath orchestra, with his sister often appearing as soprano soloist.[20][21]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: William Herschel
العربية: ويليام هيرشل
asturianu: William Herschel
azərbaycanca: Uilyam Herşel
تۆرکجه: ویلیام هرشل
Bân-lâm-gú: William Herschel
беларуская: Уільям Гершэль
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Ўільям Гэршэль
български: Уилям Хершел
brezhoneg: William Herschel
čeština: William Herschel
Ελληνικά: Ουίλιαμ Χέρσελ
Esperanto: William Herschel
français: William Herschel
한국어: 윌리엄 허셜
Bahasa Indonesia: William Herschel
íslenska: William Herschel
Kiswahili: William Herschel
Кыргызча: Уильям Гершель
latviešu: Viljams Heršels
Lëtzebuergesch: Wilhelm Herschel
lietuvių: William Herschel
македонски: Вилијам Хершел
Bahasa Melayu: William Herschel
Mirandés: William Herschel
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဝီလီယံ ဟာရှယ်
Nederlands: William Herschel
Nordfriisk: Wilhelm Herschel
Norfuk / Pitkern: William Herschel
norsk nynorsk: William Herschel
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: William Herschel
پنجابی: ولیم ہرشل
Piemontèis: William Herschel
Plattdüütsch: Wilhelm Herschel
português: William Herschel
sicilianu: William Herschel
Simple English: William Herschel
slovenčina: William Herschel
slovenščina: William Herschel
српски / srpski: Вилхелм Хершел
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: William Herschel
Tiếng Việt: William Herschel
粵語: 赫歇爾