William Herschel Fact File Biography: Lifespan: 1738 - 1822 *** Full Name: Friedrich William Herschel *** Occupation: German Born British Astronomer and Composer *** Date of Birth: William Herschel was born on November 15th 1738 *** Place of Birth: William Herschel was born in Hanover, Brunswick-Luneburg, Holy Roman Empire *** Family background: His father was Isaac Herschel and his mother Anna Ilse Moritzen. Isaac was a member of the Hanover Military Band as an oboist. Both or his parents were of the Lutheran religion. Both William and his brother Jakob both joined the Hanoverian Guards regiment and in 1755 they were ordered to England *** Early life and childhood: William Herschel grew up with his nine siblings *** Education: William Herschel would have received an education as befitted his station *** William Herschel died on August 25, 1822.
William Herschel Fact 1: William Herschel was born on November 15th 1738 and during the 18th century period in history when France and America both went through revolutions and the Industrial Revolution began in Britain.
William Herschel Fact 2: At this time Hanover and Great Britain under King George II were united and with war looming between France and Hanover the Hanoverian Guard were recalled to defend their homeland.
William Herschel Fact 3: With the defeat at the Battle of Hastenbeck, Isaac decided to send both of his sons to England in 1757 to seek protection and although Jakob would receive his dismissal from the Guard, young Wilhelm was considered a deserter until he was fortunately enough to be pardoned by King George III in 1782.
William Herschel Fact 4: Once settled in England, Wilhelm began to use the Anglicized version of his name which would become Frederick William Herschel. He also very quickly picked up the English language.
William Herschel Fact 5: In addition to playing the oboe, William Herschel could also play the violin, harpsichord and organ and was also a composer of some twenty four symphonies and well as concertos and church music.
William Herschel Fact 6: In 1761 he moved to Sunderland and was employed by Charles Avison as first violinist and soloist for the Newcastle orchestra.
William Herschel Fact 7: After Newcastle he moved on to Leeds followed by Halifax. From there William Herschel moved on to Bath where he was the organist for the Octagon Chapel at a fashionable and well known spa in Bath.
William Herschel Fact 8: In 1772 he was joined by his sister Caroline who resided with him. Dietrich, Jakob and Alexander, his three brothers would also join their siblings in Bath and would acquire employment as musicians and Caroline was a soprano soloist.
William Herschel Fact 9: William Herschel had a great interest in lenses and mathematics which led to his interest in astronomy. The interest in astronomy grew when he made the acquaintance of Nevil Maskelyne, an English Royal Astronomer.
William Herschel Fact 10: With his interest piqued William Herschel began to spend many hours, as much as sixteen hours a day, grinding and polishing speculum metal primary mirrors as well as building his own reflecting telescopes.William Herschel Fact 17: His sister Caroline would join him in his work in 1783 and would begin making discoveries of her own, with a particular interest in comets.
William Herschel Fact 11: He would also begin keeping a journal in March of 1774 of his astronomical observations.
William Herschel Fact 12: From the garden of the house that he shared with his siblings in New King Street, Bath, William Herschel noted “every star in the Heavens” through his Newtonian telescope that he had constructed himself.
William Herschel Fact 13: Discovering many binary and multiple stars, more than he expected, William Herschel measured them carefully and took note of their positions across two catalogues presented to the Royal Society in 1782 in London with a third catalogue produced the following year.
William Herschel Fact 14: During his original search, he happened upon a disk shaped object in the night sky. After some investigation he was certain it was of a planetary nature rather than a star and named the new planet the ‘Georgian star’ for King George III, although the name would not continue to be used.
William Herschel Fact 15: At this time in history, in France, anything that related to the King of England was to be avoided and so the planet became known as ‘Herschel’ until finally the name ‘Uranus’ became universally known.
William Herschel Fact 16: In 1781 William Herschel would be awarded the Copley Medal and selected to be a Fellow of Royal Society and the following year would be appointed as “The King’s Astronomer”. He continued producing his own telescopes and sold them internationally gaining quite the reputation.
William Herschel Fact 18: In 1788 his sister left his home as William Herschel wed the widow Mary Pitt, but she would continue her work with him. All through his career he continued to build telescopes and it is thought he built more than four hundred, the largest of which was a reflecting telescope of forty nine and half inch diameter primary mirror with a forty foot focal length.
William Herschel Fact 19: After a lifetime of observing the stars, Frederick William Herschel died on August 25, 1822 at him home, Observatory House, in Slough, England. His body was laid to rest at St Laurence’s Church in Slough.
Influence & Legacy: His sister Caroline returned to Hanover after the death of her brother but their brother Alexander Herschel decided to make England his home. John Herschel, William’s son, would also follow in his father’s footsteps and became a famous and renowned astronomer in his own right.
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