Escutcheons of Science
 Sir William Herschel (1738-1822)

Sir William Herschel, FRS (1738-1822).
Discoverer of Uranus, in 1781.  Knighted in 1816.

Argent, on a mount Vert, the forty-foot reflecting telescope with its apparatus directed to
sinister, all Proper.  On a chief Azure, the astronomical symbol of Uranus irradiated Or.
Crest :   On a demi terrestrial sphere Proper,  an eagle rising Or.
Motto :   Coelis Exploratis.

Rue Herschel  (Paris VI)   |   Biography

Frederick William Herschel was born  Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel  on November 15, 1738, in Hanover.  His mother was  Anna Ilse Moritzen.  His father, Isaak Herschel, was a military musician in the Hanoverian Guards.  William held a position in that same band until 1757.  He fled to England to escape the French occupation of Hanover.  In England, William Herschel earned a living as a musician:  First, he copied music, then he taught, performed and composed...  In 1766, he became the organist of "a fashionable chapel in Bath".

William Herschel was first introduced to telescope making by reading  A Compleat System of Opticks  by Robert Smith  (Herschel had previously read about musical theory in   Harmonics,  by the same author).  His brother Alexander and sister Caroline joined him at Bath, from Hanover.

On March 13, 1781, using a  6.2" (16 cm)  telescope, Herschel made the discovery observation of the seventh planet, now named Uranus  (the name was suggested by Johann Elert Bode, while Herschel himself referred to it as  Georgium Sidus, the star of George, in honor of King George III).  Herschel received the Copley Medal in November of the same year and was subsequently elected a  Fellow of the Royal Society  (FRS)  in December 1781.

In 1788, Herschel married  Mary Pitt  (widow of his friend and neighbor, John Pitt, who had died in 1786).  The Herschels settled in Slough, in a house which would later be known as  Observatory House.  There, on March 7, 1792  (when William Herschel was already 54)  a son was born to the Herschels who would earn top honors of his own, as a mathematician and an astronomer:  John Frederick William Herschel.

Although his name is not attached to a breakthrough discovery resembling that of his father, John Herschel  (1792-1871)  was regarded by contemporaries as the natural heir to Laplace, no less  (incidentally, Laplace was instrumental in confirming mathematically that the 1781 discovery of Herschel senior was indeed a new planet).  In 1809,  John Herschel  entered St John's College (Cambridge).  In 1812, he was Senior Wrangler at Cambridge.  In 1813, he was elected a  Fellow of the Royal Society  (FRS).  He received the Copley Medal in 1821 and 1847 and the Royal Medal in 1833, 1836 and 1840.  He was also one of the founders of the  Royal Astronomical Society,  in 1829.

In 1829, John Herschel married  Margaret Brodie Stewart,  by whom he had a large family.  In 1831, he was made a Hanoverian knight by King William IV.  After the death of his mother in 1832,  Sir John Herschel  moved with his family to the Southern Hemisphere and undertook 4 years of astronomical observations  (1834-1838)  from Claremont, near Cape Town, at the location currently occupied by the Grove Primary School  (cf. Armoria Academica).  Upon his return from South Africa,  John Herschel  was made a baronet  (1838).      William Herschel
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