William Herschel

William Herschel01.jpg

Sir Frederick William Herschel KH FRS (German: Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel) (15 November 173825 August 1822) was a German-born British astronomer, technical expert, telescope maker, organist and composer who became famous for discovering Uranus. He also discovered infrared radiation and made many other contributions to astronomy.

His son, Sir John Herschel, was also a notable astronomer.


  • I compared it to H Geminorum and the small star in the quartile between Auriga and Gemini, and finding it so much larger than either of them, suspected it to be a comet.
    • His discovery of Uranus. Scientific Papers, vol. 1, page 30 "Account of a Comet".
  • Hier ist wahrhaftig ein Loch im Himmel !
    • Here is truly a hole in Heaven.
      • as remembered by his sister Caroline, after a long period of scrutinizing a starless spot, probably in the constellation Scorpius. As quoted by Michael J. Crowe (1994). Modern theories of the universe: from Herschel to Hubble. Courier Dover Publications. p. 207. ISBN 0486278808. 

Quotes about William HerschelEdit

  • In consequence of the harassing and fatiguing life he had led during the winter months, he used to retire to bed with a bason of milk or glass of water, and Smith's Harmonics and Optics, Ferguson's Astronomy, etc., and so went to sleep buried under his favourite authors; and his first thoughts on rising were how to obtain instruments for viewing those objects himself of which he had been reading.
    • Caroline Herschel, Memoir and Correspondence of Caroline Herschel, pp.34–5
  • Being self-taught, he had not known that astronomers were expected to focus on the solar system. Instead, he explored the construction of the universe, and it was on later generations that the questions he asked and the methods he devised to answer them were to have profound influence.
    • Michael Hoskin, ‘Herschel, William (1738–1822)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  • William Herschel was the first man to give a reasonably correct picture of the shape of our star-system or galaxy; he was the best telescope-maker of his time, and possibly the greatest observer who ever lived.

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Last modified on 11 June 2013, at 11:38