Nowadays, Herschel’s house in Bath hosts the Museum of Astronomy of this beautiful city in Somerset. The house has a plaque indicating that it’s Herschel’s house in Bath:
William Herschel was born in Hanover the in November 15, 1738. His father Isaak was oboist in the Hannover Military Band and after the defeat in the Battle of Hastenbeck, Isaak sent his sons to seek refuge in England in late 1757 (in those times, England and Hanover were ruled by the King George II of Hanover). In England, William began to study English and music and he is important because of his musical compositions. Herschel moved to Sunderland in 1761 and became member of the Newcastle orchestra as first violin for one season. Then, he moved to Leeds, Halifax and Bath, where he became organist of the Octagon chapel.
The house is full of musical instruments as you can see in this rooum set as his office:
His important musical career allowed him to be intereseted in astronomy, optics and mathematics and he started to build his own reflecting telescopes. Around 1775 Herschel was a very experimented astronomer and he could spend more than 15 hours diary observing the heaven and pulling his lens. In March 1781, he was looking for double stars when noticed a new object in the night heaven. He thought that it was a comet but after a lot of series of observations, he determined that the new object was a new planet beyond the orbit of Saturn. He called it “Georgium sidus” (Georgian star) after king George III although the new planet was known as “Heschel” in France after becoming its name “Uranus”. Herschel was awarded the Copley Medal and elected fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1782. In that year, he and his sister moved to England where he was appointed to King’s Astronomer and continued making new and great telescopes. He constructed more than 400 telescopes with which he discovered two moons of Saturn (Mimas and Enceladus) and two moons and the rings of Uranus (Titania and Oberon) among several other discoveries. His first observation of Uranus was made in this house in Bath (19 New King Street). In fact, one of the most interesting parts of the museum is the garden from where he did this important discovery:
There is an armilar sphere In the garden and a plaque that says:
Here lived Scientist and Musician Sir William Herschel (1738-1822) from where he found the planet Uranus, march 13th, 1781. He also discovered Infrared radiation in 1800. And his sister Caroline Herschel, early woman scientist (1750-1848), hunter of comets.
The museum has a humble collection of astronomical objects where you can find astrolabes, armilar spheres, an orrery,…
The astrolabe of the picture is a brass planispheric Hindu astrolabe, inlaid with silver Sanskrit script. It was commisioned in jaipur, India, in 1836.
We can also see a replica of Herschel 7-foot telescope next to the desktop in the main entrance:
This is a very interesting mathematical visit in Bath. Furthermore, everybody is in the centre of the city visiting the Roman baths and the abbey so you can visit the museum accompanied only by a few number of people. Breathe the air of the science!
Herschel died in August 25, 1822 in Slough and he was buried in the St. Laurence’s Church in Upton.