The Herschels, a family of astronomers

   Sir William Herschel (1738-1822) was an eminent astronomer. He was born at Hanover, Germany. He served as a musician in the army. He came to England in 1757 and obtained employment first as a bandmaster. He employed his leisure time in studying mathematics and astronomy. In 1774 he made himself a reflecting telescope. During the American Revolutionary war, Herschel was enthusiastically engaged in mapping the heavens. George III gave him a pen­sion enabling him to devote his entire time to astronomy. In 1787 he completed a tele­scope, the largest then known. It was forty feet in length and four and one-half feet in diameter. It weighed over a ton. With this instrument he discovered an extinct volcano on the surface of the Moon, two satellites of Saturn, and the planet Uranus. Herschel established the fact that Saturn's rings revolve, and made many other minor observations and discoveries. He mapped no less than 5,000 nebulae and clusters of stars new to astronomy. His sister Caroline worked with him. She herself discovered five new comets. She also drew up a catalog of the stars, and deserves to shine by reason of her own light. Sir William's work was continued by his only son, Sir John. The latter had the advantage of excellent instruments, and began work where his father left off. His first contribution to astronomical science was the study of the stars in the southern hemisphere—stars never seen by residents of the north. He spent four years near Capetown. He was made president of the Royal Astronomical Society. At his death in 1871 he was honored with burial in Westminster Abbey. The Herschels are credited with laying the foundation of modern astronomy. They began the work of mapping the heavens accurately.