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Profile of the Day: William Herschel

Profile of the Day: William Herschel

William Herschel

On March 13, 1781, astronomer William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus. It would be the first planet to be discovered with the aid of a telescope.

Herschel was born on November 15, 1738 in Hanover, Germany, then a part of the Holy Roman Empire. His father was an oboist in the Hanover Military Band and as a teen, Herschel also worked as a musician in the band. At 19, he went to England and supported himself as a musician and composer.

As his interest in astronomy grew, Herschel began building his own telescopes to observe the stars and planets. His sister, Caroline, assisted Herschel by grinding and polishing mirrors and recording and organizing his measurements and observations. Then on March 13, 1781, Herschel realized that the object he was observing was not a star but in fact a planet beyond the orbit of Saturn. It would be the first planet to be discovered since antiquity and made Herschel famous overnight. King George III appointed Herschel as the Court Astronomer and although Herschel originally named the planet Georgium sidus (“Georgian star”) in honor of the King, the name did not stick. It took nearly 70 years before a consensus was reached to call the planet “Uranus,” after the ancient Greek god of the sky.

Explore William Herschel’s family tree on Geni and share how you’re related to the astronomer.

View William Herschel’s Geni Profile


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Image: Wikimedia Commons


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