Wilhelm Herschel Bath Somerset England
Born originally in Hanover in 1738, Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel soon
became one of Baths best known adopted sons. Son of Issak Herschel,
a regimental musician, and his mother Anna Ilse, his name changed
to become more anglican (William Herschel), when he fled to England
at the age of 19 with his brother after experiencing the battle at
Hastenbeck in 1757. Although his brother soon returned to Germany,
he was joined by his sister Caroline in 1773. It is in Bath where
he took residence (after a brief stay in Halifax teaching music) where
he was employed at the Octagon Chapel as an organist and then Director
It was at 19 New King Street where the museum is now situated
that his musical ability was joined by a newly found passion.
After reading a book on astronomy, his interest in the subject
grew into an obsession. Although his hands where well known
for their great musical creativity, he soon found great skill
in producing a new design for a telescope and although the period
was a very influential period for musical compositions, one
or two composers might have been a bit jealous at William Herschel's
discovery of the planet Uranus through that very telescope.
At first William had thought he had discovered a comet but realized
that it was a new undiscovered planet. Later, through his discoveries,
he was awarded a grant by King George III. For his music lovers
this was a bit of a disappointment as this part of his career
was to come to an end but for the science of astronomy this
became a significant turning point. Don't take my word for it,
Patrick Moore says he 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'.
The house in which the museum is located
dates back to around 1764 and the rooms are decorated in the
Georgian period. In the garden at the back of the house is the
very location where he discovered Uranus in 1781. The modern
Star Vaults use today technology to link the work done by himself
to present day space exploration. Many other attractions such
as the Music Room where you can discover a collection of musical
instruments that would have been played in England at that period.
Excellent education programs and holiday activities during school
vacations and half-term are also on offer. Ring for details.