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 of Music.

Bath Hotels

It was at 19 New King Street where the museum is now situated that his musical ability was joined by a newly found passion.

The classic gardens in Bath where Uranus was discovered

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'.

A plaque on the garden wall in the museum

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.