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Sir William Herschel - Astronomer
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  Themes Homepage > Sir William Herschel - Astronomer
Famous Slough
Sir William Herschel - Astronomer

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Sir William Herschel (1738-1822) discovered the planet Uranus in 1781 with a self-made telescope. It was the first planet to be discovered that could not be seen with the naked eye. He initially named the new planet after the king, but foreign astronomers objected and the name Uranus was settled on. However, Herschel always referred to it as 'The Georgian Planet'.

As a result of this discovery, William was appointed Private Astronomer to George III and moved to Datchet. He later moved to Windsor and finally to Slough where he settled in 1786 with his sister. They moved into Observatory House and William set up his 6-metre telescope in the garden and cut down all the trees.

Sir William Herschel
Sir William Herschel

Before the telescope was finished in August 1789, the construction attracted lots of visitors. To their amusement, the tube was easy to walk through, even dressed in a bell hoop!

Observatory House, about 1900
Observatory House, about 1900
Herschel and Slough became famous and Princes and Dukes wanted to come and see the telescope. He received a gold medal from the King of Poland and became the first President of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The telescope was marked on Ordnance Survey maps, but was finally dismantled in 1839. Herschel also made numerous other instruments, like small telescopes and mirrors that were sold throughout Europe.


Other discoveries that Herschel made were that the stars are not fixed, but that they move constantly towards a certain point in the universe. His telescope also showed 75 million more stars than could be seen before. While living in Slough he discovered 4 moons - 2 orbiting Uranus, and 2 orbiting Saturn.

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  Themes Homepage > Sir William Herschel - Astronomer
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