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Princeton University Press
Discoverers of the Universe: William and Caroline Herschel

Discoverers of the Universe: William and Caroline Herschel

by Michael Hoskin


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Discoverers of the Universe: William and Caroline Herschel

Discoverers of the Universe tells the gripping story of William Herschel, the brilliant, fiercely ambitious, emotionally complex musician and composer who became court astronomer to Britain's King George III, and of William's sister, Caroline, who assisted him in his observations of the night sky and became an accomplished astronomer in her own right. Together, they transformed our view of the universe from the unchanging, mechanical creation of Newton's clockmaker god to the ever-evolving, incredibly dynamic cosmos that it truly is.

William was in his forties when his amateur observations using a homemade telescope led to his discovery of Uranus, and an invitation to King George's court. He coined the term "asteroid," discovered infrared radiation, was the first to realize that our solar system is moving through space, discovered 2,500 nebulae that form the basis of the catalog astronomers use today, and was unrivalled as a telescope builder. Caroline shared William's passion for astronomy, recording his observations during night watches and organizing his papers for publication. She was the first salaried woman astronomer in history, a pioneer who herself discovered nine comets and became a role model for women in the sciences.

Written by the world's premier expert on the Herschels, Discoverers of the Universe traces William and Caroline's many extraordinary contributions to astronomy, shedding new light on their productive but complicated relationship, and setting their scientific achievements in the context of their personal struggles, larger-than-life ambitions, bitter disappointments, and astonishing triumphs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691148335
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 01/30/2011
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Michael Hoskin is fellow of Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, where he lectured in the history of astronomy from 1959 until his retirement in 1988, and founding editor of the Journal for the History of Astronomy. His books include The Herschel Partnership as Viewed by Caroline and The Cambridge Illustrated History of Astronomy.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Preface ix

The Herschel Family xiii

Prologue August 1772: The Partnership Convenes 1

Chapter 1: 1707-1773: A Musician's Odyssey 6

Chapter 2: 1773-1778: Vocations in Conflict 28

Chapter 3: 1779-1781: An Enthusiasm Shared 44

Chapter 4: 1781-1782: Royal Patronage 57

Chapter 5: 1782-1783: "Astronomer to his Majesty" 69

Chapter 6: 1783-1785: The Construction of the Heavens 82

Chapter 7: 1782-1790: "One of the Greatest Mechanics of his Day" 108

Chapter 8: 1786-1788: "Gold Can Glitter as Well as the Stars" 129

Chapter 9: 1788-1798: "Noble and Worthy Priestess of the New Heavens" 138

Chapter 10: 1788-1810: "The Most Celebrated of All the Astronomers of the Universe" 146

Chapter 11 1792-1822: The Torch is Handed On 158

Chapter 12 1822-1833: John's "Sacred Duty" 186

Chapter 13 1833-1848: "The Completion of My Father's Work" 197

Abbreviations 209

Notes 211

Bibliographic essay 223

Further Reading 225

Index 229

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