William Herschel was a musician born in Hanover in 1738. He moved to England in 1757, and then settled in Bath in 1766, where he became a major figure in music.

Herschel lived in the time of great scientific progress in Europe. He was a passionate astronomer and developed new telescopes to fuel his mission to map celestial objects in the night sky. His telescopes became so popular that he sold them widely and received commissions from royalty.

Using his telescopes Herschel made many key discoveries - lets have a look at just a few...

An image of William Herschel looking through a telescope
An image of the planet Uranus


Not only significant for being the sixth planet to be discovered, Uranus' discovery also doubled the size of the known solar system. It's discovery propelled him into stardom in the astronomical world, exposing him to even greater recognition from the public and authorities.


Discovered on January 11th 1787, Titania is the largest moon of Uranus, for nearly 50 years, Herschel's instrument was the only one in which the moon had been seen.

An image of the moon Titania
An image of the moon Oberon


Discovered on the same day as Titania, Oberon is the second largest moon of Uranus. Herschel reported that he discovered four more satellites the same day, yet they turned out to be false.


Discovered on September 17th 1789, Mimas is one of Saturn's 82 moons and was named after a giant in Greek mythology. The large crater on the moon's surface is even named after Herschel!

An image of the moon Mimas

Herschel's 20ft Telescope

Initially constructed in 1783, the 20ft telescope was the favourite of Herschel's instruments. With it he discovered and mapped thousands of stars, constantly adding new objects to our solar system. It was rebuilt in 1820 by Herschel and his son John after it deteriorated due to years of use. This then allowed John to go on and complete his observations.

The 20ft wooden tube had it's eyepiece atop the telescope. Herschel would stand upon an adjustable platform looking down the eyepiece at the light reflected off the main mirror, allowing him to observe the night sky. While the tube was made of wood, the mirror was made of a mix of copper and tin.

The Herschel's Contribution to Society

A painting in colour of William Herschel A black and white picture of Caroline Herschel

Arguably Herschel's most important work was completed in collaboration with his sister Caroline Herschel. Together they mapped and published catalogues of the night sky, including 2500 new nebulae and star clusters.

Caroline Herschel made many key discoveries including seven comets. She was the first woman to publish scientific findings in the Royal Society and was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Uranus was discovered in Bath on New King Street, this enabled him to go on and make many other key discoveries. The very same house is now a museum dedicated to celebrating the achievements of the Herschels - visit there today!