William Thomson ‘one of the most notable meeting-places between natural history and natural philosophy’ (British Association Report, 1871, p. lxxxv). He improved the objectives of microscopes (Phil. Trans. cxi. 246), delivered in 1824 the Bakerian lecture ‘On certain Motions produced in Fluid Conductors when transmitting the Electric Current’ (ib. cxiv. 162), and joined Babbage in a remarkable set of experiments on the magnetisation of rotating metallic plates (ib. cxv. 467). He gave the earliest discussion (in 1830) of the influence upon climate of the earth's orbital eccentricity (Trans. Geological Society, iii. 293), and on 23 Sept. 1832 made the curious observation of a knot of faint stars through great part of the substance of Biela's comet (Monthly Notices, ii. 117). First after his father, he caught sight in 1828 of the Uranian satellites, and corrected their periods from observations in 1830–2 (Memoirs Royal Astron. Soc. viii. 1). An arrangement casually described by him for viewing the sun by first-surface reflection (Cape Observations, p. 436) proved of material use in helioscopic researches. For many years he was an active member of the council of the Royal Society and of the board of visitors to the Royal Observatory; he was a trustee of the British Museum, and sat on the royal commission on standards in 1838–43. One hundred and fifty-two contributions by him are enumerated in the Royal Society's ‘Catalogue of Scientific Papers.’ A list of his works down to 1861, drawn up by himself, appeared at Cambridge, United States, in the ‘Mathematical Monthly Magazine’ (iii. 220), accompanied by an excellent engraving from a photograph sent by Lady Herschel to Miss Maria Mitchell of Nantucket.
St. John's College, Cambridge, possesses a portrait in oils of Herschel by Pickersgill, and his bust executed by Baily about 1852. A small painting by Thomas Webster, R.A., from a photograph taken in 1871, and Mrs. Cameron's life-size photographs are good likenesses. The best representation of his later aspect is, however, in a painting by his eldest daughter, Caroline, wife of Sir Alexander Hamilton. A life-size sketch of him by Watts, taken about 1852, remains with the artist.
[Family papers and information from Miss Herschel; Mrs. John Herschel's Memoir of Caroline Herschel; Royal Astronomical Society's Monthly Notices, xxxii. 122 (Pritchard); the same in German in Almanach der Kaiserlichen Akademie, Vienna, 1873, p. 147; Proceedings Royal Society, xx. xvii (T. Romney Robinson); Proceedings Royal Society of Edinburgh, vii. 543 (Tait); Nature, iv. 69; Dunkin's Obituary Notices, p. 47; Report Brit. Assoc. 1871, p. lxxxv (Sir W. Thomson); Forbes in Encycl. Brit. i. 861 (8th edit.); Quarterly Journal of Science, v. 186 (with portrait); Proctor's Essays on Astronomy; Smithsonian Rep. 1871, p. 109; Proceedings American Acad. viii. 461, 1872; Proceedings American Phil. Society, xii. 217, Philadelphia, 1873; Mailly's Mémoires couronnés par l'Acad. de Bruxelles, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 109, 1873 (8vo ser.); Bulletin de l'Acad. de Bruxelles, 2nd ser. xxxi. 478 (Quetelet); E. Kondor in Mathematical Memoirs of Budapest Acad. of Sciences, vol. iii. No. 3, 1874 (in Magyar); Revue Britannique, January 1837, p. 175 (letter written from the Cape by Herschel to Sir W. Hamilton); Century Magazine, June 1885, October 1889; Grant's Hist. of Physical Astronomy; Clerke's Popular Hist. of Astronomy; Mädler's Geschichte der Himmelskunde, vol. ii.; Mémoires de la Société Physique de Genève, xxi. 586 (Gautier); Times, 13 May 1871.]
HERSCHEL, Sir WILLIAM (1738–1822), astronomer, was born at Hanover on 15 Nov. 1738. His great-grandfather, Hans Herschel, a native of Moravia, having embraced protestantism, quitted that country early in the seventeenth century, and became a brewer at Pirna in Saxony. Abraham, Hans's son, was employed in the royal gardens at Dresden. Abraham's youngest son, Isaac, was engaged in 1731 as hautboy-player in the band of the Hanoverian guard, and rose to be bandmaster, but left the regiment with broken health in 1760, and earned a livelihood by giving music lessons until his death, at the age of sixty, in 1767. He married, in August 1732, Anna Ilse Moritzen, by whom he had ten children, of whom Jacob was a member of the king's band at Hanover, and had at least two of his compositions printed in London, and Alexander was summoned to Bath by his brother William, and became a violoncello-player in the Bath orchestra, and at the Three Choirs' festival (cp. Papendick, Journals, i. 252, 270; Annals of the Three Choirs, p. 76); Frederick William, known as William Herschel, was the fourth child.
Brought up, like his three brothers, as a musician, he was at fourteen, when he entered the band of the Hanoverian guards as oboist, an excellent performer both on hautboy and violin. At seventeen his philosophical tastes were already strong, and when in England with the regiment in 1755, he spent all his pay on a copy of Locke ‘On the Human Understanding.’ After the defeat of Hastenbeck, on 26 July 1757, his health began to fail, and his parents privily shipped him off to Dover, where he landed with a French crown-piece in his pocket. The penalties of desertion thus technically incurred were remitted by a pardon handed to him by George III