Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 26.djvu/275

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in person at his first interview in 1782. After nearly three years of struggle for bread, Herschel was engaged by the Earl of Darlington to train the band of the Durham militia; and his playing of a violin solo by Giardini at Pontefract in 1760 so delighted Dr. Edward Miller (1731–1807) [q. v.] that he invited him to live with him at Doncaster, and procured for him pupils and conductorships in Wakefield and Halifax (Miller, History of Doncaster, p. 162). Herschel paid a short visit to Hanover in April 1764, and in 1765 was appointed organist at Halifax, defeating competitors by the curious device of weighting the keys to increase the volume of sound. The anecdote is related on Dr. Miller's authority by Southey in the ‘Doctor.’ In 1766 he accepted the ‘agreeable and lucrative situation’ of organist to the Octagon Chapel at Bath, where for many years he directed concerts and oratorios, composed anthems, chants, and whole services, and gave music lessons. Of his compositions the ‘Echo’ catch alone was printed; those preserved in manuscript show no marked individuality.

Herschel, as he told Lichtenberg, had already ‘resolved to place all his future enjoyment’ in the pursuit of knowledge (Göttingische Magazin der Wissenschaften, iii. 4). The study of harmony had led him to mathematics, and he studied Latin, Italian, French, English, and Greek. After fourteen to sixteen hours' teaching he was wont to ‘unbend his mind’ with Maclaurin's ‘Fluxions;’ Smith's ‘Optics’ and Ferguson's ‘Astronomy’ were the companions of his pillow, and inspired his resolution ‘to take nothing upon trust.’ He hired a small reflector, being unable to afford a larger one, bought the tools and patterns of a quaker optician, and with his brother Alexander's help set himself, in 1773, to construct his own instruments. By ‘unremitted endeavours,’ and after two hundred partial failures, the 5½-foot Gregorian was produced, with which, on 4 March 1774, he observed the Orion nebula. The record is preserved at the Royal Society (Journal, No. 1). His twofold ambition was ‘to carry improvements in telescopes to their utmost extent,’ and ‘to leave no spot of the heavens unexamined.’ In 1775 the first of his large reflectors was erected on a grass plot behind his house near Walcot turnpike, and a review of the heavens executed with a Newtonian of 4½ inches aperture. These attempts prompted further exertions; during the intervals of a concert he might be seen running, still in lace ruffles and powder, from the theatre to the workshop. On one occasion, to avoid impairing its form, he polished a speculum without intermission during sixteen hours. In 1780 he removed to a larger house at 19 King Street, and here, on 13 March 1781, in the course of a second review of the heavens, the planet Uranus was discovered. He was then in his forty-third year. Its detection as an object with a small disc was due to the perfection of the seven-foot Newtonian reflector employed. Herschel at first took it for a comet (Phil. Trans. lxxi. 492), but when its true character became known, designated it, in honour of George III (Weld, Hist. Roy. Soc. ii. 146 n.), the ‘Georgium Sidus.’

His first printed paper was an answer in the ‘Ladies' Diary’ for 1780 (p. 46) to a prize question on the vibration of strings; in December 1780, on the invitation of Sir William Watson [q. v.], he joined the Philosophical Society of Bath, contributing several papers to its unpublished ‘Transactions;’ he communicated to the Royal Society on 11 May 1780 ‘Astronomical Observations on the Periodical Star in Collo Ceti’ (Phil. Trans. lxx. 338), and on 11 Jan. 1781 a striking paper on ‘The Rotation of the Planets’ (ib. lxxi. 115). The discovery (then without a parallel) of a new planet was acknowledged by the bestowal of the Copley medal a few days previous to his election into the Royal Society on 6 Dec. 1781. In the spring of 1782 he received a royal summons to bring his instruments to London, when their superiority over those at Greenwich was shown by direct comparison. On 25 May 1782 he had an audience with George III at Buckingham House; on 2 July he exhibited his telescope before the royal family, to the great delight of the king, who was finally induced by Sir Joseph Banks to confer upon him a private appointment as court astronomer, with a salary of 200l. a year.

On 1 Aug. 1782 he removed with his sister Caroline [q. v.] to a large, dilapidated house at Datchet, exchanged in June 1785 for Clay Hall, near Windsor, and that again, on 3 April 1786, for the house and garden at Slough, afterwards known as ‘The Herschels’—‘le lieu du monde,’ Arago wrote, ‘où il a été fait le plus de découvertes.’ Relieved from the ‘intolerable waste of time’ of teaching music, Herschel displayed to the full his prodigious activity. His ‘sweeping’ operations were commonly pursued, regardless of temperature, from dark till dawn. In the course of his third ‘review of the heavens’ in 1783, he often observed four hundred objects, some of them with great care, in a single night. He is stated to have once worked and observed without rest during three days and nights, sleeping at the end