Herschel, John Frederick William (1792 - 1871)


The astronomer John Frederick William Herschel was born on March 7, 1792, in Slough, Buckinghamshire. He attended Dr. Gretton's School in Hitcham, Eton College (briefly), and St. John's College Cambridge first as a student (1809-13), and then as elected fellow, graduating with M.A. in 1816. Many honours came to him quickly. The Royal Society elected him a fellow in 1813, he received the Copley Medal in 1821, he became President of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1827, and he was knighted in 1831. Herschel's research discoveries crisscrossed several fields, mathematics (differential calculus), chemistry, and astronomy, particularly in the last through his catalogues of double stars and nebulae, and his studies of Halley's comet in 1835-36 at the Cape of Good Hope. His major works were Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1830) and A Treatise on Astronomy (1833), later revised into one of the most celebrated scientific treatises ever published, Outlines of Astronomy (1849). Herschel's love of poetry emerged in his translation of works by Schiller, Bürger, Homer (the entire Iliad), and Dante. Certain of his poems came out in Essays (1857). Shortly after Herschel became Master of the Mint in 1850, he retired to Collingwood, at Hawkwood in Kent, with his wife, Margaret Brodie, whom he had married on March 3, 1829. He died there on May 11, 1871, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

  • C., A. M. "Herschel, Sir John Frederick William." The Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. Sir Leslie Stephen and Sir Sidney Lee. Vol. IX. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1921-22. 714-19.
  • Herschel, Sir John Frederick William. Essays from the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, with other addresses and other pieces. London, Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1857. sci RBSC 1 Fisher Rare Book Library
  • Letters and papers of Sir John Herschel: a guide to the manuscripts and microfilm. Ed. Paul Kesaris. Intro. Michael J. Crowe. Frederick, Md: University Publications of America, 1990. QB 36 .H59A4 1990 guide Gerstein Library
Given Name: 
John Frederick William
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Birth Date: 
March 7, 1792
Death Date: 
March 3, 1871
Family Relations: 
wife : Margaret Brodie Herschel


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