Copley Medal


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

Thomas Henry Huxley, the great Victorian scientist, "Darwin's bulldog," was born in Ealing on May 4, 1825. Despite having only two years of formal schooling, he obtained his M.B. at London University in 1845. This led to a posting as a naval surgeon with H.M.S. Rattlesnake on a surveying voyage to Australia from 1846 to 1850. Research undertaken on this trip led to anatomical papers on the hydrozoa and medusae that were rewarded when he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1851. In 1854, Huxley left the navy and joined the Royal School of Mines in London as lecturer in natural history. He married an Australian, Henrietta Anne Heathorn, in July 1855. His lifelong defence of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species began in 1859 with an article in The Times. He became Hunterian professor at the Royal College of Surgeons (1863-69) and Fullerian professor at the Royal Institution (1863-67), President of the Royal Society (1881), and recipient of the Copley Medal (1888) and the Darwin Medal (1894). Huxley authored two popular textbooks, Elementary Lessons in Physiology (1866) and, with H. N. Martin, Elementary Biology (1875), that put both disciplines on firm scientific grounds. Among his greatest achievements are nine volumes of essays. To his great credit, Huxley championed curiosity-based scientific research and argued that the core of higher education consisted, not of technical subjects, but of science, literature, art, history, and philosophy. Bad health caused Huxley to retire in 1885 and to leave London for Eastbourne in 1890. He died June 29, 1895, at Eastbourne from kidney disease and was survived by his wife, two sons, and four daughters. Huxley was interred at Finchley and St. Marylebone Cemetery.

  • Huxley, Leonard. The Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley. 2 vols. New York: D. Appleton, 1900. QH 31 .H9A4 1900 Gerstein Library
  • W., W.F.R. "Huxley, Thomas Henry." The Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. Sir Leslie Stephen and Sir Sidney Lee. Vol. XXII: Supplement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1921-22. 894-903. Poems of Henrietta A. Huxley with Three of Thomas Henry Huxley. London: Duckworth, 1913. 9700.d.1043 Cambridge University Library