Amateur Telescopes

Everything you need for your hobby


Search this Site
Discount Shop
Information Centre

John Herschel

This illustrious son of an illustrious father was born at Slough, near Windsor, on the 7th March, 1792. He was the only child of Sir William Herschel, who had married somewhat late in life, as we have already mentioned.

The surroundings among which the young astronomer was reared afforded him an excellent training for that career on which he was to enter, and in which he was destined to attain a fame only less brilliant than that of his father. The circumstances of his youth permitted him to enjoy one great advantage which was denied to the elder Herschel. He was able, from his childhood, to devote himself almost exclusively to intellectual pursuits. William Herschel, in the early part of his career, had only been able to snatch occasional hours for study from his busy life as a professional musician. But the son, having been born with a taste for the student's life, was fortunate enough to have been endowed with the leisure and the means to enjoy it from the commencement. His early years have been so well described by the late Professor Pritchard in the "Report of the Council of the Royal Astronomical Society for 1872," that I venture to make an extract here:--

"A few traits of John Herschel's boyhood, mentioned by himself in his maturer life, have been treasured up by those who were dear to him, and the record of some of them may satisfy a curiosity as pardonable as inevitable, which craves to learn through what early steps great men or great nations become illustrious. His home was singular, and singularly calculated to nurture into greatness any child born as John Herschel was with natural gifts, capable of wide development. At the head of the house there was the aged, observant, reticent philosopher, and rarely far away his devoted sister, Caroline Herschel, whose labours and whose fame are still cognisable as a beneficent satellite to the brighter light of her illustrious brother. It was in the companionship of these remarkable persons, and under the shadow of his father's wonderful telescope, that John Herschel passed his boyish years. He saw them, in silent but ceaseless industry, busied about things which had no apparent concern with the world outside the walls of that well-known house, but which, at a later period of his life, he, with an unrivalled eloquence, taught his countrymen to appreciate as foremost among those living influences which but satisfy and elevate the noblest instincts of our nature. What sort of intercourse passed between the father and the boy may be gathered from an incident or two which he narrated as having impressed themselves permanently on the memory of his youth. He once asked his father what he thought was the oldest of all things. The father replied, after the Socratic method, by putting another question: 'And what do you yourself suppose is the oldest of all things?' The boy was not successful in his answers, thereon the old astronomer took up a small stone from the garden walk: "There, my child, there is the oldest of all the things that I certainly know.' On another occasion his father is said to have asked the boy, 'What sort of things, do you think, are most alike?' The delicate, blue-eyed boy, after a short pause, replied, 'The leaves of the same tree are most like each other.' 'Gather, then, a handful of leaves of that tree,' rejoined the philosopher, 'and choose two that are alike.' The boy failed; but he hid the lesson in his heart, and his thoughts were revealed after many days. These incidents may be trifles; nor should we record them here had not John Herschel himself, though singularly reticent about his personal emotions, recorded them as having made a strong impression on his mind. Beyond all doubt we can trace therein, first, that grasp and grouping of many things in one, implied in the stone as the oldest of things; and, secondly, that fine and subtle discrimination of each thing out of many like things as forming the main features which characterized the habit of our venerated friend's philosophy."

John Herschel entered St. John's College, Cambridge, when he was seventeen years of age. His university career abundantly fulfilled his father's eager desire, that his only son should develop a capacity for the pursuit of science. After obtaining many lesser distinctions, he finally came out as Senior Wrangler in 1813. It was, indeed, a notable year in the mathematical annals of the University. Second on that list, in which Herschel's name was first, appeared that of the illustrious Peacock, afterwards Dean of Ely, who remained throughout life one of Herschel's most intimate friends.

Almost immediately after taking his degree, Herschel gave evidence of possessing a special aptitude for original scientific investigation. He sent to the Royal Society a mathematical paper which was published in the PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS. Doubtless the splendour that attached to the name he bore assisted him in procuring early recognition of his own great powers. Certain it is that he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society at the unprecedentedly early age of twenty-one. Even after this remarkable encouragement to adopt a scientific career as the business of his life, it does not seem that John Herschel at first contemplated devoting himself exclusively to science. He commenced to prepare for the profession of the Law by entering as a student at the Middle Temple, and reading with a practising barrister.

But a lawyer John Herschel was not destined to become. Circumstances brought him into association with some leading scientific men. He presently discovered that his inclinations tended more and more in the direction of purely scientific pursuits. Thus it came to pass that the original intention as to the calling which he should follow was gradually abandoned. Fortunately for science Herschel found its pursuit so attractive that he was led, as his father had been before him, to give up his whole life to the advancement of knowledge. Nor was it unnatural that a Senior Wrangler, who had once tasted the delights of mathematical research, should have been tempted to devote much time to this fascinating pursuit. By the time John Herschel was twenty-nine he had published so much mathematical work, and his researches were considered to possess so much merit, that the Royal Society awarded him the Copley Medal, which was the highest distinction it was capable of conferring.

At the death of his father in 1822, John Herschel, with his tastes already formed for a scientific career, found himself in the possession of ample means. To him also passed all his father's great telescopes and apparatus. These material aids, together with a dutiful sense of filial obligation, decided him to make practical astronomy the main work of his life. He decided to continue to its completion that great survey of the heavens which had already been inaugurated, and, indeed, to a large extent accomplished, by his father.

The first systematic piece of practical astronomical work which John Herschel undertook was connected with the measurement of what are known as "Double Stars." It should be observed, that there are in the heavens a number of instances in which two stars are seen in very close association. In the case of those objects to which the expression "Double Stars" is generally applied, the two luminous points are so close together that even though they might each be quite bright enough to be visible to the unaided eye, yet their proximity is such that they cannot be distinguished as two separate objects without optical aid. The two stars seem fused together into one. In the telescope, however, the bodies may be discerned separately, though they are frequently so close together that it taxes the utmost power of the instrument to indicate the division between them.

The appearance presented by a double star might arise from the circumstance that the two stars, though really separated from each other by prodigious distances, happened to lie nearly in the same line of vision, as seen from our point of view. No doubt, many of the so-called double stars could be accounted for on this supposition. Indeed, in the early days when but few double stars were known, and when telescopes were not powerful enough to exhibit the numerous close doubles which have since been brought to light, there seems to have been a tendency to regard all double stars as merely such perspective effects. It was not at first suggested that there could be any physical connection between the components of each pair. The appearance presented was regarded as merely due to the circumstance that the line joining the two bodies happened to pass near the earth.

In the early part of his career, Sir William Herschel seems to have entertained the view then generally held by other astronomers with regard to the nature of these stellar pairs. The great observer thought that the double stars could therefore be made to afford a means of solving that problem in which so many of the observers of the skies had been engaged, namely, the determination of the distances of the stars from the earth. Herschel saw that the displacement of the earth in its annual movement round the sun would produce an apparent shift in the place of the nearer of the two stars relatively to the other, supposed to be much more remote. If this shift could be measured, then the distance of the nearer of the stars could be estimated with some degree of precision.

As has not unfrequently happened in the history of science, an effect was perceived of a very different nature from that which had been anticipated. If the relative places of the two stars had been apparently deranged merely in consequence of the motion of the earth, then the phenomenon would be an annual one. After the lapse of a year the two stars would have regained their original relative positions. This was the effect for which William Herschel was looking. In certain of the so called double stars, he, no doubt, did find a movement. He detected the remarkable fact that both the apparent distance and the relative positions of the two bodies were changing. But what was his surprise to observe that these alterations were not of an annually periodic character. It became evident then that in some cases one of the component stars was actually revolving around the other, in an orbit which required many years for its completion. Here was indeed a remarkable discovery. It was clearly impossible to suppose that movements of this kind could be mere apparent displacements, arising from the annual shift in our point of view, in consequence of the revolution of the earth. Herschel's discovery established the interesting fact that, in certain of these double stars, or binary stars, as these particular objects are more expressively designated, there is an actual orbital revolution of a character similar to that which the earth performs around the sun. Thus it was demonstrated that in these particular double stars the nearness of the two components was not merely apparent. The objects must actually lie close together at a distance which is small in comparison with the distance at which either of them is separated from the earth. The fact that the heavens contain pairs of twin suns in mutual revolution was thus brought to light.

In consequence of this beautiful discovery, the attention of astronomers was directed to the subject of double stars with a degree of interest which these objects had never before excited. It was therefore not unnatural that John Herschel should have been attracted to this branch of astronomical work. Admiration for his father's discovery alone might have suggested that the son should strive to develop this territory newly opened up to research. But it also happened that the mathematical talents of the younger Herschel inclined his inquiries in the same direction. He saw clearly that, when sufficient observations of any particular binary star had been accumulated, it would then be within the power of the mathematician to elicit from those observations the shape and the position in space of the path which each of the revolving stars described around the other. Indeed, in some cases he would be able to perform the astonishing feat of determining from his calculations the weight of these distant suns, and thus be enabled to compare them with the mass of our own sun.

But this work must follow the observations, it could not precede them. The first step was therefore to observe and to measure with the utmost care the positions and distances of those particular double stars which appear to offer the greatest promise in this particular research. In 1821, Herschel and a friend of his, Mr. James South, agreed to work together with this object. South was a medical man with an ardent devotion to science, and possessed of considerable wealth. He procured the best astronomical instruments that money could obtain, and became a most enthusiastic astronomer and a practical observer of tremendous energy.

South and John Herschel worked together for two years in the observation and measurement of the double stars discovered by Sir William Herschel. In the course of this time their assiduity was rewarded by the accumulation of so great a mass of careful measurements that when published, they formed quite a volume in the "Philosophical Transactions." The value and accuracy of the work, when estimated by standards which form proper criteria for that period, is universally recognised. It greatly promoted the progress of sidereal astronomy, and the authors were in consequence awarded medals from the Royal Society, and the Royal Astronomical Society, as well as similar testimonials from various foreign institutions.

This work must, however, be regarded as merely introductory to the main labours of John Herschel's life. His father devoted the greater part of his years as an observer to what he called his "sweeps" of the heavens. The great reflecting telescope, twenty feet long, was moved slowly up and down through an arc of about two degrees towards and from the pole, while the celestial panorama passed slowly in the course of the diurnal motion before the keenly watching eye of the astronomer. Whenever a double star traversed the field Herschel described it to his sister Caroline, who, as we have already mentioned, was his invariable assistant in his midnight watches. When a nebula appeared, then he estimated its size and its brightness, he noticed whether it had a nucleus, or whether it had stars disposed in any significant manner with regard to it. He also dictated any other circumstance which he deemed worthy of record. These observations were duly committed to writing by the same faithful and indefatigable scribe, whose business it also was to take a memorandum of the exact position of the object as indicated by a dial placed in front of her desk, and connected with the telescope.

John Herschel undertook the important task of re-observing the various double stars and nebulae which had been discovered during these memorable vigils. The son, however, lacked one inestimable advantage which had been possessed by the father. John Herschel had no assistant to discharge all those duties which Caroline had so efficiently accomplished. He had, therefore, to modify the system of sweeping previously adopted in order to enable all the work both of observing and of recording to be done by himself. This, in many ways, was a great drawback to the work of the younger astronomer. The division of labour between the observer and the scribe enables a greatly increased quantity of work to be got through. It is also distinctly disadvantageous to an observer to have to use his eye at the telescope directly after he has been employing it for reading the graduations on a circle, by the light of a lamp, or for entering memoranda in a note book. Nebulae, especially, are often so excessively faint that they can only be properly observed by an eye which is in that highly sensitive condition which is obtained by long continuance in darkness. The frequent withdrawal of the eye from the dark field of the telescope, and the application of it to reading by artificial light, is very prejudicial to its use for the more delicate purpose. John Herschel, no doubt, availed himself of every precaution to mitigate the ill effects of this inconvenience as much as possible, but it must have told upon his labours as compared with those of his father.

But nevertheless John Herschel did great work during his "sweeps." He was specially particular to note all the double stars which presented themselves to his observation. Of course some little discretion must be allowed in deciding as to what degree of proximity in adjacent stars does actually bring them within the category of "double stars." Sir John set down all such objects as seemed to him likely to be of interest, and the results of his discoveries in this branch of astronomy amount to some thousands. Six or seven great memoirs in the TRANSACTIONS of the Royal Astronomical Society have been devoted to giving an account of his labours in this department of astronomy.

One of the achievements by which Sir John Herschel is best known is his invention of a method by which the orbits of binary stars could be determined. It will be observed that when one star revolves around another in consequence of the law of gravitation, the orbit described must be an ellipse. This ellipse, however, generally speaking, appears to us more or less foreshortened, for it is easily seen that only under highly exceptional circumstances would the plane in which the stars move happen to be directly square to the line of view. It therefore follows that what we observe is not exactly the track of one star around the other; it is rather the projection of that track as seen on the surface of the sky. Now it is remarkable that this apparent path is still an ellipse. Herschel contrived a very ingenious and simple method by which he could discover from the observations the size and position of the ellipse in which the revolution actually takes place. He showed how, from the study of the apparent orbit of the star, and from certain measurements which could easily be effected upon it, the determination of the true ellipse in which the movement is performed could be arrived at. In other words, Herschel solved in a beautiful manner the problem of finding the true orbits of double stars. The importance of this work may be inferred from the fact that it has served as the basis on which scores of other investigators have studied the fascinating subject of the movement of binary stars.

The labours, both in the discovery and measurement of the double stars, and in the discussion of the observations with the object of finding the orbits of such stars as are in actual revolution, received due recognition in yet another gold medal awarded by the Royal Society. An address was delivered on the occasion by the Duke of Sussex (30th November, 1833), in the course of which, after stating that the medal had been conferred on Sir John Herschel, he remarks:--

"It has been said that distance of place confers the same privilege as distance of time, and I should gladly avail myself of the privilege which is thus afforded me by Sir John Herschel's separation from his country and friends, to express my admiration of his character in stronger terms than I should otherwise venture to use; for the language of panegyric, however sincerely it may flow from the heart, might be mistaken for that of flattery, if it could not thus claim somewhat of an historical character; but his great attainments in almost every department of human knowledge, his fine powers as a philosophical writer, his great services and his distinguished devotion to science, the high principles which have regulated his conduct in every relation of life, and, above all, his engaging modesty, which is the crown of all his other virtues, presenting such a model of an accomplished philosopher as can rarely be found beyond the regions of fiction, demand abler pens than mine to describe them in adequate terms, however much inclined I might feel to undertake the task."

The first few lines of the eulogium just quoted allude to Herschel's absence from England. This was not merely an episode of interest in the career of Herschel, it was the occasion of one of the greatest scientific expeditions in the whole history of astronomy.

Herschel had, as we have seen, undertaken a revision of his father's "sweeps" for new objects, in those skies which are visible from our latitudes in the northern hemisphere. He had well-nigh completed this task. Zone by zone the whole of the heavens which could be observed from Windsor had passed under his review. He had added hundreds to the list of nebulae discovered by his father. He had announced thousands of double stars. At last, however, the great survey was accomplished. The contents of the northern hemisphere, so far at least as they could be disclosed by his telescope of twenty feet focal length, had been revealed.

But Herschel felt that this mighty task had to be supplemented by another of almost equal proportions, before it could be said that the twenty-foot telescope had done its work. It was only the northern half of the celestial sphere which had been fully explored. The southern half was almost virgin territory, for no other astronomer was possessed of a telescope of such power as those which the Herschels had used. It is true, of course, that as a certain margin of the southern hemisphere was visible from these latitudes, it had been more or less scrutinized by observers in northern skies. And the glimpses which had thus been obtained of the celestial objects in the southern sky, were such as to make an eager astronomer long for a closer acquaintance with the celestial wonders of the south. The most glorious object in the sidereal heavens, the Great Nebula in Orion, lies indeed in that southern hemisphere to which the younger Herschel's attention now became directed. It fortunately happens, however, for votaries of astronomy all the world over, that Nature has kindly placed her most astounding object, the great Nebula in Orion, in such a favoured position, near the equator, that from a considerable range of latitudes, both north and south, the wonders of the Nebula can be explored. There are grounds for thinking that the southern heavens contain noteworthy objects which, on the whole, are nearer to the solar system than are the noteworthy objects in the northern skies. The nearest star whose distance is known, Alpha Centauri, lies in the southern hemisphere, and so also does the most splendid cluster of stars.

Influenced by the desire to examine these objects, Sir John Herschel determined to take his great telescope to a station in the southern hemisphere, and thus complete his survey of the sidereal heavens. The latitude of the Cape of Good Hope is such that a suitable site could be there found for his purpose. The purity of the skies in South Africa promised to provide for the astronomer those clear nights which his delicate task of surveying the nebulae would require.

On November 13, 1833, Sir John Herschel, who had by this time received the honour of knighthood from William IV., sailed from Portsmouth for the Cape of Good Hope, taking with him his gigantic instruments. After a voyage of two months, which was considered to be a fair passage in those days, he landed in Table Bay, and having duly reconnoitred various localities, he decided to place his observatory at a place called Feldhausen, about six miles from Cape Town, near the base of the Table Mountain. A commodious residence was there available, and in it he settled with his family. A temporary building was erected to contain the equatorial, but the great twenty-foot telescope was accommodated with no more shelter than is provided by the open canopy of heaven.

As in his earlier researches at home, the attention of the great astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope was chiefly directed to the measurement of the relative positions and distances apart of the double stars, and to the close examination of the nebulae. In the delineation of the form of these latter objects Herschel found ample employment for his skilful pencil. Many of the drawings he has made of the celestial wonders in the southern sky are admirable examples of celestial portraiture.

The number of the nebulae and of those kindred objects, the star clusters, which Herschel studied in the southern heavens, during four years of delightful labour, amount in all to one thousand seven hundred and seven. His notes on their appearance, and the determinations of their positions, as well as his measurements of double stars, and much other valuable astronomical research, were published in a splendid volume, brought out at the cost of the Duke of Northumberland. This is, indeed, a monumental work, full of interesting and instructive reading for any one who has a taste for astronomy.

Herschel had the good fortune to be at the Cape on the occasion of the periodical return of Halley's great comet in 1833. To the study of this body he gave assiduous attention, and the records of his observations form one of the most interesting chapters in that remarkable volume to which we have just referred.

Early in 1838 Sir John Herschel returned to England. He had made many friends at the Cape, who deeply sympathised with his self- imposed labours while he was resident among them. They desired to preserve the recollection of this visit, which would always, they considered, be a source of gratification in the colony. Accordingly, a number of scientific friends in that part of the world raised a monument with a suitable inscription, on the spot which had been occupied by the great twenty-foot reflector at Feldhausen.

His return to England after five years of absence was naturally an occasion for much rejoicing among the lovers of astronomy. He was entertained at a memorable banquet, and the Queen, at her coronation, made him a baronet. His famous aunt Caroline, at that time aged eighty, was still in the enjoyment of her faculties, and was able to estimate at its true value the further lustre which was added to the name she bore. But there is reason to believe that her satisfaction was not quite unmixed with other feelings. With whatever favour she might regard her nephew, he was still not the brother to whom her life had been devoted. So jealous was this vigorous old lady of the fame of the great brother William, that she could hardly hear with patience of the achievements of any other astronomer, and this failing existed in some degree even when that other astronomer happened to be her illustrious nephew.

With Sir John Herschel's survey of the Southern Hemisphere it may be said that his career as an observing astronomer came to a close. He did not again engage in any systematic telescopic research. But it must not be inferred from this statement that he desisted from active astronomical work. It has been well observed that Sir John Herschel was perhaps the only astronomer who has studied with success, and advanced by original research, every department of the great science with which his name is associated. It was to some other branches of astronomy besides those concerned with looking through telescopes, that the rest of the astronomer's life was to be devoted.

To the general student Sir John Herschel is best known by the volume which he published under the title of "Outlines of Astronomy." This is, indeed, a masterly work, in which the characteristic difficulties of the subject are resolutely faced and expounded with as much simplicity as their nature will admit. As a literary effort this work is admirable, both on account of its picturesque language and the ennobling conceptions of the universe which it unfolds. The student who desires to become acquainted with those recondite departments of astronomy, in which the effects of the disturbing action of one planet upon the motions of another planet are considered, will turn to the chapters in Herschel's famous work on the subject. There he will find this complex matter elucidated, without resort to difficult mathematics. Edition after edition of this valuable work has appeared, and though the advances of modern astronomy have left it somewhat out of date in certain departments, yet the expositions it contains of the fundamental parts of the science still remain unrivalled.

Another great work which Sir John undertook after his return from the Cape, was a natural climax to those labours on which his father and he had been occupied for so many years. We have already explained how the work of both these observers had been mainly devoted to the study of the nebulae and the star clusters. The results of their discoveries had been announced to the world in numerous isolated memoirs. The disjointed nature of these publications made their use very inconvenient. But still it was necessary for those who desired to study the marvellous objects discovered by the Herschels, to have frequent recourse to the original works. To incorporate all the several observations of nebular into one great systematic catalogue, seemed, therefore, to be an indispensable condition of progress in this branch of knowledge. No one could have been so fitted for this task as Sir John Herschel. He, therefore, attacked and carried through the great undertaking. Thus at last a grand catalogue of nebulae and clusters was produced. Never before was there so majestic an inventory. If we remember that each of the nebulae is an object so vast, that the whole of the solar system would form an inconsiderable speck by comparison, what are we to think of a collection in which these objects are enumerated in thousands? In this great catalogue we find arranged in systematic order all the nebulae and all the clusters which had been revealed by the diligence of the Herschels, father and son, in the Northern Hemisphere, and of the son alone in the Southern Hemisphere. Nor should we omit to mention that the labours of other astronomers were likewise incorporated. It was unavoidable that the descriptions given to each of the objects should be very slight. Abbreviations are used, which indicate that a nebula is bright, or very bright, or extremely bright, or faint, or very faint, or extremely faint. Such phrases have certainly but a relative and technical meaning in such a catalogue. The nebulae entered as extremely bright by the experienced astronomer are only so described by way of contrast to the great majority of these delicate telescopic objects. Most of the nebulae, indeed, are so difficult to see, that they admit of but very slight description. It should be observed that Herschel's catalogue augmented the number of known nebulous objects to more than ten times that collected into any catalogue which had ever been compiled before the days of William Herschel's observing began. But the study of these objects still advances, and the great telescopes now in use could probably show at least twice as many of these objects as are contained in the list of Herschel, of which a new and enlarged edition has since been brought out by Dr. Dreyer.

One of the best illustrations of Sir John Herschel's literary powers is to be found in the address which he delivered at the Royal Astronomical Society, on the occasion of presenting a medal to Mr. Francis Baily, in recognition of his catalogue of stars. The passage I shall here cite places in its proper aspect the true merit of the laborious duty involved in such a task as that which Mr. Baily had carried through with such success:--

"If we ask to what end magnificent establishments are maintained by states and sovereigns, furnished with masterpieces of art, and placed under the direction of men of first-rate talent and high- minded enthusiasm, sought out for those qualities among the foremost in the ranks of science, if we demand QUI BONO? for what good a Bradley has toiled, or a Maskelyne or a Piazzi has worn out his venerable age in watching, the answer is--not to settle mere speculative points in the doctrine of the universe; not to cater for the pride of man by refined inquiries into the remoter mysteries of nature; not to trace the path of our system through space, or its history through past and future eternities. These, indeed, are noble ends and which I am far from any thought of depreciating; the mind swells in their contemplation, and attains in their pursuit an expansion and a hardihood which fit it for the boldest enterprise. But the direct practical utility of such labours is fully worthy of their speculative grandeur. The stars are the landmarks of the universe; and, amidst the endless and complicated fluctuations of our system, seem placed by its Creator as guides and records, not merely to elevate our minds by the contemplation of what is vast, but to teach us to direct our actions by reference to what is immutable in His works. It is, indeed, hardly possible to over-appreciate their value in this point of view. Every well-determined star, from the moment its place is registered, becomes to the astronomer, the geographer, the navigator, the surveyor, a point of departure which can never deceive or fail him, the same for ever and in all places, of a delicacy so extreme as to be a test for every instrument yet invented by man, yet equally adapted for the most ordinary purposes; as available for regulating a town clock as for conducting a navy to the Indies; as effective for mapping down the intricacies of a petty barony as for adjusting the boundaries of Transatlantic empires. When once its place has been thoroughly ascertained and carefully recorded, the brazen circle with which that useful work was done may moulder, the marble pillar may totter on its base, and the astronomer himself survive only in the gratitude of posterity; but the record remains, and transfuses all its own exactness into every determination which takes it for a groundwork, giving to inferior instruments--nay, even to temporary contrivances, and to the observations of a few weeks or days--all the precision attained originally at the cost of so much time, labour, and expense."

Sir John Herschel wrote many other works besides those we have mentioned. His "Treatise on Meteorology" is, indeed, a standard work on this subject, and numerous articles from the same pen on miscellaneous subjects, which have been collected and reprinted, seemed as a relaxation from his severe scientific studies. Like certain other great mathematicians Herschel was also a poet, and he published a translation of the Iliad into blank verse.

In his later years Sir John Herschel lived a retired life. For a brief period he had, indeed, been induced to accept the office of Master of the Mint. It was, however, evident that the routine of such an occupation was not in accordance with his tastes, and he gladly resigned it, to return to the seclusion of his study in his beautiful home at Collingwood, in Kent.

His health having gradually failed, he died on the 11th May, 1871, in the seventy-ninth year of his age.


Amateur Telescopes

Everything you need for your hobby