Sir William Frederick Herschel

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by BlaqkWolf
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Sir William Frederick Herschel

I discovered Uranus!

The discovery of Uranus in 1781 brought him international fame, a fellowship in the Royal Society and an annual pension that required him to pursue astronomy full time. His last professional musical appearance was in 1782. He died in 1822, a renowned astronomer whose musical career was all but forgotten until now.In addition to discovering Uranus, Sir William Herschel was also a classical composer and oboist. He wrote several concertos with Franz Joseph Hyden.

In 1772 Herschel visited his native Germany briefly and returned to England with his sister, Caroline, described by Jerome as "a soprano of considerable talent." While not leading virtuosi in an international sense, the two performed many duets for soprano and oboe in Bath, Jerome relates. Accomplished on numerous instruments, Herschel was named successively director of the Durham band; organist of the Octagon chapel in Bath, a cultural center second only to London; and director of the Bath orchestra. So why did such a versatile and successful musician turn his back on his musical career? Gingrich suggests that "His decision to abandon music for astronomy was a clear choice between competence and genius."

In an autobiographical letter written by Herschel himself, he begins by describing his musical career and the strong fascination he felt first for the field of mathematics and then for optics and astronomy. When he realized how much it would cost to acquire a first-rate telescope, he began experimenting with designs of his own making, spending many years on the project until he was finally satisfied with the results.

Herschel writes: "All this while I continued my astronomical observations & nothing seemed now wanting to compleat my felicity than suficient time to enjoy my telescopes to which I was so much attached that I used frequently to run from the Harpsichord at the Theatre to look at the stars during the time of an act & return to the next Music."

William Frederick Herschel(1738-1822)

Symphony No. 8


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