Today is William Herschel’s birthday. Born in 1738, Herschel is one of history’s most famous astronomers; not only did he discover the planet Uranus, but he also discovered infrared radiation, determined the shape of the Milky Way, published star catalogues, and found moons around Saturn. He was also a skilled telescope builder (a photograph of his famous 40-foot telescope is above), and an accomplished musician and composer.
His sister Caroline was his assistant and a notable astronomer in her own right, discovering eight comets and independently discovering the galaxy known as Messier 110. Caroline acted as her brother’s assistant throughout his life. William’s son John Herschel also went on to become an important astronomer and scientist as well.
The ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory is named after after William and Caroline.