Some Boys Who Became Famous. The German Band-Boy Who Discovered a World [1/2]
Regular Feature, Essay, Serial
Astronomy, Scientific Practitioners, Observation, Natural Theology, Design, Light, Instruments, Universities, Religious Authority, Heroism, Technicians, Instrument-makers, Theory, Music, Patronage, Skill, Endeavour, Cosmology
Begins by recounting the wonderment with which 'a young astronomer' of the author's acquaintance observed several planets through a telescope. Notes that such sights brought to his mind 'those words of the sweet singer of Israel, "The heaven declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork". Noting the strange way in which observations through reflecting telescopes are undertaken through a tube at the side of the instrument, proceeds to a brief account of the origin of telescopes. This claims that Roger Bacon 'invented the magnifying-glass', that Leonard Digges 'actually constructed glasses through which he was able to see objects a long way off', and that Galileo Galilei brought the telescope 'into practical use'. Details the ways in which Galileo constructed his telescope and the celestial objects he saw through what the author considers to be a crude instrument. Notes that the 'principal professor of philosophy' at the University of Padua refused to believe in the existence of moons around other planets, and that Galileo's claims to this effect were denounced by priests. (805) Outlines the story of Galileo's imprisonment and refusal to renounce his belief in the movement of the earth. Goes on to explain the optical principles of refracting telescopes but points out that astronomer's need for greater magnifying power was met by Isaac Newton and his reflecting telescope. Having explained how the problem of chromatic aberration was resolved by John Dollond in 1757, proceeds to the principal subject of the article, William Herschel. Describes his early life in Hanover, his musical career and his arrival in Doncaster where, as a travelling musician, he won the patronage of Edward Miller in whose library Herschel studied assiduously. Notes how Herschel continued his musical career at Bath where he first turned a telescope to the heavens, and, owing to the cost of telescopes, resolved to build his own. Emphasises the 'skill and perseverance' with which Herschel pursued his telescope-building, and notes that his courage in overcoming difficulties was rewarded by the observation of Saturn's rings and satellites. Notes how Herschel used to 'steal away' from concerts to continue his astronomical work. (806) Concludes with a description of Herschel's construction of a twenty-foot reflector and the fact that such labours were rewarded with the discovery of Uranus—one which vastly increased the size of the known solar system. The illustrations include a reproduction of the Friedrich Rehberg portrait of Herschel, and a representation of the young Herschel experimenting with small telescope tubes in his study.
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