Some Boys Who Became Famous. The German Band-Boy Who Discovered a World—Part II [2/2]
Regular Feature, Essay, Serial
Astronomy, Discovery, Education, Class, Endeavour, Instruments, Patronage, Light, Theory, Chemistry, Expertise, Skill, Machinery, Steam-power, Cosmology, Piety, Natural Theology
Begins by emphasising that William Herschel's rise from a poorly educated boy to the maker of 'telescopes of first-class power' and discoverer of 'an unknown wanderer in the sky' was possibly inspired by the examples of Johannes Kepler, Pierre S marquis de Laplace, and Nicholas Copernicus, all of whom hailed from poor backgrounds. Proceeds to note King George III's patronage of Herschel, and the astronomer's move to Slough and publication of an 'eagerly read' paper. Describes how Herschel used this patronage in the construction of his new instrument—a forty foot telescope with a speculum mirror of over four foot diameter, and which was so powerful that distant stars observed through it approached like 'the rising sun'. Explains the optical reasons why users of this instrument had to turn their backs to the heavens, and stresses that while the telescope enabled Herschel and his son, John F W Herschel, to observe 'the six moons of Uranus', its power was limited by the effect of the atmosphere and its cumbersome weight. Points out that Herschel did most of his work with an instrument of approximately seven-foot focal length, and describes how, in the course of 39 years, he discovered such celestial bodies as 'eight smaller planets' and several comets. (820) Waxes lyrical about the power of his instruments, and emphasises the considerable chemical and mechanical skill that Herschel commanded to produce a high quality mirror. Proceeds to a brief account of 'that other great telescope', that of William Parsons (3rd Earl of Rosse) at Parsonstown in Ireland. Notes how Rosse excelled in mathematics at school and on succeeding to the peerage in 1841 'immediately set about the construction of the telescope which had been the dream of his youth'. Describes the machinery, labour, and money (£30,000) needed to produce this fifty-four foot reflector which 'penetrated much farther into space than Herschel's, and revealed mysteries that were supposed to be beyond the power of man to solve'. Concludes with a description of the dismantling of Herschel's giant telescope, and of the death of its maker. Emphasises that Herschel possessed an unsurpassed 'sense of the wisdom and power of God'. (821) The illustrations show Herschel's home at Slough and his forty-foot reflector.
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