Herschel John Frederick William

 

(27.03.1792-11.05.1871)

 

Outstanding English astronomer and physicist, son of the famous astronomer William Herschel.

Born in Slough, Buckinghamshire, and as a child he had remarkable abilities. He began studying at a local school, but soon his parents took him from there, and until he was 17, he studied at home, under the guidance of mentor Rogers, studying classical and new languages, mathematics, music, etc. Having entered the University of Cambridge, the college of St. John, Herschel showed outstanding mathematical ability. While still a student, he compiled a problem book in higher mathematics.

His first scientific works appeared in 1812 and 1814, when he was already a member of the Royal Society of London .

After graduating from Cambridge University in 1813, Herschel settled in London and studied mathematics and law for some time. By this time, his studies on the interference of sound and the polarization of light belong.

From 1816 he began to help his father in the observatory, and after his death in 1822 he continued astronomical observations on his own. Herschel first developed the theoretical principles on which lenses should be made of two glasses in order to weaken the influence of spherical and chromatic aberration whenever possible. Being engaged in the study of the heat of the sun's rays, he discovered the existence of heat rays in the warm part of the spectrum behind the red light rays.

The close relationship with his father and the desire to check and supplement his observations forced Herschel to switch to astronomy. He moved to Slough, and installing a new reflective telescope, he began observing complex stars and nebulae. Herschel's first astronomical publication was devoted to double stars, which he discovered over 3000, but nebulae became the main topic of his research: there are 2307 in his catalog.

After observing the luminaries of the northern hemisphere, Herschel wished to produce the same in the southern. In 1834 he went to South Africa to the Cape of Good Hope, where he installed a reflecting telescope with a focal length of 6.1 m and a small refractor. With their help, for four years he studied the southern sky, discovered 1202 binary stars and 1,708 nebulae and star clusters, studied the Magellan Clouds and the distribution of southern stars in detail; observed Halley’s comet as it appeared in 1835.

Herschel returned to England in 1838 and spent the next 7 years describing his African studies, publishing them only in 1847.

This publication was followed by Astronomy Sketches in 1849 and the General Catalog of Nebulae in 1864, containing data on 5079 nebulae and star clusters. Supplemented later by the Danish astronomer J. Dreier and published under the name “New Common Catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters” in 1888, it became canonical.

Being engaged in photography, Herschel, in 1819, discovered the ability of sodium hyposulphite to dissolve silver salts. After 20 years, he, independently of U. Talbot, suggested using paper coated with photosensitive material for photographic images. Herschel was the first to introduce the terms “positive” and “negative” into the photograph.

Herschel devoted much attention to teaching and literary activities, creating something like a public education system in the Cape Colony at the Cape of Good Hope.

In 1842, he became honorary rector of the University of Aberdeen. His "Preliminary Discourses on the Study of Natural Philosophy", published in 1830, were translated into French, German and Italian.

In the last years of his life, Herschel wrote popular books on physical geography and meteorology.

During the years 1850-1855 he was director of the Mint, was repeatedly elected chairman of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Herschel was the father of a large family.

He died in Collingwood, buried in Westminster Abbey near the grave of I. Newton.

An island in the Beaufort Sea, two kilometers off the coast of Canada. Named in 1826 by J. Franklin.

 

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