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Sir William Herschel

Sir William (originally Friedrich Wilhelm) Herschel, 1738-1822, the most important astronomer of Mary Shelley's day.

Herschel emigrated from Germany to England in 1757, where he began his serious astronomical investigations while working as a professional musician. Assisted by his sister Caroline Letitia (1750-1848), he began a series of four "reviews of the heavens" in which he described the motion and the distribution of the stars. His work provided a firm empirical basis for the physics of Newton. In 1781 he discovered the planet Uranus, and in 1782 he was appointed King's Astronomer by George III. He supervised the construction of telescopes and observatories and compiled catalogues of stars and nebulae. He produced the first rough description of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and calculated both the direction and velocity of the motion of the solar system through space.

After his death in 1822, his work of describing and classifying stars and nebulae was continued by his son John.