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The Georgian Star: How William and Caroline Herschel Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Cosmos

Michael D. Lemonick.
Publisher Norton  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 8.3 x 5.75 x 0.75 inches
ISBN 9780393065749
Pages/Publication Date 199/2009
Daedalus Item Code 01954
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Amateur scientist William Herschel found international fame after discovering the planet Uranus in 1781. Though he is still best known for this finding, his partnership with his sister Caroline yielded groundbreaking work, including astronomical techniques that remain in use today. The duo pioneered comprehensive surveys of the night sky, carefully categorizing every visible object in the void. Caroline wrote an influential catalogue of nebulae, and William discovered infrared radiation. Michael Lemonick guides readers through the depths of the solar system and into his protagonists' careers and lives: William developed bizarre theories about inhabitants of the sun and procured an unheard-of salary for Caroline even while haggling with King George III over the funding for an enormous 40-foot telescope. And though the siblings feuded over William's marriage, they eventually reconciled.

"When William Herschel, in 1781, discovered Uranus (which he named the Georgian Star in hopes of getting much-needed funding from King George), he was a self-taught amateur astronomer earning his living as a musician. When the king offered Herschel £200 per year—a 50 percent drop in income—the astronomer gladly accepted the chance to become the king's astronomer. His goal was to discover how the universe was constructed, and Herschel, an obsessive observer, made a remarkable number of discoveries, including infrared radiation. He also taught his sister Caroline to help with his work, and soon she was publishing her own discoveries, hunting comets and cataloguing thousands of stars and nebulae. When the king agreed to give her a salary, she became the first paid woman scientist. Lemonick paints a vibrant and revealing picture of these two scientists whose painstaking observation and cataloguing paved the way for modern astronomy."—Publishers Weekly

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