Always a dreamer, lost in his own thoughts, and losing items from time to time, he was bullied as a child and the kids at school tauntingly chanted, “You couldn’t find your ass with both hands!”
William Herschel was born in the Electorate of Hanover (Germany) and was a noted British astronomer and composer.
A dreamy child, the stars inspired his music.
He went into the military band of Hanover at the age of 15 following his father’s lead, and migrated to Great Britain at the age of 19.
Crazy for astronomy, he constructed a telescope, his first, in 1774. Then he spent the next nine years searching the sky to investigate double stars.
OK, I had no idea there were double stars!
The resolving power of his scopes revealed that certain nebulae were actually clusters of stars. This so excited him, he published catalogues of nebulae in 1802.
But, back on March 13, 1781, he realized that one celestial body was not a star, but was a planet.
It was the first planet discovered since the first eight were figured out back in the Roman/Greek/Persian times.
William was super excited.
And became super famous.
He was the astronomer to the King of England and employed his sister, Catherine, as his assistant affording her opportunities women rarely had in the 18th Century.
A pretty smart guy, he pioneered spectrophotometry which used prisms and temperature to measure wavelength of stars. He figured out the rotation period of Mars, which had been stumping folks since Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he discovered that the polar caps on Mars vary with the seasons, discovered moons of Saturn, and discovered infrared radiation.
All this was build UP to his March 13, 1781 discovery; the coup de grace for the old boy.
When they taunted him with“You couldn’t find your ass with both hands!”, he said, “Yeah, but I found Uranus!”
*yes, yes, I know Uranus has been demoted. But don’t tell William!