William Herschel: The ‘greatest observer’ who discovered Uranus and helped the Royals stargaze

One of the great astronomers spent hours gazing at the skies from the back garden of his home in Slough.

William Herschel was an extraordinary scientist and a very talented musician.

Among his many achievements. as well as learning more about Mars (the planet, not the factory in Slough), he spotted an object in the Gemini constellation.

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After many months of study, it was decided this object was a new planet and Uranus was born.

The discovery, first thought to be a comet, happened in the year 1781 and Herschel referred to his discovery only as “the Georgian planet.”

He later found himself living in the riverside village of Datchet in Berkshire, before moving to Windsor.

The legendary telescope
The legendary telescope
(Image: Getty Images)

One of his roles included showing members of the Royal Family the skies above Berkshire whenever they requested.

It’s a strong indication you’re planning to stay in a house for a while when you remove all the trees from the back garden and replace them with a giant, six-metre telescope.

And that’s exactly what Herschel did.

Unsurprisingly, the telescope attracted a lot of interest and people came to Slough from far and wide to see it.

We’d love to say that Slough has the accolade of being the place was discovered, but that’s not true.

What Herschel did do in the town was discover two of its moons, plus another two orbiting Saturn.

His telescope also showed an incredible 75 million more stars than had ever been before.

The word ‘asteroid” was also his invention.

This was also done alongside playing the violin, the harpsichord and, later, the organ.

The house, known as Observatory House, was in Windsor Road.

It was knocked down with little ceremony in 1960.

Slough now contains the Observatory Shopping Centre – which could soon be replaced and a monument to the great astronomer in Herschel Street.

There is also the “outstanding” rated Herschel Grammar School.

Astronomer Patrick Moore said of him: “William Herschel was the first man to give a reasonably correct picture of the shape of our star-system or galaxy; he was the best telescope-maker of his time, and possibly the greatest observer who ever lived.”

Herschel is buried at St Laurence Church in Upton.

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