Sir William Herschel, German-British astronomer, 1814.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving by James Godby from a drawing by Rehberg in 1814 showing William Herschel (1738-1822) in old age. This portrait depicts the atronomer against a backdrop of the night sky with the stars of the constellation of Gemini. It was composed to celebrate Herschel's discovery of the planet Uranus on 13 March 1781. Overnight, Herschel was transformed from an obscure musician into a celebrity for uncovering the first new planet since Antiquity. Appointed royal astronomer by King George III (1738-1820), he acknowledged his royal patron by naming the new planet 'Georgium Sidus' ('Georgian Star'). The name was later dropped in favour of Uranus.