Sir William Herschel, German-British astronomer, 1794.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Photograph of a pastel drawing by John Rusell of Sir William Herschel (1738-1822) in 1794. This portrait was composed to celebrate Herschel's discovery of the planet Uranus and shows him holding a strip of paper labelled 'The Georgian Planet with its satellites'. 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. A figure from Greek mythology, Uranus was the first king of the gods, whose sons included Cronos, or Saturn, of the Roman myths. Dimensions: 600mm x 450mm.