November 15 was the birthday of composer and astronomer Sir William Herschel (1738-1822). As a musician who also discovered the planet Uranus, Herschel plays a starring role in Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Knopf, 2009), a book that is one of our points of departure at The 18th-Century Common. On November 15, 2012, the radio program Composers Datebook played Herschel’s Oboe Concerto in C; you can listen the program here. A short biography of Herschel can be found here. A collection of the papers of William Herschel, Caroline Herschel, and John F. W. Herschel are housed at the Royal Astronomical Society. You can see a picture of the 20-foot telescope Herschel built here. You can explore Herschel’s accounts of his astronomical findings at 18thConnect.org, where I’ve created an “Exhibit” of 4 texts. Tristra Johnson examines the representation of gender in Holmes’ account of William Herschel and his sister Caroline Herschel for The 18th-Century Common here.
Jessica Richard is an Associate Professor of English at Wake Forest University where she specializes in eighteenth-century British fiction. She is Co-Editor of 18th-Century Common.