William Herschel (top left), one of the most important astronomers of the last two centuries, was born in November 1738. He discovered the planet Uranus (lower right) and built some of the world's best telescopes, including this 40-foot monster (center), which was the largest of its day. He was also an accomplished composer (the score to one of his symphonies, top right) and musician.
If not for a late-blooming interest in the heavens, William Herschel might be best known as a pretty good composer and musician. He wrote more than 200 works of music, including 24 symphonies. This one is his “Chamber Symphony in F Major,” performed by The Mozart Orchestra and provided courtesy of Newport Classic .
Herschel was born 275 years ago this week. He turned to astronomy in his mid-30s, and in five decades of work he discovered the planet Uranus, infrared energy, hundreds of binary star systems, and thousands of deep-space objects.
Before he became an astronomer, though, Herschel was a musician. He started as a member of a military band in his native Germany. He moved to England when he was 19 to avoid a war. He quickly became a church organist and director of public concerts in the city of Bath. He played violin and several other instruments, and taught music lessons.
Herschel also was a prolific composer. He wrote solos for various instruments, as well as sonatas, minuets, and many others.
Herschel scaled back his musical career after he earned an appointment as the King’s Astronomer for discovering the planet Uranus. In recent years, though, several of his symphonies have been recorded by modern orchestras — keeping alive the musical heritage of one of history’s greatest astronomers.
More about Herschel tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013
Sir William Herschel: Music by the Father of Modern Astronomy (NPD85612)
Courtesy of Newport Classic Ltd., 11 Willow Street, Newport, RI 02840
Available at newportclassic.com  and on itunes
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