Herschel, John Frederick William

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Herschel, John Frederick William


Born Mar. 7, 1792, in Slough; died May 11, 1871, in Collingwood, Kent County. British astronomer; son of W. Herschel. Several times president of the London Royal Astronomical Society.

Herschel graduated from Cambridge University in 1813 and took up astronomy in 1816, first as an assistant to his father. He continued and substantially expanded his father’s research on stars (especially double stars) and nebulas. In 1831 he proposed a fixed scale of stellar magnitudes, analogous to the one introduced later (1856) by the British astronomer N. Pogson. To continue similar research of the southern sky, he traveled to the Cape of Good Hope, where from 1834 to 1838 he conducted systematic observations of the southern sky; discovered a large number of double stars, star clusters, and nebulas; and studied their distribution on the celestial sphere. After returning to England, he published the results of his observations in 1847. Herschel discovered a total of more than 3,000 double stars and compiled 11 catalogs of them, and he published (1864) a complete general catalog (GC) of all nebulas and star clusters, numbering 5,079 objects. He made one of the earliest estimates of the specific amount of heat coming from the sun to the earth. In the field of photography Herschel discovered the fixing property of hyposulfite (1819), invented (1839, independently of W. H. F. Talbot) the method of photography on sensitized paper, and introduced the terms “negative” and “positive.” He was buried in Westminster Abbey near the grave of I. Newton.


Scientific Papers, vols. 1-2. London, 1912.
In Russian translation:
Ocherki astronomii, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1861-62.


Klark, A. Obshchedostupnaia istoriia astronomii v 19 stoletii. Odessa, 1913.
Clerke, A. M. The Herschels and Modern Astronomy. London, 1895.
Macpherson, H. Herschel. London-New York, 1919.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.