Thursday, 4 August 2011

George is particularly bright this evening

William Herschel was a great astronomer, and, it is rumoured, not a bad composer. (I recently asked the RSCM if they had any copies of his anthems, but sadly they don't.) After all he was technically a professional musician and an amateur astronomer - though only amateur in the sense that Patrick Moore is an amateur.

He is arguably Slough's greatest claim to fame. It was there he erected his monster telescope (though, to be honest he did his best work with smaller instruments), and there he lived in Observatory House. This being the case, Slough could be expected to make a big thing of Herschel. No doubt turning Observatory House into a tourist attraction and allowing people to see a reconstruction of his telescope? Well, no. They pulled Observatory House down and have nothing much to show for Herschel's presence. Nice one, Slough.

The planet George
But what started me on this post was Herschel's name for the planet he discovered. He was the first person since the ancients to find a new planet - pretty impressive stuff. And he called it... George. (Well, to be precise, Georgium Sidus, but I'm sure everyone knew it as George.) After his patron, the King.

We know it now as Uranus, a name given to it (rather presumptuously if you ask me) by a later astronomer Johann Bode. But just imagine if Herschel's name had stuck. I think it would be rather fun. We would have none of that childish sniggering along the lines of 'I can see Uranus.' Instead we would be able to comment 'I say, George looks awfully fine this evening.' It would transform a list of the planets. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, George, Neptune is just so much more enjoyable.

Let's have a campaign to bring back George!

Image from Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. Great idea, Brian. By the way, there is a Herschel House, in Bath. In fact I used to live next door to it - a proximity to be proud of