Life in the time of Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel
By Anna Campbell
Look to the Stars! Two important Georgian Astronomers — and One is a Woman!
Hi Mary Anne! Thank you for having me as your guest today on The Coffee Pot Book Club. I always love visiting and talking to your readers.
The Highlander’s English Bride, my new release, is a Regency romance set in both London and Scotland, and the hero is an astronomer. Not only that, the heroine is also a scientist who was her famous astronomer father’s right-hand woman.
I set up Hamish Douglas, Laird of Glen Lyon, as a future astronomer way back when I wrote the prologue for book 1 of the Lairds Most Likely series, The Laird’s Willful Lass, released in 2018. This latest one is book 6 in the series, so it’s taken me a while to get here but finally I made it!
As I wrote this story, I had such fun throwing astronomical details and star imagery into the mix. My hero Hamish is all set to emulate his hero, the discoverer of the planet Uranus, William Herschel. My heroine, Emily Baylor, who chafes at the restrictions placed on a woman wishing to succeed in the scientific world, idolises William Herschel’s sister, Caroline. So I thought today I’d say a few words about both of these brilliant German emigrés to Britain and their contributions to science.
William Herschel was born Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel in 1738 in Hanover, Germany. If he wasn’t so famous as an astronomer, he’d be remembered in a minor way as a composer. He played in a military band, was an excellent performer on oboe, violin, harpsichord and organ, and wrote a large number of works including 24 symphonies.
|1785 portrait of Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel by Lemuel Francis Abbott — Wikipedia.|
William immigrated to England in 1757 and soon found work as a musician. Eventually he settled in Bath. His interests turned towards mathematics and astronomy, and he started a systematic search for double stars. His work in this field laid the foundation for modern binary star astronomy. He also gained an international reputation as a designer and builder of telescopes.
His most famous achievement is the discovery of Uranus in 1781. Originally he called the planet the Georgian Star in honor of King George III, who would become an important patron. The French however didn’t like this much, and they called the new planet Herschel. Eventually Uranus was the name that stuck.
The list of William’s scientific achievements is long and impressive – well worth looking up. Among them, he proved that coral wasn’t a plant; he discovered infrared radiation in sunlight; he discovered two new moons for Saturn and two for Uranus; and he postulated a link between sunspot activity and climatic conditions on earth.
He died at Slough in 1822, lauded throughout the world for his scientific work and laden with honours, including membership of the Royal Society and the first presidency of the Astronomical Society (later the Royal Astronomical Society).
Caroline Herschel was born in Hanover in 1850 and her childhood sounds sad, but typical for that era. Her mother refused her the education she longed for and treated her as an unpaid servant. She fell ill with typhus when she was ten and that disease stunted her growth – she was only 4 foot 3 – and affected the vision in her left eye.
|Caroline Herschel at 78, one year after winning the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1828.|
After her father’s death (her father had given her some tutoring on the sly), her brother invited her to England to become his housekeeper. There she finally had the opportunity to study. She ended up becoming both a professional musician and her brother’s scientific assistant. In 1783, she made her first discovery in her own right, a nebula. Through the coming years, Caroline stacked up an impressive number of firsts, including:
The first woman to receive a salary as a scientist
The first woman to receive a government salary
The first woman to be elected an (honorary) member of the Royal Society along with Mary Somerville, another very impressive and interesting Regency scientist
The first woman to receive the Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal. This was in 1828. We had to wait until 1996 to see another woman (Vera Rubin) receive this particular accolade!
During her career, Caroline discovered eight comets and completed a number of significant catalogues of heavenly objects. She returned to Hanover in 1822 after William’s death, and continued her work there until her death at the age of 98 in 1848. The asteroid 281 Lucretia is named after her (Lucretia was her middle name).
I admire William. How could I not? For a start, I love that his talents covered such a wide field. But I have to say I’m in complete awe of Caroline. Given the odds stacked against her, she must have been both astonishingly clever and remarkably determined to achieve what she did.
I’ve got a download of The Highlander’s English Bride to give away today. International. To be in the draw, just tell me a female historical figure you admire and why. Scroll down and leave your answers in the comments!
The Highlander’s English Bride
By Anna Campbell
An impossible pairing…
Hamish Douglas, the mercurial Laird of Glen Lyon, has never got along with independent, smart-mouthed Emily Baylor. Which wouldn’t matter if this brilliant Scottish astronomer didn’t move in the same scientific circles as Emily and if her famous father wasn’t his mentor. But when Emily looks likely to derail the event which will make Hamish’s career, he loses his temper with the pretty miss and his recklessness leaves her reputation in ruins.
A marriage made in scandal…
Emily has always thought her father’s spectacular protégé was far too arrogant for his own good. But what is she to do when the only way she can save her good name in society is to wed the unruly laird? Reluctantly she accepts Hamish’s proposal, but only on the condition that their union remains chaste. That shouldn’t be a problem; they’ve never been friends, let alone potential lovers – except that after they marry, Hamish reveals unexpected depths and a host of admirable qualities, and he’s so awfully handsome, and now the swaggering rogue admits that he desires her…
From the ballrooms of London to the grandeur of the western Highlands, a battle royal rages between these two strong-willed combatants. Neither plans to yield an inch – but are these smart people smart enough to see that sometimes the greatest victory lies in mutual surrender?
Pick up your copy of
The Highlander’s English Bride
ANNA CAMPBELL has written 10 award-winning historical romances for Grand Central Publishing and Avon HarperCollins and her work is published in 22 languages. She has also written 23 bestselling independently published romances. Anna has won numerous awards for her Regency-set stories including Romantic Times Reviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill (three times), the Heart of Excellence (twice), the Write Touch, the Aspen Gold (twice) and the Australian Romance Readers Association’s favorite historical romance (five times). Anna is currently engaged in writing the Lairds Most Likely series which starts with The Laird’s Willful Lass (2018). When she’s not travelling the world seeking inspiration for her stories, she lives on the beautiful east coast of Australia.