Herschel Museum at Bath

Today, I had the pleasure of visiting 19, New Kings Street, Bath, otherwise known as the Herschel Museum. It was from its back garden that William Herschel discovered the planet, Uranus in 1781.

What I found surprising was that it was such a small place. Yes it was spread over five floors, although we were only allowed to view three floors. How could such a small place place produce such a momentous event of scientific discovery? How could it contain William and his sister, Caroline Lucretia Herschel, both people overflowing in genius?

I also noticed the decor was good at hiding the coal dust, a big problem in those days, but then you would expect a woman to notice such things…

What I found really extraordinary was that in the little house William was able to make his instruments (musical as well as astronomical) from scratch, including having a small foundry to melt and mould metals. And it acted as a home as well. So compact!

Go there if you have a chance…

But this does bring up the question of where did Britain lose its way in being the forefront of scientific discoveries? You only need to look at the history of John Couch-Adams and the discovery of the planet, Neptune to understand why. If it hadn’t been for the part George Airy played in that story, Britain rather then France and Germany would have been the first to discover Neptune. I don’t know of anyone that has written an alternate history where Neptune is discovered by the telescopes at Cambridge University. But think how it could have changed what scientific discoveries were made when. This would have inevitably led to different systems being used in society! Britain could have invented the rocket for instance, rather than passing a safety law in 1875 that prevented people having and using rockets. And what a difference that coud have made to World War 2…. The mind boggles…

2 thoughts on “Herschel Museum at Bath

  1. Rosie I envy you for living in England and getting to visit the Herschel Museum. I’ve read about him and Caroline in The Age of Wonders, and I just bought The Georgian Star, a small book about their work. I wish you had taken pictures for your blog. I’ve never been to England but I spend a lot of time there in fiction. I’ve recent read Trollope’s The Way We Live Now and Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, and, Middlemarch by George Elliot.

    1. You have some lovely places in the US. Only they’re different from England. And you can do things on a bigger scale from the skyscrapers of New York, through the wide open prairies, the mountainous rockies and the long undulating west coast. One of the things I personally would like to see is an ‘scientific and industrial museum’ trail in this country. There is for instance George Stephenson’s statue outside Chesterfield station. Brunel’s SS Great Britain docked in Bristol harbour. The Wheal Jane tin mine museum open in Cornwall. And of course the Railway museums throughout Britain, my personal favourite being the North York Moors Railway (used in the first two Potter films). And so much more to enjoy, the world over. After all, variety s the spice of life they say.

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