Herschel Museum of Astronomy is a fascinating little museum in Bath. If you are interested in science and history, this should be on your to-visit list if you are holidaying in Bath.
The Museum has only a few rooms open to the public, but there are a lot of interesting things to see. It was the home of the Herschels in the 18th century. William Herschel, see painting, arrived in Bath from Hanover, planning to start a career as a musician and composer. He was soon joined by his sister Caroline.
William Herschel (1738–1822)
On 13th March 1781, William discovered a new planet while stargazing in his garden where is now the museum, with a telescope he built himself. This is a replica of that telescope with which Herschel discovered Uranus. This was one of the best designs he made and there are a few left in existence. He also discovered infrared radiation. He was rewarded for his scientific achievements by King George III.
I mentioned his sister earlier, Caroline Herschel (1750–1848). She was acknowledged as William’s “astronomical assistant” by him. Her work as an astronomer was recognized and she was even paid for her scientific work. That is pretty amazing considering the role of women in that period and also that they were not even allowed to study at University. She discovered eight comets and has received awards like Gold Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society in 1828.
William’s son, John Herschel (1792 –1871), continued their legacy and he mapped the skies of the Southern Hemisphere from an observatory he built in Southern Africa.
This is one of William’s original workshops. He made here mirrors for his telescopes. The floor is still cracked, after he had an accident in 1781, when molten metal leaked from the furnace and made the flagstone explode. Caroline wrote a description of this in her diary.
The furnace is a replica as the original didn’t survive.
This astrolabe dates from 1836. I had no idea before visiting the museum, but these were invented in the 2nd century BCE.
William’s travel diary from 1810 to 1813. He made all sort of fascinating descriptions in his diary, being interested in things like industrial machinery.
I did enjoy my visit to the museum. It has a short film and I would recommend starting with that. I loved discovering more about Caroline and William. Do visit the museum if you have the chance.
Herschel Museum of Astronomy is in 19 New King Street, Bath BA1 2BL. There isn’t a car park available for visitors nearby, as the museum is located in a house. But there are plenty of car parks in Bath’s city centre and the museum is only a short walk from there. The entry fee is £6.70 for adults. If you want to see more details, check their website at herschelmuseum.org.uk