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The Abbey Hotel Create a Jane Austen Cocktail – ‘Northangover Abbey’

The Independent Bath Literature Festival is just around the corner, with the first events due to start on Friday 26th February 2016. The 10-day celebration of the written word has a packed program catering for an impressive variety of literary tastes. Among their headline shows is the ‘Literary Death Match’, hosted at The Abbey Hotel‘s Igloo venue. The contest will see four authors compete in a 7-minute ‘write-off’ with hints at a humorous finale.

Rachael-Williams-Northanger-Abber-Cocktail-Northangover

As well as hosting events, The Abbey Hotel are sponsoring the festival and are welcoming visitors into their Art Bar and Allium Restaurant where they can save 10% on food and drinks by showing a ticket or wristband. Their quality offerings include a special literary-themed cocktail list that includes a cocktail named in honour of The Jane Austen CentreThe Northangover Abbey!

For those not in the know, it is widely believed that Northanger Abbey is in fact based on real-life happenings in Bath (that’s our Abbey !). It’s therefore very fitting that The Abbey hotel would choose this particular novel as their cocktail’s namesake. We haven’t yet been told what’s in the cocktail yet but we hope to reveal the recipe after the festival concludes.

If you’d like to try one for yourself, the Northangover Abbey cocktail plus five other marvels of mixology will be on sale from Friday 26th February until Sunday March 2nd 2016.

The Abbey Hotel Bath Literary Festival Cocktail List

No Country For Old Fashioned Men
Lime & Punishment
Northangover Abbey
Tequila Mockingbird
Bloody Mary Poppins
The Prime Of Miss Gin Brodie

Each cocktail will sell for £9, exclusive of the ‘No Country For Old Fashioned Men’ which will be £15. Festival attendees can get 10% off their cocktails and food at Art Bar and Allium by showing their ticket / wristband when ordering.

Northanger Abbey Penguin Vintage Classics

 

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Jane Austen Day – 16th December 2015

Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Happy Jane Austen Day!

 

Happy Jane Austen Day

Today we’re celebrating Jane’s birthday in Bath at the Jane Austen Centre and on the streets of the city.

At the Centre we been performing traditional carols, giving out Cassandra Austen’s recipe plum pudding and mulled wine and generally having a bit of fun on this special day.

Have you done anything for Jane Austen Day? Let us know.

Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

We’ve been asking members of the public if anyone knows what day it is. The results are great and you can see a short film we’ve made below.

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2015 Jane Austen Festival in Bath

Attend The Jane Austen Festival...
Jane Austen Festival Promenade
Festival Promenaders taking a break.

The Jane Austen Festival starts on the 12th of September and looks like it will be the biggest and best ever.

Jackie Herring, Jane Austen Festival Director is happy with the arrangements and ticket sales. ‘Lots of events have already sold out but there are still a few tickets left. If you want to see something spectacular turn up on to the Regency Promenade on Saturday. Watch 600 spectacular promenaders in their Regency finery as they take to the streets of Bath.’

The event has been covered by The Bath Chronicle. Take a look at their article here

More Promenade information;

Each year the Jane Austen Festival officially opens with our world famous Grand Regency Costumed Promenade. The Promenade is a parade through the streets of this beautiful city and over 500 people all in 18th Century costume take part, making it a record breaking event. In 2014 the Jane Austen Festival achieved the Guinness World Record TM for ‘The largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes at 550′ All sorts of people take part from the very young to the young at heart plus red coats, dancers and our official town crier.

The Promenade stops the traffic in Gay Street, The Circus, George Street, Milsom Street and Orange Grove, making it difficult for drivers from 11am until 12.30pm on Saturday 12th September 2015.

ALL participants wear costume to take part in the Promenade and also purchase a ticket, the cost is £10 per adult, children 16 and under are free. £1 from every ticket sold is donated to the Festival’s charity, (2015 it is Whizz-Kidz) Tickets are in the form of a collectable wristband and on sale from the Online giftshop or by post from The Jane Austen Festival office c/o 40 Gay Street, Bath BA1 2NT from 2nd March 2015.

Don’t forget your festival souvenirs… Our Jane Austen Festival 2015 range is limited edition so once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Jane Austen Festival Mug Souvenir

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Sally Lunn Buns or Solilemmes

800px-Sally_Lunn's_famous_bun

A Sally Lunn is a large bun or teacake made with a yeast dough including cream, eggs, and spice, similar to the sweet brioche breads of France. Served warm and sliced, with butter, it was first recorded in 1780 in the spa town of Bath in southwest England, though it is not the same as Dr. Oliver’s Bath Bun.

A selection of Sally Lunn buns on display.
A selection of Sally Lunn buns on display.

The origins of the Sally Lunn are shrouded in myth – one theory is that it is an anglicisation of “Sol et lune” (French for “sun and moon”), representing the golden crust and white base/interior. The Sally Lunn Eating House claims that the recipe was brought to Bath in the 1680s by a Huguenot refugee called Solange Luyon, who became known as Sally Lunn, but there is no evidence to support this theory.

There is a passing mention of “Sally Lunn and saffron cake” in a 1776 poem about Dublin by the Irish poet William Preston. The first recorded mention of the bun in Somerset is as part of a detox regime in Philip Thicknesse’ 1780 guidebook to taking the waters at Bath. Thicknesse describes how he would daily see visitors drinking 2-3 pints of Bath water and then “sit down to a meal of Sally Lunns or hot spungy rolls, made high by burnt butter!”. He recommends against the practice as his brother died after this kind of breakfast- “Such a meal, few young men in full health can get over without feeling much inconvenience”.

There is little historical evidence for Sally Lunn as a person. The Gentleman’s Magazine of 1798 uses Sally Lunn as an example during a discussion of foods named after people – ‘a certain sort of hot rolls, now, or not long ago, in vogue at Bath, were gratefully and emphatically styled “Sally Lunns”‘. But it is not until 1827 that a historical person is described by a correspondent of William Hone using the pseudonym “Jehoiada”, who says she had sold the buns on the street “about thirty years ago”. A baker called Dalmer had bought out her business and made it highly successful after he composed a special song for the vendors, who sold the buns from mobile ovens. The earliest evidence of commercial production is an 1819 advert for the Sally Lunn “cakes” sold by W. Needes of Bath, bread and biscuit maker to the Prince Regent.

Westmorland Gazette - Saturday, 23 December 1826.
Westmorland Gazette – Saturday, 23 December 1826.

The Sally Lunn is mentioned alongside muffins and crumpets by Charles Dickens in The Chimes (1845). The same year Eliza Acton gave a recipe in Modern Cookery for Private Families, describing it as a version of “Solimemne – A rich French breakfast cake, or Sally Lunn”. Solilemmes is a kind of brioche that is served warm and popularised by the great Parisian chef Marie-Antoine Carême in a book of 1815. Carême claimed the “solilem” originated in Alsace but there is no evidence to support that claim; he may have taken the idea from contacts in Bath and then tried to disguise the origins of a recipe that came from France’s great enemy.

Sally Lunn's Tea Room in Bath.
Sally Lunn’s Tea Room in Bath.

The medieval building now known as the Sally Lunn Eating House is at 4 North Parade Passage (formerly Lilliput Alley) in Bath (51.3808°N 2.3582°W). The site was originally occupied by the south range of Bath Abbey and the lowest floor level dates to the reconstruction of the abbey after a great fire in 1137. The masonry oven in the basement dates from this time. After the Reformation it came into the hands of the Colthurst family of Wardour Castle who sold it to John Hall of Bradford on Avon in 1612. In 1622 Hall leased the site to George Parker, a carpenter who built the current house. The Hall estate was later acquired by the 2nd Duke of Kingston, who sold the house to William Robinson in 1743. There may have been baking on a small scale during the 1700s but it only became the main commercial use of the building around the turn of the century.

The building was acquired in the 1930s by Marie Byng-Johnson who opened it as a tea-room specializing in Sally Lunn buns, promoted with a story that she had discovered an ancient document in a secret panel above the fireplace explaining that Mlle. Sally Lunn was a young French Huguenot refugee who brought the recipe to Bath around 1680. The building is now Grade II.

This original recipe for Sally Lunn Buns comes in verse form from ‘The Monthly’ Magazine, vol 2, 1796. It is reminiscent of Mrs. Austen’s boiled pudding poem.

RECEIPT TO MAKE A SALLY LUN
A well-known cake at Bath
Written by the late Major DREWE, of Exeter

NO more I heed the muffin zest
The Yorkshire cake or bun
Sweet Muse of Pastry teach me how
To make a Sally Lun.

Take thou of luscious wholesome cream
What the full pint contains
Warm as the native Mood which glows
In youthful virgin’s veins

Hast thou not seen in olive rind
The wall-tree’s rounded nut
Of juicy butter just its size
In thy clean pastry put

Hast thou not seen the golden yolk
In Chrystal shrine immur’d
Whence brooded o’er by sostring wing
Forth springs the warrior bird?

Oh save three birds from savage man
And combat’s sanguine hour
Cush in three yolk, the seeds of life
And on the butter pour

Take then a cup that hold the juice
Fam’d China’s fairest pride
Let foaming yeast its concave fill
And froth adown its side

But seek thou first for neatness sake
The Naiad’s crystal stream
Swift let it round the concave play
And o’er the surface gleam

Of salt more keen than that of Greece
Which cooks not poets use
Sprinkle thou then with sparing hand
And thro the mass diffuse

Then let it rest disturb’d no more
Safe in its steady feat
Till thrice Time’s warning bell hath struck
Nor yet the hour compleat

And now let Fancy revel free
By no stern rule confin’d
On glittr’ing tin in varied form
Each Sally-Lun be twin’d

But heed thou west to lift thy thought
To me thy power divine
Then to the oven’s glowing mouth
The woud’rous work consign

Modern recipes abound, but Eliza Acton’s 1845 recipe from her “English Bread Book for Domestic Use” is considered a standard:

To make a Sally Lunn, dissolve three ounces of good butter, cut small, in less than half of the milk with which the sponge is to be set; cool it down with the remainder; and, if a sweetened preparation be liked, stir three ounces of pounded sugar to the flour before it is moistened; pour gradually the milk and butter to the yeast, of which there must be a full ounce, and proceed in all else as above. Three hours will sometimes be required to bring this sponge to its height. When it is ready add the second pound of flour to it, put it into a round buttered tin or tins, which it should not more than half fill, and when it has risen nearly to the edge let it be put without delay into the oven, and baked a nice brown. An egg or two, when they are considered requisite, can be mixed with the milk and butter either for the Sally Lunn, or to convert the dough into buns; but, to allow for the addition, a few spoonfuls of the milk should be omitted. Carrawayseeds, currants, or candied citron or orange-rind, can be kneaded in with the other ingredients when the second pound of flour is mixed with the sponge, or immediately after it is worked in. Two or three ounces more of sugar may, for many tastes, be thought needful for the buns.

Bread.— Best flour, 1 lb.; new milk, 1 pint; little salt; German yeast, £ oz., to rise 2 hours or more; or yeast, 1 oz., 1 to 2 hours. Flour, 1 additional lb.; to rise 1/2 to 3/4 hour.

Sally Lunn. — Flour, 1 lb.; butter, 3 oz.; pounded sugar, 3 oz.; German yeast, full ounce; 2 to 3 hours, or until extremely light. Flour, in addition, one pound; to stand in tins until risen to their edges.

Buns.—Butter, yeast, and milk, as above, with an addition of sugar and an egg or two at pleasure; carraway-seeds, 1 oz.; or currants, 1/2 lb.

Information and photos from Wikipedia.com

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Apricot Ice Cream

Apricot Ice Cream

Ice Cream, as we know it, was a relatively new invention in Jane Austen’s day. Enjoyed in Italy and France in the 17th c, the first recorded English recipe was published in 1718.

Recipes featuring fruit not available until early summer were, no doubt, a treat reserved for the wealthy, who could afford to buy their ice and keep it cool in ice houses, until wanted. If you did not have access to ice in the summer, you could always visit the local Pastry Cook for a variety of sweets, including ice cream. Molland’s, in Bath, was one such establishment.

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In Jane Austen’s, The Beautiful Cassandra, her heroine “…then proceeded to a Pastry-cook’s, where she devoured six ices, refused to pay for them, knocked down the Pastry Cook & walked away.” Slapstick comedy does seem to have been the name of the game in Austen’s early work. Mr. Punch would be proud. The following recipe for Apricot Ice Cream is taken from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, and is based on one first printed by Hannah Glasse in her Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1755.

Apricot Ice Cream

To Make Ice-Cream
Pare and stone twelve ripe apricots, and scald them, beat them fine in a mortar, add to them six ounces of double refined sugar, and a pint of scalding cream, and work it through a sieve; put it in a tin with a close cover, and set it in a tub of ice broke small, with four handfuls of salt mixed among the ice. When you see your cream grows thick round the edges of your tin, stir it well and put it in again till it is quite thick; when the cream is all froze up, take it out of the tin, and put it into the mould you intend to turn it out of; put on the lid and have another tub of salt and ice ready as before; put the mould in the middle, and lay the ice under and over it; let it stand for four hours, and never turn it out till the moment you want it, then dip the mould in cold spring water, and turn it into a plate. You may do any sort of fruit the same way. HG

  • 12 ripe Apricots
  • 170 g / 6 oz / ¾ cup Powdered Sugar
  • 470 ml / 16 fl oz / 2 cups of Cream

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Score the bottom of each apricot and place them in the pan. Let them boil furiously for 3 minutes. Drain the apricots in a colander and rinse them in cold water. The skins will now slip easily from them. Slice them in half and remove the pits.

Place the apricots, cream and sugar into a blender and purée until smooth. Pour this mixture into a dish with a tight fitting lid and place it in the freezer.

After 1 ½ hours, stir the ice cream so that it is smooth once more and return it to the freezer. Continue this process every few hours until it is semi-hard. Spoon the mixture into prepared moulds or allow it to harden in the dish and serve it in small scoops. You may also use an ice Cream maker to speed this process and produce a uniformly creamy ice cream. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serves 6-8

 

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Caroline Herschel

caroCaroline Lucretia Herschel (16 March 1750 – 9 January 1848) was a German British astronomer and the sister of astronomer Sir William Herschel with whom she worked throughout both of their careers. Her most significant contributions to astronomy were the discoveries of several comets and in particular the periodic comet 35P/Herschel-Rigollet, which bears her name.

She was the first woman to be paid for her contribution to science, to be awarded a Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1828), and to be named an Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society (1835, with Mary Somerville). She was also named an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy (1838). The King of Prussia presented her with a Gold Medal for Science, on the occasion of her 96th birthday (1846).

William_Herschel_Museum_-_Herschel_statue_in_garden
Statue of William and Caroline at the William Herschel Museum , Bath. Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net). Herschel Museum of Astronomy. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org

Caroline Lucretia Herschel was born at Hanover on 16 March 1750. She was the eighth child and fourth daughter of Isaac Herschel and his wife, Anna Ilse Moritzen. Isaac became a bandmaster in the Guards, was away with his regiment for substantial periods, and suffered ill-health after the battle of Dettingen in 1743.

At the age of ten, Caroline was struck with typhus, which stunted her growth, so that she never grew past four-foot three. Her family assumed that she would never marry and her mother felt it was best for her to train to be a house servant. Her father wished her to receive an education, but her mother opposed this. Her father sometimes took advantage of her mother’s absence to teach her directly or include her in her brother’s lessons. Caroline was allowed to learn millinery and dress-making and worked hard at various types of fancy-work, with a view to someday supporting herself.

"The Octagon Bath" by Ngw2009 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Octagon_Bath.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_Octagon_Bath.jpg
Interior of the Octogon Chapel, Bath, circa 1900, by Ngw2009 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Octagon_Bath.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_Octagon_Bath.jpg

Following her father’s death, her brother William proposed that she join him in Bath, England, “to make the trial if by his instruction I might not become a useful singer for his winter concerts and oratorios”.Caroline eventually left Hanover on 16 August 1772, and accompanied her brother William back to England. There she took on the responsibilities of running his household, and learning to sing. William had established himself as an organist and music teacher at 19 New King Street, Bath, Somerset (now the Herschel Museum of Astronomy). He was also the choirmaster of the Octagon Chapel. William was busy with his musical career and became fairly busy organising public concerts. Caroline took several singing lessons a day from William. She became the principal singer at his oratorio concerts, and acquired such a reputation as a vocalist that she was offered an engagement for the Birmingham festival. She declined to sing for any conductor but William. But it appears that Caroline did not blend in with the local society and made few friends.

William and Caroline Herschel polishing a telescope lens, 1896 Lithograph.
William and Caroline Herschel polishing a telescope lens, 1896 Lithograph.

When William became increasingly interested in astronomy, transforming himself from a musician to an astronomer, Caroline again supported his efforts. She said somewhat bitterly, in her Memoir, “I did nothing for my brother but what a well-trained puppy dog would have done, that is to say, I did what he commanded me.” It is clear, however, from the independent work she did during William’s lifetime, from her work after William’s death, and from the interest in astronomy displayed in her letters throughout her life, that Caroline became as interested in astronomy as William. She became a significant astronomer in her own right as a result of her collaboration with him.

Throughout her writings, she repeatedly makes it clear that she desires to earn an independent wage and be able to support herself. When the state began paying her for her assistance to her brother, she became the first woman—at a time when even men rarely received wages for scientific enterprises—to receive a salary for services to science.

640px-Caroline_Herschel's_telescope
Telescope created for Caroline by William, 1795, Photo by Geni. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org

When William married a rich widow, Mary Pitt (née Baldwin), in 1788, the union caused tension in the brother-sister relationship. Caroline has been referred to as a bitter, jealous woman who worshiped her brother and resented those who invaded their domestic lives. In his book The Age of Wonder, Richard Holmes is more sympathetic to Caroline’s position, noting that the change was in many respects negative for Caroline. With the arrival of William’s wife, Caroline lost her managerial and social responsibilities in the household and accompanying status. According to her memoir, she also moved from the house to external lodgings, returning daily to work with her brother. She no longer held the keys to the observatory and workroom, where she had done much of her own work. Because she destroyed her journals from 1788 to 1798, her feelings about the period are not entirely known. Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond indicated she and her brother continued working well during this period. When her brother and his family were away from home, she often returned there to take care of it for them. In later life, she and Lady Herschel exchanged affectionate letters and she became deeply attached to her nephew, astronomer John Herschel.

William’s marriage likely led to Caroline’s becoming more independent of her brother and more a figure in her own right. Caroline made many discoveries independently of William, and continued to work solo on many of the astronomical projects which contributed to her rise to fame.

The front of the Herschel Museum in Bath.
The front of the Herschel Museum in Bath.

William’s interest in astronomy started as a hobby to pass time at night. At breakfast the next day he would give an impromptu lecture on what he had learned the night before. Caroline became as interested as William, stating that she was “much hindered in my practice by my help being continually wanted in the execution of the various astronomical contrivances.”William became known for his work on high performance telescopes, and Caroline found herself supporting his efforts. Caroline spent many hours polishing mirrors and mounting telescopes in order to maximize the amount of light captured. She learned to copy astronomical catalogues and other publications that William had borrowed. She also learned to record, reduce, and organise her brother’s astronomical observations. She recognised that this work demanded speed, precision and accuracy.

Herschel's 40-foot telescope.
Herschel’s 40-foot telescope.

In 1782, William accepted the office of King’s Astronomer to George III and moved to Datchet and subsequently to Observatory House near Slough (then in Buckinghamshire, now in Berkshire). The new job proved to be a mixed blessing; although it left him with ample free time to continue his astronomical observations, it also meant a reduction in income and being called upon by the king for entertainment at any time. During this time William perfected his telescope making, building a series of ever larger devices that ultimately ended with his famous 40-foot (12 m) focal length instrument. Caroline was his constant assistant in his observations, also performing the laborious calculations with which they were connected. During one such observation run on the large telescope in 1783, Caroline became caught on an iron hook and when she was helped off “…they could not lift me without leaving nearly 2 ounces (60 g) of my flesh behind.”

At William’s suggestion, Caroline began to make observations on her own in 1782. During her leisure hours she occupied herself with observing the sky with a 27-inch (690 mm) focal length Newtonian telescope and by this means detected a number of astronomical objects during the years 1783–87, including most notably an independent discovery of M110 (NGC 205), the second companion of the Andromeda Galaxy. During 1786–97 she also discovered eight comets, her first comet being discovered on 1 August 1786. She had unquestioned priority as discoverer of five of the comets and rediscovered Comet Encke in 1795. In 1787, she was granted an annual salary of £50 (equivalent to £5,500 in 2015) by George III for her work as William’s assistant.

Caroline's dress on display at the William Herschel museum, Bath.
“The dress on display in the drawing room of the museum was worn and probably made by Caroline, and its simple design reflects the simple tastes and unassuming nature of this remarkable woman. It is made of white muslin, with a pale blue flower decoration, and has a cross-over boudice and lacy trim at the long sleeves. The dress dates to the last decade of the 18th century, so Caroline would probably have been in her forties when she wore it. The pleats and seams are all hand stitched and it has a couple of small patches, which are well disguised.” At the William Herschel Museum, Bath. Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net). Herschel Museum of Astronomy.

In 1797 William’s observations had shown that there were a great many discrepancies in the star catalogue published by John Flamsteed, which was difficult to use due to its having been published as two volumes, the catalogue proper and a volume of original observations. William realised that he needed a proper cross-index to properly explore these differences but was reluctant to devote time to it at the expense of his more interesting astronomical activities. He therefore recommended to Caroline that she undertake the task. The resulting Catalogue of Stars was published by the Royal Society in 1798 and contained an index of every observation of every star made by Flamsteed, a list of errata, and a list of more than 560 stars that had not been included.

Caroline returned to Hanover in 1822 following her brother’s death, continuing her astronomical studies to verify and confirm William’s findings and producing a catalogue of nebulae to assist her nephew John Herschel in his work.

Herschel was awarded a gold medal from the Astronomical Society of London, and another from the King of Prussia. The gold medal from the Astronomical Society was awarded to her in 1828 “for her recent reduction, to January, 1800, of the [2,500] Nebulæ discovered by her illustrious brother, which may be considered as the completion of a series of exertions probably unparalleled either in magnitude or importance in the annals of astronomical labour.” She completed this work after her brother’s death and her removal to Hanover.

The Royal Astronomical Society elected her an Honorary Member in 1835, along with Mary Somerville; they were the first women members. In 1838 she was notified by Sir William Hamilton, Astronomer Royal, Dublin that she had also been elected as an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.

"Herschel Caroline age 92" by Mrs. John Herschel
“Herschel Caroline age 92” by Mrs. John Herschel

In 1846, at the age of 96, she was awarded a Gold Medal for Science by the King of Prussia, conveyed to her by Alexander von Humboldt, “in recognition of the valuable services rendered to Astronomy by you, as the fellow-worker of your immortal brother, Sir William Herschel, by discoveries, observations, and laborious calculations”.[2]

Caroline Herschel died at Hanover on 9 January 1848. She is buried at 35 Marienstrasse in Hanover at the cemetery of the Gartengemeinde

 

From Wikipedia.com

 

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William Herschel and the Bath Museum of Astronomy

William and Caroline Herschel polishing a telescope lens, 1896 Lithograph.

Sir Frederick William Herschel, KH, FRS  (15 November 1738 – 25 August 1822) was a German-born British astronomer, composer, and brother of Caroline Herschel. Born in the Electorate of Hanover, Herschel followed his father into the Military Band of Hanover, before migrating to Great Britain at the age of nineteen.

Replica in the William Herschel Museum, Bath, of a telescope similar to that with which Herschel discovered Uranus
Replica in the William Herschel Museum, Bath, of a telescope similar to that with which Herschel discovered Uranus

Herschel became interested in astronomy in 1773, and after constructing his first large telescope in Bath, in 1774, he spent nine years carrying out thorough sky surveys, where his purpose was the investigation of double stars. The resolving power of the Herschel telescopes revealed that the nebulae in the Messier catalogue were clusters of stars: catalogues of nebulae were published in 1802 (2,500 objects) and 1820 (5,000 objects). In the course of an observation on 13 March 1781 he realized that one celestial body he had observed was not a star, but a planet, Uranus. This was the first planet to be discovered since antiquity and Herschel became famous overnight. As a result of this discovery George III appointed him ‘Court Astronomer’. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society and grants were provided for the construction of new telescopes.

Uranusandrings
A 1998 false-colour near-infrared image of Uranus showing cloud bands, rings, and moons obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope’s NICMOS camera.

Herschel pioneered the use of astronomical spectrophotometry as a diagnostic tool, using prisms and temperature measuring equipment to measure the wavelength distribution of stellar spectra. Other work included an improved determination of the rotation period of Mars, the discovery that the Martian polar caps vary seasonally, the discovery of Titania and Oberon (moons of Uranus) and Enceladus and Mimas (moons of Saturn). In addition, he was the first person to discover the existence of infrared radiation. Herschel was knighted in 1816. He died in August 1822, and his work was continued by his only son, John Herschel.

William Herschel, 1785 by Lemuel Francis Abbot.
William Herschel, 1785 by Lemuel Francis Abbot.

Herschel was born in the Electorate of Hanover in Germany , part of the Holy Roman Empire, one of ten children of Isaac Herschel by his marriage to Anna Ilse Moritzen. His family were Lutheran Christians. The surname, identifying his Jewish origin, is descended–according to Herhsel’s biographer Holden–from Jewish Moravians who converted to Protestantism in the 17th century. His father was an oboist in the Hanover Military Band. In 1755 the Hanoverian Guards regiment, in whose band Wilhelm and his brother Jakob were engaged as oboists, was ordered to England. At the time the crowns of Great Britain and Hanover were united under King George II. As the threat of war with France loomed, the Hanoverian Guards were recalled from England to defend Hanover. After they were defeated at the Battle of Hastenbeck, Herschel’s father Isaak sent his two sons to seek refuge in England in late 1757. Although his older brother Jakob had received his dismissal from the Hanoverian Guards, Wilhelm was accused of desertion (for which he was pardoned by George III in 1782). Wilhelm, nineteen years old at this time, was a quick student of the English language. In England he went by the English rendition of his name, Frederick William Herschel.

In addition to the oboe, he played the violin and harpsichord and later the organ. He composed numerous musical works, including 24 symphonies and many concertos, as well as some church music. Six of his symphonies were recorded in April 2002 by the London Mozart Players, conducted by Matthias Bamert (Chandos 10048).

Original manuscript of Symphony No. 15 in E flat major (1762).
Original manuscript of Symphony No. 15 in E flat major (1762).

Herschel moved to Sunderland in 1761 when Charles Avison immediately engaged him as first violin and soloist for his Newcastle orchestra, where he played for one season. In ‘Sunderland in the County of Durh: apprill [sic] 20th 1761’ he wrote his symphony No. 8 in c minor. He was head of the Durham Militia band 1760–61 and visited the home of Sir Ralph Milbanke at Halnaby Hall in 1760, where he wrote two symphonies, as well as giving performances himself.

"The Octagon Bath" by Ngw2009 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Octagon_Bath.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_Octagon_Bath.jpg
“The Octagon Bath” by Ngw2009 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Octagon_Bath.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_Octagon_Bath.jpg

After Newcastle he moved to Leeds and Halifax where he was the first organist at St John the Baptist church (now Halifax Minster). He became organist of the Octagon Chapel, Bath, a fashionable chapel in a well-known spa, in which city he was also Director of Public Concerts. He was appointed as the organist in 1766 and gave his introductory concert on 1 January 1767. As the organ was still incomplete he showed off his versatility by performing his own compositions including a violin concerto, an oboe concerto and a harpsichord sonata. The organ was completed in October 1767. His sister Caroline came to England in 1772 and lived with him there in New King Street, Bath. The house they shared is now the location of the Herschel Museum of Astronomy. His brothers Dietrich, Alexander and Jakob (1734–1792) also appeared as musicians of Bath. In 1780, Herschel was appointed director of the Bath orchestra, with his sister often appearing as soprano soloist.

The front of the Herschel Museum.
The front of the Herschel Museum of Astronomy in Bath where the Herschels discovered many astronomical wonders, including the planet, Uranus.

Herschel’s music led him to an interest in mathematics and lenses. His interest in astronomy grew stronger after he made the acquaintance of the English Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne. He started building his own reflecting telescopes and would spend up to 16 hours a day grinding and polishing the speculum metal primary mirrors. He “began to look at the planets and the stars” in May 1773 and on 1 March 1774 began an astronomical journal by noting his observations of Saturn’s rings and the Great Orion Nebula (M 42).

Herschel's mirror polisher, on display in the Science Museum, London.
Herschel’s mirror polisher, on display in the Science Museum, London.

Herschel’s early observational work soon focused on the search for pairs of stars that were very close together visually. Astronomers of the era expected that changes over time in the apparent separation and relative location of these stars would provide evidence for both the proper motion of stars and, by means of parallax shifts in their separation, for the distance of stars from the Earth (a method first suggested by Galileo Galilei). From the back garden of his house in New King Street, Bath, and using a 6.2-inch aperture (160 mm), 7-foot focal length (2.1 m) (f/13) Newtonian telescope “with a most capital speculum” of his own manufacture, in October 1779, Herschel began a systematic search for such stars among “every star in the Heavens”, with new discoveries listed through 1792. He soon discovered many more binary and multiple stars than expected, and compiled them with careful measurements of their relative positions in two catalogues presented to the Royal Society in London in 1782 (269 double or multiple systems) and 1784 (434 systems). A third catalogue of discoveries made after 1783 was published in 1821 (145 systems).

An interior of the home at 19 New King Street, Bath, which is now the Herschel Museum of Astronomy.
An interior of the home at 19 New King Street, Bath, which is now the Herschel Museum of Astronomy.

In 1797 Herschel measured many of the systems again, and discovered changes in their relative positions that could not be attributed to the parallax caused by the Earth’s orbit. He waited until 1802 (in Catalogue of 500 new Nebulae, nebulous Stars, planetary Nebulae, and Clusters of Stars; with Remarks on the Construction of the Heavens) to announce the hypothesis that the two stars might be “binary sidereal systems” orbiting under mutual gravitational attraction, a hypothesis he confirmed in 1803 in his Account of the Changes that have happened, during the last Twenty-five Years, in the relative Situation of Double-stars; with an Investigation of the Cause to which they are owing. In all, Herschel discovered over 800 confirmed double or multiple star systems, almost all of them physical rather than virtual pairs. His theoretical and observational work provided the foundation for modern binary star astronomy; new catalogues adding to his work were not published until after 1820 by Friedrich Wilhelm Struve, James South and John Herschel.

In March 1781, during his search for double stars, Herschel noticed an object appearing as a nonstellar disk. Herschel originally thought it was a comet or a star. He made many more observations of it, and afterwards Russian Academician Anders Lexell computed the orbit and found it to be probably planetary. Herschel determined in agreement that it must be a planet beyond the orbit of Saturn. He called the new planet the ‘Georgian star’ (Georgium sidus) after King George III, which also brought him favour; the name did not stick. In France, where reference to the British king was to be avoided if possible, the planet was known as ‘Herschel’ until the name ‘Uranus’ was universally adopted. The same year, Herschel was awarded the Copley Medal and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1782, he was appointed “The King’s Astronomer” (not to be confused with the Astronomer Royal). He and his sister subsequently moved to Datchet (then in Buckinghamshire but now in Berkshire) on 1 August 1782. He continued his work as a telescope maker and achieved an international reputation for their manufacture, profitably selling over 60 completed reflectors to British and Continental astronomers.

NGC 2683 is an unbarred spiral galaxy discovered by William Herschel on 5 February 1788.
NGC 2683 is an unbarred spiral galaxy discovered by William Herschel on 5 February 1788.

From 1782 to 1802, and most intensively from 1783 to 1790, Herschel conducted systematic surveys in search of “deep sky” or nonstellar objects with two 20-foot focal length (610 cm), 12-inch aperture (30 cm) and 18.7-inch aperture (47 cm) telescopes (in combination with his favoured 6-inch aperture instrument). Excluding duplicated and “lost” entries, Herschel ultimately discovered over 2400 objects defined by him as nebulae. (At that time, nebula was the generic term for any visually extended or diffuse astronomical object, including galaxies beyond the Milky Way, until galaxies were confirmed as extragalactic systems by Edwin Hubble in 1924.)

Herschel published his discoveries as three catalogues: Catalogue of One Thousand New Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (1786), Catalogue of a Second Thousand New Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (1789) and the previously cited Catalogue of 500 New Nebulae … (1802). He arranged his discoveries under eight “classes”: (I) bright nebulae, (II) faint nebulae, (III) very faint nebulae, (IV) planetary nebulae, (V) very large nebulae, (VI) very compressed and rich clusters of stars, (VII) compressed clusters of small and large [faint and bright] stars, and (VIII) coarsely scattered clusters of stars. Herschel’s discoveries were supplemented by those of Caroline Herschel (11 objects) and his son John Herschel (1754 objects) and published by him as General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters in 1864. This catalogue was later edited by John Dreyer, supplemented with discoveries by many other 19th century astronomers, and published in 1888 as the New General Catalogue (abbreviated NGC) of 7840 deep sky objects. The NGC numbering is still the most commonly used identifying label for these celestial landmarks.

William and Caroline Herschel polishing a telescope lens, 1896 Lithograph.
William and Caroline Herschel polishing a telescope lens, 1896 Lithograph.

In 1783 he gave Caroline a telescope, and she began to make astronomical discoveries in her own right, particularly comets. She discovered or observed eight comets, eleven nebulae and, at her brother’s suggestion, updated and corrected Flamsteed’s work detailing the position of stars. This was published as the British Catalogue of Stars. She was honoured by the Royal Astronomical Society for this work. Caroline also continued to serve as his assistant, often taking notes while he observed at the telescope.

In June 1785, owing to damp conditions, he and Caroline moved to Clay Hall in Old Windsor. In 1786, the Herschels moved to a new residence on Windsor Road in Slough. He lived the rest of his life in this residence, which came to be known as Observatory House. It is no longer standing.

On 7 May 1788, he married the widow Mary Pitt (née Baldwin) at St Laurence’s Church, Upton in Slough. His sister Caroline then moved to separate lodgings, but continued to work as his assistant.

Herschel's 40-foot telescope.
Herschel’s 40-foot telescope.

During his career, he constructed more than four hundred telescopes. The largest and most famous of these was a reflecting telescope with a 49 12-inch-diameter (1.26 m) primary mirror and a 40-foot (12 m) focal length. Because of the poor reflectivity of the speculum mirrors of that day, Herschel eliminated the small diagonal mirror of a standard newtonian reflector from his design and tilted his primary mirror so he could view the formed image directly. This design has come to be called the Herschelian telescope. On 28 August 1789, his first night of observation using this instrument, he discovered a new moon of Saturn. A second moon followed within the first month of observation. The “40-foot telescope” proved very cumbersome, and most of his observations were done with a smaller 18.5-inch (47 cm) 20-foot-focal-length (6.1 m) reflector. Herschel discovered that unfilled telescope apertures can be used to obtain high angular resolution, something which became the essential basis for interferometric imaging in astronomy (in particular Aperture Masking Interferometry and hypertelescopes).

Herschel was sure that he had found ample evidence of life on the Moon and compared it to the English countryside. He did not refrain himself from theorizing that the other planets were populated, with an special interest in Mars, which was competely in line with most of his contemporary scientists.  At Herschel’s time, scientists tended to believe in a plurality of civilized worlds, while most religious thinkers referred to unique properties of the earth. Herschel went so far to speculate that the interior of the sun was populated.

"Sun in Samuel Dunn Wall Map of the World" by Samuel Dunn and Thomas Kitchin - cropped from (1794 Samuel Dunn Map of the World in Hemispheres). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sun_in_Samuel_Dunn_Wall_Map_of_the_World.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Sun_in_Samuel_Dunn_Wall_Map_of_the_World.jpg
Sunspots, 1794 Samuel Dunn Map of the World in Hemispheres. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org

Herschel started to examine the correlation of solar variation and solar cycle and climate. Over a period of 40 years (1779–1818), Herschel had regularly observed sunspots and their variations in number, form and size. Most of his observations took place in a period of low solar activity, the Dalton minimum. Therefore solar activity behaved very unusually. This was one of the reasons why Herschel was not able to identify the standard 11-year period in solar activity.  Herschel compared his observations with the series of wheat prices published by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations.

1801 Herschel reported his findings to the Royal Society and indicated five prolonged periods of few sunspots correlated with costly wheat.

The result of this review of the foregoing five periods is, that, from the price of wheat, it seems probable that some temporary scarcity or defect of vegetation has generally taken place, when the sun has been without those appearances which we surmise to be symptoms of a copious emission of light and heat.

Herschel’s study was ridiculed by some of his contemporaries but did initiate further attempts to find a correlation. Later in the 19th century, William Stanley Jevons proposed the 11-year- cycle and Herschels basic idea of a correlation between low amount of sunspots and lower yields to explain for recurring booms and slumps in the economy. Herschels speculation on a connection between sunspots and regional climate, using the market price of wheat as a proxy continues to be cited regularly till today.

According a study of the Israel Cosmic Ray Center about the influence of solar activity on the historical wheat market in England, all ten solar cycles between 1600 and 1700 show high wheat prices coinciding with low activity, and vice versa. The topic is still subject of controversies and the significance of the correlation is being doubted by some scientists.

Herschel was a man of science and has several notable discoveries to his credit:

  • In his later career, Herschel discovered two moons of Saturn, Mimas and Enceladus; as well as two moons of Uranus, Titania and Oberon. He did not give these moons their names; they were named by his son John in 1847 and 1852, respectively, after his death.
  • In 2007 evidence was cited by Dr. Stuart Eves that Herschel might have discovered rings around Uranus.
  • Herschel measured the axial tilt of Mars and discovered that the martian ice caps, first observed by Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1666) and Christiaan Huygens (1672), changed size with the planet’s seasons.
  • From studying the proper motion of stars, he was the first to realise that the solar system is moving through space, and he determined the approximate direction of that movement.
  • He also studied the structure of the Milky Way and concluded that it was in the shape of a disk. He incorrectly assumed the sun was in the centre of the disc, a theory known as Galactocentrism, which was eventually corrected by the findings of Harlow Shapley in 1918.
  • He also coined the word “asteroid”, meaning star-like (from the Greek asteroeides, aster “star” + -eidos “form, shape”), in 1802 (shortly after Olbers discovered the second minor planet, 2 Pallas, in late March), to describe the star-like appearance of the small moons of the giant planets and of the minor planets; the planets all show discs, by comparison. By the 1850s ‘asteroid’ became a standard term for describing certain minor planets.
  • On 11 February 1800, Herschel was testing filters for the sun so he could observe sun spots. When using a red filter he found there was a lot of heat produced. Herschel discovered infrared radiation in sunlight by passing it through a prism and holding a thermometer just beyond the red end of the visible spectrum. This thermometer was meant to be a control to measure the ambient air temperature in the room. He was shocked when it showed a higher temperature than the visible spectrum. Further experimentation led to Herschel’s conclusion that there must be an invisible form of light beyond the visible spectrum.
  • Herschel used a microscope to establish that coral was not a plant, as many believed at the time, since it lacked the cell walls characteristic of plants.

William Herschel and Mary had one child, John, born at Observatory House on 7 March 1792. William’s personal background and rise as man of science had a profound impact on the upbringing of his son and grandchildren. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1788. In 1816, William was made a Knight of the Royal Guelphic Order by the Prince Regent and was accorded the honorary title ‘Sir’ although this was not the equivalent of an official British knighthood. He helped to found the Astronomical Society of London in 1820, which in 1831 received a royal charter and became the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1813, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

On 25 August 1822, Herschel died at Observatory House, Windsor Road, Slough, and is buried at nearby St Laurence’s Church, Upton, Slough. Herschel’s epitaph is

Coelorum perrupit claustra.
(He broke through the barriers of the heavens.)

Herschel’s son John Herschel also became a famous astronomer. One of William’s brothers, Alexander Herschel, moved permanently to England, near his sister Caroline and nephew John. Caroline returned to Hanover after the death of her brother. She died on 9 January 1848.

 

From Wikipedia.com