On our Stars in Their Eyes concerts on May 2 & 4, we introduce audiences to musician-scientists of the 18th-century who were impacting both fields. One of the most intriguing of these musicians -scientists was William Herschel (1738-1822), who is considered to be the “father of modern astronomy.“ Herschel’s first career was as a musician —he was an oboist, violinist, harpsichordist, organist, and composer. Born in Hanover in 1738, his father sent him to England for refuge where he was quickly employed as a talented violinist. He eventually settled in Bath where he became Director of Public Concerts and the organist at the Octagon Chapel in the fashionable spa-city.
A gentleman of high intellect, his interests led him to readings about astronomy, trigonometry, and mechanics. He took lessons from a local mirror builder and began making his own reflecting telescopes. His increasingly sophisticated work led him to the discovery of Uranus in 1781. He was a pioneer of astronomical spectrophotometry. With his younger sister Caroline, the pair made numerous important advancements in the field of astronomy. Herschel was an superb composer of symphonies and his Symphonia di Camera in F minor is featured in this program.