William Herschel

William Herschel (1738-1822), a musician from Hamburg, Germany, moved to England and settled in Bath. There he scanned the skies with a series of reflecting telescopes that were built by him or under his supervision. He became famous for having found the first telescopic planet, which he called Georgium Sidus and others called Uranus. This half-length portrait of Herschel is a stipple engraving by James Godby (active 1790-1815) after a painting by Friedrick Rehberg (1758-1835). Rehberg, a Hanoverian portrait and historical painter, worked in England in 1813 and 1814. The engraving was available from Colnaghi & Co., an important art emporium in London that is still in business.
The text at bottom reads: “DR HERSCHEL, / Member of the Royal Society of London, Imp Academies of St Petersburg and Vienna, National Intitut at Paris, / Royal Academies of Berlin, Stockholm, &c. &c. Born at Hanover the 15th of November 1738. / The background represents part of the Constellation of Gemini with a telescopic aspect of the Georgium Sidus, as it was discovered by Dr Herschel at Bath, / the 13th of March 1781, in consequence of which he was soon after introduced to the most gracious patronage of His Majesty King George III. / Dedicated to the Rt Honble SIR JOSEPH BANKS, BART Pred of the Royal Society, by his very respectful and obedient Servant, Frederick Rehberg, Member of the Royal Academy of the fine Arts at Berlin, &c. &c. / London, Pubd Nov 1, 1814 by Mr Rehberg, 30 St James’s Street & Colnaghi & Co Cockspur Street.” The signatures read “Fr. Rehberg del. ad viv. Windsor 1814” and “James Godby sculpt.”
Ref: Ludmilla Jordanova, Defining Features. Scientific and Medical Portraits 1660-2000 (London, 2000).
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 18 in x 13 1/2 in; 45.72 cm x 34.29 cm
place made
United Kingdom: England, London
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Prints from the Physical Sciences Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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