Physics Department

Johnny Powell | The History of Infrared Physics

William Herschel

Discoverer of Infrared Radiation:Sir William Herschel

Uranus revealed its presence to William Herschel--The first solar system discovery since prehistoric times. (The thumbnail photo makes Herschel's drawing of Uranus and its moon too small for all but the imagination.) Herschel was the leader in nebulae astrophysics because of the higher resolution of his telescopes. Herschel was the greatest atronomer of the late 18th and early 19th centuries., e. g. the telescopes he built were the largest by far--outdistancing (pardon the pun) even the scopes of the Grennwich Observatory. Herschel grew up (18 years) in Hannover seriously involved in music, turned to experimental optics and astronomy at age 43 in Britain, and died in Buckinhamshire a great scientist. I include the following Britannica quote for every young scientist (Steve Mansoor, in particular): " In 1781 his ambitions outran the capacities of the local foundries, and so he prepared to cast molten metal into disks in the basement of his own home; but the first mirror cracked on cooling, and on the second attempt the metal ran out onto the flagstones, after which even he accepted temporary defeat." Here is the reference in the Britannica.

The First Infrared Spectroscopist

This photo was digitized from Moeller's book on Far-Infrared Spectroscopy.