The Shadow of the Telescope: A Biography of John Herschel

By Gunther Buttman

The definitive biography of the often-overlooked third Herschel astronomer.

ISBN: 9780718895273


Gunther Buttman’s The Shadow of the Telescope was the first full-length biography of the nineteenth-century astronomer, Sir John Herschel. First published in German, this intriguing text chronicles the life and works of the third of the Herschel astronomers, the son of William and the nephew of Caroline. John was extremely intelligent, graduating as Senior Wrangler in the notoriously difficult Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge University. While less famous than his father and aunt, he nevertheless went on to make important discoveries in the field of astronomy. He named seven moons of Saturn and four moons of Uranus, the planet his father had only recently discovered.

Making admirable use of John’s unpublished correspondence, diaries, and notebooks, Buttman covers his extensive astronomical observations at Cape Town in South Africa, his pioneering work in photography and in physical optics in Britain, his unhappy experiences as Master of the Mint, and much more.

Additional information

Dimensions 254 × 156 mm
Pages 232

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Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Gunther Buttmann’s other biographical subjects include William Herschel, Caroline Herschel and Friedrich Ratzel. His studies of them have been hailed as definitive works in astronomers’ biography.


Introduction by David S. Evans

1. The Young Prodigy
2. Versatility, Vocation, and Travel
3. The Astronomical Heritage
4. At the Cape of Good Hope
5. Constellation Reform and Terrestrial Magnetism
6. Photography and Photochemistry
7. The Collingwood Period
8. Public Office and Last Years

Reference Notes