Public Lecture European Week of Astronomy and Space Science
In 1781 William Herschel was a musician in Bath with an amateur's enthusiasm for astronomy, when he came across an unusual object that proved to be the planet Uranus. This led King George III to make him Astronomer to the Court at Windsor Castle. At Windsor, Herschel explored the universe in the large, discovering 2500 nebulae and plotting the outline of our Galaxy.
He realised that the existence of star clusters proved that attractive forces were at work among the stars and that a scattered cluster would in time become tightly packed: some clusters were young and others old. This spelt the end of the clockwork universe of Newton and the beginning of modern cosmology in which everything, even the universe itself, has a life-history.
Michael Hoskin was, before retirement, Head of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University and has edited Journal for the History of Astronomy for forty years.