A treasure from William Herschel

Posted by David Eicher
on Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Credit: David J. Eicher
Over the weekend, I had the chance to visit a spectacular museum, the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Located a short 15-minute train ride west of Amsterdam, the museum should be on the list of anyone who loves stepping back into the scientific past. Open to the public since 1784, the museum hosts a spectacular sequence of rooms filled with huge dark-wood cases and amazing scientific collections. There are rocks and minerals, extensive sets of fossils, human skulls, scientific instruments of all kinds, and — when I was there — a mesmerizing exhibition of drawings and paintings by Raphael.

One highlight stood out for me, however. Tucked away in the room containing telescopes and microscopes arranged around the systematic mineral collection cases was one of the famous 7-foot Herschel telescopes produced by the great observer Sir William Herschel. Identical to the one Herschel used to discover the planet Uranus, this magnificent scope is in pristine condition. It is a 6.2-inch aperture f/13.5 reflector (the optical design is “after Newton,” the ancient labeling reads) and is finished in beautiful wood with a spectacular mount.

I encourage you to visit the Teylers Museum if you’re ever in the area, and also to check out the Herschel House Museum in Bath, England, to see more instruments associated with the famous English observer.

What taste of astronomical history!

Tags: Museums
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