John Herschel – The Last Polymath

Saturday June 8, 9am – 6pm

Join us for a packed day of talks exploring the life and work of Victorian polymath, Sir John Herschel.

Sir John Herschel (1792-1871), son of the astronomer William Herschel and nephew to Caroline Herschel, was the most influential natural philosopher of the Victorian period.

His long career encompassed astronomy, mathematics, physics, geology, chemistry, as well as art, literature, politics, and the invention of photography.

Herschel’s 1831 Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy was the first book in English on the philosophy of science and had a formative influence on a generation of scientists, including Charles Darwin.

If being scientific in Victorian England meant to be as much like John Herschel as possible, this conference will explore what it meant to be John Herschel. The packed day promises to explore all aspects of Herschel’s life from philosophy to art.

9.30 –  10:00 Welcome and Introduction


Charles Draper, Herschel Society Chairman

John Herschel’s Enduring Legacy 

Stephen Case, Olivet Nazarene University

10.00 – 11.30 Session I              Herschel’s Life & Influence

A Biographical Sketch

Emily Winterburn, independent scholar

Herschel at the Cape

Steve Ruskin, independent scholar

Herschel’s Philosophy of Science

Charles Pence, Universite catholique de Louvain

Session Q&A

11.30 – 11.45 – Coffee

11.45 – 13.15  Session II      Herschel’s Natural Philosophy

Herschel’s Mathematical Journey

Tony Crilly, Middlesex University, emeritus

Herschel’s Astronomy

Stephen Case, Olivet Nazarene University

Herschel’s Geology

Gregory Good, American Institute of Physics, emeritus

Session Q&A

13.15 – 14.00 – Lunch break

14.00 – 15.30 Session III    Herschel’s Methodology

Herschel’s Art of Drawing

Omar Nasim, University of Regensburg

Herschel’s Photographic Work

Kelley Wilder, De Montfort University

Herschel and Scientific Standardization

Edward Gillin, University College London

Session Q&A

15.30 – 15.45 – Coffee

15:45 – 17:00 External Perspective and Round Table

External perspective – Mike Edmunds, Vice -President Herschel Society

Round Table Q&A – All contributors plus Mike Edmunds

17.00 – 17.45 – Drinks and close