John Herschel’s plan to survey the southern heavens arose in part from his desire to complete the astronomical work begun by his father. The elder Herschel, Sir William, had been the brightest star in the astronomical sky during the final decades of the eighteenth century. Although Pierre Simon Laplace (1749–1827) was usually considered the most important astronomer at that time, William Herschel was perhaps the most recognized. His discovery of Uranus in 1781 (and subsequent patronage by King George III), sensational telescopes, unique observational interests, and ingenious cosmological and extra-terrestrial speculations brought him notoriety (and considerable wealth) in England and abroad. In his self-described role as a “natural historian” 1 of the heavens, William had been responsible for compiling the most complete catalogs of celestial objects beyond the solar system that the world had yet seen; he also developed a taxonomic system of classification for celestial objects, and a unique theory of stellar cosmogony. 2 But it was his giant telescopes and his discovery of the planet Uranus that made the name of Herschel a household one. His astronomical work was aided by the telescopes he made, which were the largest ever built and which set new standards for optical quality.