You don’t perhaps know that I have already some time been thinking of leaving off professing Musick and the first opportunity that offers I shall really do so. It is very well, in your way, when one has a fixed Salary, but to take so much for a Concert, so much for a teaching, and so much for a Benefit is what I do not like at all, and rather than go on in that way I would take any opportunity of leaving off Musick; not that I intend to forget it, for it should always be my chief study tho’ I had another employment. But Musick ought not to be treated in that mercenary footing. (Herschel to his brother, 12 April 1761)
William Herschel (1738-1822) was a violinist, astronomer and composer. He played the violin to earn a living, but after his discovery of Uranus, Herschel’s life completely changed from part-time musician to full-time astronomer. In recognition of his discovery, Herschel was awarded entrance into the Royal Society and was given the Copley Medal on December 7th, 1781. Even more impressive, was the fact that King George III of England dubbed Herschel as King’s Astronomer and paid him £200 annually. It was these two things that changed the life of William and his sister/assistant Caroline. This recognition and monetary support allowed William to drop music and focus entirely on his vocation astronomy. However, he continued making and crafting telescopes that were clearer and more efficient as a means to obtaining a second income.