The Planet Uranus Was Once Called “George”

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The Planet Uranus Was Once Called “George”


Considered as one of the ice giants, Uranus has a bit of a humorous relationship with many of us. With a name like that, people were bound to laugh. Years ago, it was different, too, considering this amazing planet’s name had first been “George.”

What was the explanation behind this wonderful name? In an article by Mental Floss, a website delivering smart, fun, and shareable content in an upbeat and witty environment, Uranus’ past as a planet named “George” was connected to its discoverer, William Herschel, himself. 


Earth and Uranus / Photo by: Orange-kun via Wikimedia Commons


As the story goes, Herschel was a composer of music who was also interested in astronomy. During his stay in Bath, Somerset, England, seven years after he made his first telescope to watch stars in his spare time, he found that a celestial body most astronomers once considered a “star” was moving in a very un-star-like manner. 

He suggested that it was probably either a comet or a planet. Eventually, he told the Royal Society about his discovery and his supposition of this star’s more likely planetary nature, which led to “astronomers in other countries” coming together to calculate “the orbit of Herschel’s find,” the planet…George was discovered. 


The William Herschel Observatory / Photo by: H. Raab via Wikimedia Commons


This planet George was so named because, after Herschel's discovery of the planet, he was appointed by King George III as Court Astronomer. In his gratitude, he bestowed the planet with the name of “Georgium Sidus” which translated to “The Star/Planet of George” in Latin. During his time as a Court Astronomer, he got close to the royal family. 

On the other hand, his naming of the planet was soon contested by astronomers from all over the world. 

The French scientists suggested he call it Herschel, as it was him, after all, who discovered the planet. But ultimately, it was German astronomer Johann Bode’s suggestion that won everyone’s consensus. Bode suggested the name of Ouranos in large part because, at this point, a lot of planets were already named after deities in classical Greek mythology. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until 1850 that the name was recognized under the Nautical Almanac Office (HMNAO) when Her Majesty officially christened the planet as Uranus.


King George III / Photo by: Geograph