On March 13, 1781, Sir William Herschel discovered a new planet, using a telescope of his own design. The planet, visible by the naked eye, was originally considered a comet until Herschel’s research proved otherwise. In recognition of his discovery, King George III gave Herschel an annual stipend of £200 and the royal Astronomer, Nevil Maskelyne, gave Herschel the honor of naming the planet. Herschel chose to name it Georgium Sidus—George’s Star. In a letter to Royal Society president Joseph Banks, Herschel wrote:
In the fabulous ages of ancient times the appellations of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were given to the Planets, as being the names of their principal heroes and divinities. In the present more philosophical era it would hardly be allowable to have recourse to the same method and call it Juno, Pallas, Apollo or Minerva, for a name to our new heavenly body. The first consideration of any particular event, or remarkable incident, seems to be its chronology: if in any future age it should be asked, when this last-found Planet was discovered? It would be a very satisfactory answer to say, ‘In the reign of King George the Third.’
The name, naturally, was not popular outside of Britain, and many substitutes were suggested, including Neptune, Neptune George the III, and even Herschel. But it was Berlin astronomer Johann Elert Bode who argued that, just as Saturn was named for the father of Jupiter, the new planet should be named Uranus, after the father of Saturn. The name stuck, and in 1850 became the universally used name for the planet, when the last holdout, HM Nautical Almanac Office finally changed their books from Georgium Sidus to Uranus.