1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Struve, Friedrich Georg Wilhelm

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

STRUVE, FRIEDRICH GEORG WILHELM (1793–1864), German astronomer, the son of Jacob Struve (1755–1841), was born at Altona on the 15th of April 1793. In 1808 he entered the university of Dorpat (Yuriev) , where he first studied philology, but soon turned his attention to astronomy. From 1813 to 1820 he was extraordinary professor of astronomy and mathematics at the new university and observer at the observatory, becoming in 1820 ordinary professor and director. He remained at Dorpat, occupied with researches on double stars and geodesy till 1839, when he removed to superintend the construction of the new central observatory at Pulkowa near St Petersburg, afterwards becoming director. Here he continued his activity until he was obliged to retire in 1861, owing to failing health. He died at St Petersburg on the 23rd of November 1864.

Struve's name is best known by his observations of double stars, which he carried on for many years. These bodies had first been regularly measured by W. Herschel, who discovered that many of them formed systems of two stars revolving round their common centre of gravity. After him J. Herschel (and for some time Sir James South) had observed them, but their labours were eclipsed by Struve. With the 9½-in. refractor at Dorpat he discovered a great number of double stars, and published in 1827 a list of all the known objects of this kind (Catalogus novus stellarum duplicium). His micrometric measurements of 2714 double stars were made from 1824 to 1837, and are contained in his principal work, Stellarum duplicium et multiplicium mensurae micrometricae (St Petersburg, 1837 seq.; a convenient summary of the results is given in vol. i. of the Dunecht Observatory Publications, 1876). The places of the objects were at the same time determined with the Dorpat meridian circle (Stellarum fixarum imprimis duplicium et multiplicium positiones mediae, St Petersburg, 1852 seq.). At Pulkowa he redetermined the “constant of aberration,” but was chiefly occupied in working out the results of former years' work and in the completion of the geodetic operations in which he had been engaged during the greater part of his life. He had commenced them with a survey of Livonia (1816-1819), which was followed by the measurement of an arc of meridian of more than 3½° in the Baltic provinces of Russia (Beschreibung der Breitengradmessung in den Ostseeprovinzen Russlands, 2 vols. 4to, Dorpat, 1831). This work was afterwards extended by Struve and General Tenner into a measurement of a meridional arc from the north coast of Norway to Ismail on the Danube (Arc du méridien de 25° 20′ entre le Danube et la Mer Glaciale, 2 vols, and 1 vol. plates, 4to, St Petersburg, 1857-1860). (See Geodesy; Earth, Figure of.)

His son Otto Wilhelm Struve (b. 1819), having studied at the academy at St Petersburg, became assistant at Pulkowa in 1839, and director in 1862 on his father's resignation. From 1847 to 1862 he was advising astronomer to the headquarters of the army and navy; chairman of the International Astronomical Congress from 1867-1878; acting president of the International Metric Commission in 1872; and president of the International Congress for a Photographic Survey of the Stars in 1887, in which year he was also made a privy councillor. His contributions to astronomy cover a wide field: a list of his publications is given in Poggendorfi, Biographisch-Litterarische, vols. 2, 3, 4.

Another son, Heinrich Wilhelm Struve (b. 1822), studied chemistry, and obtained a public appointment as chemical expert to the administration of the Caucasus.

Two of Otto Wilhelm Struve's sons have also been prominent in the world of science. Karl Hermann Struve (b. 1854) studied mathematics at Dorpat, and became in 1883 assistant, and in 1890, on his father's retirement, astronomer at the observatory at Pulkowa. In 1895 he became professor at the Albertus University and director of the observatory at Konigsberg; and in 1904 he was called to Berlin as professor and director of the observatory there. His investigation of the Saturnian system was crowned by the Royal Astronomical Society of London in 1903. Gustav Wilhelm Ludwig Struve (b. 1858) studied at Dorpat, Bonn and Leipzig, and became observer at the Dorpat observatory in 1886. This post he retained until 1894, when he migrated to the university of Cracow as extraordinary professor, becoming in 1897 ordinary professor of astronomy and geodesy.