Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/565

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


ARGELANDER, says Prof. E. Schoenfeld, was pre-eminently an astronomical observer. In his youth he could handle every instrument as he could his pen. With his great keenness of vision, this occupation was attractive to him; but he realized that it was a means to an end. He found his life-work in collecting materials for a theory of the universe. Most of his work in Bonn was devoted to acquiring the completeness attainable under the limited capacity of the instruments in use in the knowledge of the fixed stars. To him we owe the demonstration of the proper motion of the solar system through space, and one of the fullest and most accurate of the older charts and catalogues a work which remains a standard for reference. The materials for our sketch are derived wholly from the biography published shortly after his death by Prof. Schoenfeld, his successor at Bonn, in the Vierteljahrsschrift der astronomischen Gesellschaft.

Friedrich Wllhelm August Argelander was born On the 22d of March, 1799, at Memel, in East Prussia, and died at Bonn, February 17, 1875. He was the son of the merchant Johann Gottfried Argelander, of descent on the father's side from Finland, while his mother was German. The relations of the family with the outer world favored the most careful training of the future astronomer. The political conditions existing during his childhood brought him early into closer relations with the great world than could have been expected to arise in the ordinary course of events in the little village so remote from the capital. The Prussian royal family had left Berlin after the unfortunate issue of the campaign of 1806, and ultimately retired to Memel. The crown prince, afterward King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, and Prince Friedrich lived in the house of Argelander's parents; and, notwithstanding the difference of three years and a half in their ages, a warm and lasting friendship was formed between the former and Argelander. Hardly less cordial was the relation of Prince Wilhelm, the late Emperor of Germany. But the times were in all other respects times of trial; and because of this the inner life was all the more richly developed. Argelander afterward attended the Gymnasium of Elbring, and, in 1813, the Collegium Fridericianum at Königsberg. When, in 1817, he entered the university he enrolled himself as a student in financial science, and devoted himself earnestly to it; but he soon found himself more attracted to Bessel's astronomical lectures than to all the others.

Having made sufficient advance to undertake work of that kind, he asked Bessel to intrust him with some of the calcula-