Wilhelm Winkler (1842-1910) - a Thuringian private astronomer and maecenas


Wilfried Weise, Johann Dorschner, Reinhard E. Schielicke, Jena

Complete text (abstract only):

Wilhelm Winkler was born in 1842 in Eisenberg, Thuringia, as the son of a lawyer. After attending the trading high school in Gera, Winkler worked as a merchant in Eisenberg, following in the footsteps of his grandfather. In 1875 he gave up this trade and devoted his time entirely to astronomy. Advised by Carl Bruhns, director of the Leipzig University Observatory, he established an observatory on his estate in Gohlis near Leipzig. From 1878 Winkler regularly observed sunspots; other fields of his observational interests were comets, occultations of stars by the Moon, and Jupiter's satellites.

In 1887 he went to Jena, where he contacted Ernst Abbe, who was the head of the Jena observatory, too. For some years, Winkler's instruments were used in the new observatory erected by Abbe, which replaced the old Ducal Observatory of the Goethe era. Winkler donated the precision pendulum clock and some other instruments to this observatory. He also offered his observational assistance whenever it was wanted. In 1893 Winkler built up his own observatory in Jena and published annual reports on his work in the Vierteljahrsschrift of the Astronomische Gesellschaft. His observational results mainly appeared in the journal Astronomische Nachrichten. In 1902 he was awarded an honorary doctor's degree by the Philosophical Faculty of Jena University. However, at that time his physical constitution began gradually to fade. He lost his left eye due to a sarcoma, and finally he died at the age of 68.

In his will, he left 100 000 M in form of securities to Jena University (Winkler Foundation). The University Observatory got his 4.5 m dome, the transport of which from his residence to the final site was also paid for by him, several instruments, and a lot of books. In 1936 Winkler's dome was closed by the University.

The observatory was transferred from the University to the Zeiss works in exchange for the observatory in the Jena Forst. Zeiss sponsored the reconstruction of the old dome and its equipment with a telescope and, thus, laid the base for the modern Urania Popular Observatory.


Please note: The printed version contains an error: Unfortunately, Reinhard E. Schielicke was not indicated as co-author of this paper.

Bibliographical details:

Wilfried Weise, Johann Dorschner, Reinhard E. Schielicke: Wilhelm Winkler (1842-1910) - a Thuringian private astronomer and maecenas. In: Peter Brosche, Wolfgang R. Dick, Oliver Schwarz, Roland Wielen (Eds.): The Message of the Angles - Astrometry from 1798 to 1998. Proceedings of the International Spring Meeting of the Astronomische Gesellschaft, Gotha, May 11-15, 1998. (Acta Historica Astronomiae ; 3). Thun ; Frankfurt am Main : Deutsch, 1998, p. 95.