400 years astronomical observatory in Jena


Reinhard E. Schielicke, Jena


Complete text (abstract only):

»Nam cum aliquod observatorium mihi comparaverim, ... «: »As I have equiped my observatory now«, Georg Limnaeus, professor of mathematics in Jena from 1588 to 1611, wrote on 24 April 1598, »I have decided to make friends with some experts by letter; I know from your Prodromus that you are one of them«. The letter was addressed to Johannes Kepler and was related to his first work about the »Mysterium cosmographicum«. Kepler sent some copies of his paper to Galileo Galilei, Tycho Brahe, Reimar Ursus and also to Limnaeus in Jena from the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1597. Limnaeus gave him - apart from the words expressing praise but which actually were meaningless concerning Kepler's ideas - the information about Brahe Kepler had asked for and which may have promoted his move to Prague.

The above mentioned observatory is considered to be the first one in Jena. Astronomy had already been established as a subject since the establishment of the »Hohe Schule« in 1548 and since the foundation of the university ten years later. Nothing is known about the instruments and the location of the observatory. Limnaeus did not belong to the taxpaying house-owners of which there exists an index; he obviously rented a flat. To all appearances the correspondence announced was not continued either.

For the following centuries the professors Heinrich Hoffmann, Erhard Weigel, Georg Albrecht and Georg Erhard Hamberger are named in the literature running the observatory in Jena. The »Herzogliche Sternwarte« fitted out under Goethe's overall supervision in 1813 eventually developed into the university institute of today.

Bibliographical details:

Reinhard E. Schielicke: 400 years astronomical observatory in Jena. 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. 245.