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 Vasiliy Struve

Born:   April 4, 1793
Deceased:   November 23, 1864

a world-known Russian astronomer and geodesist


Struve Vasiliy Yakovlevich is a world-known Russian astronomer and geodesist, who was born to the large family of gymnasium director on April 4, 1793. His family lived in a small town near Hamburg. In 1808 Struve left Germany and was admitted to the University of Dorpat (now Estonian city of Tartu). In 1810 Vasiliy became professional philologist, and three years later young man defended master thesis in astronomy. The same 1813 Struve was appointed extraordinary professor of the University of Dorpat. In 1818 the scientist headed the department of astronomy of the same university, and several years later became the director of Dorpat observatory. In 1839 Struve headed the Pulkovo observatory, which he created and equipped.

Vasiliy Yakovlevich Struve became world famous thanks to his studies of binary and multiple stars, which he started in 1813. In 1827 the astronomer published a catalogue of exact locations for 3110 stars of a kind, and 2000 Struve discovered himself. In 1852 another catalogue “Mean positions” came of the press, carrying information about 2874 stars, observed by Struve and his student between 1822 and 1843. Both catalogues were widely used in various works on stellar astronomy.



Struve Geodetic Arc
In 1822 Struve was the first scientist to give reliable definitions of 27 parallaxes, and in 1837 used his own precise measurements to find parallax of Vega, the alpha-star of Lyra constellation, which later helped counting the distance to this star from the Earth – 27 light years. Vasiliy Struve wrote a monograph “Etudes on stellar astronomy”, which played a great role on further development of stellar astronomy, in 1847. That work contained first ever evidences that interstellar space absorbed light. Struve showed that stellar density (number of stars in the unit of volume) increased towards the nodal plane of Milky Way. The scientist supervised studies, performed in the Pulkovo observatory, which resulted in the system of so-called astronomical constants. That system was generally accepted for 50 years. Struve made an enormous contribution into geodesy development: between 1822 and 1827 the scientist headed the project on measuring meridian arc with length over 25º, which was named after him Struve Geodetic Arc.

Struve was not only tireless and skilled observer, a sharp thinker, but also a genial teacher and brilliant manager – the scientist equipped the Pulkovo observatory with first class hardware. Struve supervised development high-precision methods of stellar coordinates setting. Struve was the father of astrometry school, which placed the Pulkovo observatory among top observatories of the world. Struve had time for everything – he collected books for the library, including rare and antique editions and compiled a catalogue for the collection; he participated in expeditions and headed them; he was an active member of Russian Geographic Society; Struve made reports at meeting of Academy of Sciences and read public lectures; the astronomer taught officers of the Russian Navy and the General Staff, hydrographers of the Navy Department.

Struve was married two times and had 18 children. His numerous offspring were talented scientists too, there was a dynasty of Struve astronomers. Vasiliy Struve was Russian citizen from 1842. The astronomer had many Russian and foreign awards; he was the honorary member of all Russian universities and numerous foreign academies and scientific societies. Vasiliy Struve died in Pulkovo, near St. Petersburg on November 23, 1864.


Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian science Russian scientists Vasily Struve   

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