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Johannes Hevelius

Johannes HeveliusAKA Johannes Hewelke

Born: 28-Jan-1611
Birthplace: Danzig
Died: 28-Jan-1687
Location of death: Danzig
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Protestant
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Astronomer

Nationality: Poland [1]
Executive summary: Selenographia

German-Polish astronomer, born at Danzig on the 28th of January 1611. He studied jurisprudence at Leiden in 1630; travelled in England and France; and in 1634 settled in his native town as a brewer and town councillor. From 1639 his chief interest became centered in astronomy, though he took, throughout his life, a leading part in municipal affairs. In 1641 he built an observatory in his house, provided with a splendid instrumental outfit, including ultimately a tubeless telescope of 150 ft. focal length, constructed by himself. It was visited, on the 29th of January 1660, by John II and Maria Gonzaga, king and queen of Poland. Hevelius made observations of sunspots, 1642-45, devoted four years to charting the lunar surface, discovered the moon's libration in longitude, and published his results in Selenographia (1647), a work which entitles him to be called the founder of lunar topography. He discovered four comets in the several years 1652, 1661, 1672 and 1677, and suggested the revolution of such bodies in parabolic tracks round the sun. On the 26th of September 1679, his observatory, instruments and books were maliciously destroyed by fire, the catastrophe being described in the preface to his Annus climactericus (1685). He promptly repaired the damage, so far as to enable him to observe the great comet of December 1680; but his health suffered from the shock, and he died on the 28th of January 1687. Among his works were: Prodromus cometicus (1665); Cometographia (1668); Machina coelestis (first part, 1673), containing a description of his instruments; the second part (1679) is extremely rare, nearly the whole issue having perished in the conflagration of 1679. The observations made by Hevelius on the variable star named by him "Mira" are included in Annus climactericus. His catalogue of 1564 stars appeared posthumously in Prodromus astronomiae (1690). Its value was much impaired by his preference of the antique "pinnules" to telescopic sights on quadrants. This led to an acrimonious controversy with Robert Hooke. In an Atlas of 50 sheets, corresponding to his catalogue, and entitled Firmamentum Sobiescianum (1690), be delineated seven new constellations, still in use. Hevelius had his book printed in his own house, at lavish expense, and himself not only designed but engraved many of the plates.


[1] Dispute exists with respect to calling Hevelius a German or Polish astronomer. He was of German and Czech ethnicity (no Polish), spoke German, and attended a German university. However he was a citizen of Danzig, then under control of Poland and he held allegiance to the Polish crown.

Father: Abraham Hewelke (b. 1576, d. 1649)
Mother: Kordula Hecker (b. 1576, d. 1655)
Wife: Katharine Rebeschke (m. 21-Mar-1635)

    Law School: University of Leiden



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