Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve

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Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve

Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve (April 15, 1793November 23, 1864 (Julian calendar: November 11)) was a German-born Baltic-German astronomer. His name is sometimes given as Friedrich Struve or Wilhelm Struve or Friedrich Wilhelm Struve, or Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve (without the "von"). In Russian, his name is often given as Vasilii Yakovlevich Struve (Василий Яковлевич Струве).

He was born at Altona, Germany, the son of Jacob Struve (1755–1841), and was the first of an entire family of astronomers through four generations. He was the great-grandfather of Otto Struve and the father of Otto Wilhelm von Struve. He was also the grandfather of Hermann Struve, who was Otto Struve's uncle.

In 1808 he entered the University of Tartu, where he first studied philology, but soon turned his attention to astronomy. From 1813 to 1820 he taught at the university and observed at Dorpat Observatory in Tartu, and in 1820 became a full professor and director of the observatory.

Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve remained at Tartu, occupied with research on double stars and geodesy until 1839, when he founded and became director of the new Pulkovo Observatory near St Petersburg. He retired in 1861 due to failing health.

Struve's name is best known for his observations of double stars, which he carried on for many years. Although double stars had been studied earlier by William Herschel and John Herschel and Sir James South, Struve outdid any previous efforts. He discovered a very large number of double stars and in 1827 published his double star catalogue Catalogus novus stellarum duplicium.

Since most double stars are true binary stars rather than mere optical doubles (as William Herschel had been the first to discover), they orbit around one another's barycenter and slowly change position over the years. Thus Struve made micrometric measurements of 2714 double stars from 1824 to 1837 and published these in his work Stellarum duplicium et multiplicium mensurae micrometricae.

He was also the first to measure the parallax of Vega, although Friedrich Bessel had been the first to measure the parallax of a star (61 Cygni).

He carefully measured the "constant of aberration" in 1843.

He was also interested in geodetic surveying, and in 1831 published Beschreibung der Breitengradmessung in den Ostseeprovinzen Russlands.

Among other honors, he won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1826.

The asteroid 768 Struveana was named jointly in his honour and that of Otto Wilhelm von Struve and Karl Hermann Struve.

Other children

In 1815 he married Emilie Wall (17961834) in Altona, who bore 12 children, 8 of which survived early childhood. In addition to Otto Wilhelm von Struve, other children were Heinrich or Genrikh Vasil'evich (Генрих Васильевич Струве) (18221908), a prominent chemist, and Bernard or Bernard Vasil'evich (Бернгард Васильевич Струве) (18271889), who served as a government official in Siberia and later as governor of Astrakhan and Perm.

After his first wife died, he remarried to Johanna Henriette Francisca Bartels (18071867), who bore him six more children. The most well-known was Karl or Kirill Vasil'evich (Карл (Кирилл) Васильевич Струве) (18351907), who served successively as Russian ambassador to Japan, the United States, and the Netherlands.

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