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Hevelius (Hevel, Heweliusz) Johannes
(1611Ч1687)

Hevelius (Hevel, Heweliusz) Johannes (1611Ч1687)

Johannes Hevelius was a Protestant councilor and mayor of Danzig (Gdańsk), Pomeranian Voivodeship, in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. As an astronomer he gained a reputation as "the founder of lunar topography" and described ten new constellations, seven of which are still recognized by astronomers.

Hevelius' father was Abraham Hewelke (1576Ц1649), his mother Kordula Hecker (1576Ц1655). They were a German-speaking family of wealthy brewing merchants of Bohemian origin. Johannes Hevelius considered himself as being part of the Polish world (civis Orbis Poloniae).

Hevelius brewed the famous Jopenbier, which also gave its name to Danzig's Jopengasse, the street where St. Mary's church is located.

After gymnasium, where he was taught by Peter Crüger, Hevelius in 1630 studied jurisprudence at Leiden, then traveled in England and France, meeting Pierre Gassendi, Marin Mersenne and Athanasius Kircher. In 1634 he settled in his native town, and on March 21, 1635, married Katharine Rebeschke, a neighbor two years younger who owned two adjacent houses. The following year, Hevelius became a member of the beer-brewing guild, which he led from 1643 onwards.

Throughout his life, Hevelius took a leading part in municipal administration, becoming Ratsherr (town councillor) in 1651; but from 1639 on, his chief interest was astronomy. In 1641 he built an observatory on the roofs of his three connected houses, equipping it with splendid instruments, including ultimately a large Keplerian telescope of 45 m (150 ft) focal length, with a wood and wire tube he constructed himself. This may have been the longest "tubed" telescope before the advent of the tubeless aerial telescope.

This private observatory was visited by Polish Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga on 29 January 1660, and in 1678 by Polish King John III Sobieski. In May 1679 the young Englishman Edmund Halley visited him as emissary of the Royal Society. Since 1664 Hevelius had been its first German fellow. Małgorzata Czerniakowska writes that "Jan Heweliusz was the first Pole to be inducted into the Royal Society in London. This important event took place on 19th March 1664."

Halley had been instructed by Robert Hooke and John Flamsteed to persuade Hevelius to use telescopes for his measurements, yet Hevelius demonstrated that he could do well with only quadrant and alidade. He is thus considered the last astronomer to do major work without the use of a telescope.

Hevelius made observations of sunspots, 1642Ц1645, devoted four years to charting the lunar surface, discovered the Moon's libration in longitude, and published his results in Selenographia, sive Lunae descriptio (1647), a work which entitles him to be called "the founder of lunar topography."

He discovered four comets, in 1652, 1661 (probably Ikeya-Zhang), 1672 and 1677. These discoveries led to his thesis that such bodies revolve around the Sun in parabolic paths.

A Halophänomen was observed by many in Danzig and described by Hevelius to pastor Georg Fehlau of St. Mary's church, titled Siebenfältiges Sonnenwunder oder sieben Nebensonnen, so in diesem 1661 Jahr den 20. Februar neuen Stils am Sonntage Sexagesima um 11 Uhr bis nach 12 am Himmel bei uns sind gesehen worden.

Katharine, his first wife, died in 1662, and a year later Hevelius married Elisabeth Hevelius nee. Koopmann, the young daughter of a merchant family. The couple had four children. Elisabeth supported him, published two of his works after his death, and is considered the first female astronomer.

His observatory, instruments and books were destroyed by fire on September 26, 1679. The catastrophe is 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. He named the constellation Sextans in memory of these lost instruments.

In late 1683, in commemoration of the victory of Christian forces led by Polish King John III Sobieski at the Battle of Vienna, he invented and named the constellation Scutum Sobiescianum (Sobieski's Shield), now called Scutum. This constellation first occurred publicly in his star atlas Firmamentum Sobiescianum, that was printed in his own house at lavish expense, and he himself engraved many of the printing plates. His health had suffered from the shock of the 1679 fire, and he died on his 76th birthday, January 28, 1687. Hevelius was buried in St. Catherine's Church in his hometown.


Poland, 2011, Johannes Hevelius

Poland, 2011.01.28, Gdańsk. Sextans

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