Ernst Friedrich Wilhelm Klinkerfues was born on the 29. March 1827 in Hofgeismar, Germany. His father was the army physician Johann Reinhard Klinkerfues, his mother Sabine (1793-1844), daughter of Johann Conrad Dedolph, a miner in Obermöllrich, today a part of Fritzlar. Klinkerfues married and had a son, named Apollo, who later married Johanna Schultz (1855-1924). After the early deaths of his parents Klinkerfues was supported during his difficult youth by relatives. After school (Gymnasium and polytechnic school) he worked as a surveyor with a railroad company. From 1847 to 1851 he studied Astronomy and Mathematics in Marburg under Gerling. In 1851 C.F. Gauss accepted him as assistant at the Goettingen observatory. After Gauss' death in 1855 the physicist W.E. Weber was director of the observatory, after him the mathematician P.G. Dirichlet. Klinkerfues wrote his doctoral thesis on "A new method to calculate the orbits of binary stars" and got his Ph.D in 1855. From 1861 on he was temporarily responsible for the observatory, from 1867 head of the department for practical astronomy, while the mathematician E. Schering lead the theoretical departement. So, Klinkerfues never reached his aim to be fully in charge of the astronomical work at Goettingen. In 1866 he declined an invitation to work at the Hamburg observatory in Bergedorf.
He discovered or co-worked on the discovery of six (eight?) comets in the years of 1853-68. His work was not only on astronomy, but also on meteorological themes. He constructed, beside other instruments, a hygrometer which was patented. Klinkerfues published several texts, his main work "Theoretische Astronomie" was first printed in 1871, subsequent editions were published in 1897 and 1912 (edited by Buchholz). He was Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (1882).
Since his youth Klinkerfues was psychically unstable. The struggle for the leading position in Astronmy at Goettingen observatory took it's toll - Klinkerfuess comitted suicide on January, 28th 1884.
References: 1. Volk, O., in: Neue Deutsche Biografie, Vol. 12, p. 100 2. Günther, in: Allg. Deutsche Biographie, Vol. 51, p. 231 3. Rebeur-Paschwitz, E. von, in: Ersch-Gruber, Part 2, Vol. 37, p. 124