Kirch, Gottfried

Gottfried Kirch was born on the 18th December 1639 in Guben as the son of a tailor. He began his astronomical studies with E. Weigel in Jena. To improve his observing skills he was sent to Hevel in Danzig. From 1667 on he published calendars. For his work he acquired a 4-foot quadrant and some telescopes. In 1679 he designed and build a micrometer for more exact observations.

One of G. Kirch's papers describes his observations of the variable star Mira, discovered by David Fabricius in 1596. On the 18th November 1680 Kirch discovered the bright comet of that year. It was the first comet to be discovered with a telescope. At the end of that year he described the observation of a faint but some degree long antitail. It is probably the first account of this feature in the history of Astronomy [2]. Georg Samuel Doerffel observed the comet as well and based on this he first described parabolic orbits for comets.

1686 G. Kirch discovered the star chi Cygni as variable and observed, together with C. Arnold in Leipzig, the comet of this year. Here in Leipzig he met his second wife, Maria Margaretha, daughter of the clergyman Matthias Winkelmann. He married her in 1692. His first wife had died in 1690. Kirch and his wife Maria lived and worked together in Guben for 8 years before moving to Berlin in 1700. There he was director of the planned Observatory and prepare the official calendars. These calendars he published until 1710 with the help of his wife and the assistant J. H. Hoffmann. After G. Kirchs death on 25th July 1710 in Berlin his children Christfried (until 1740) and Christine (until 1772) continued this work.

The new Observatory was first used in 1708, but officially opened in 1711. Until 1708 G. Kirch observed at the private Observatory of Bernhard F. v. Krosigk.

1. WATTENBERG, D., in: Neue Deutsche Biographie, Vol. 11, p. 634-35 
2. OLBERS, W., in: Astronomische Nachrichten, Vol. 8, 1831, p. 469-72.

See also

See also the son of Gottfried Kirch,

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