Dove, Heinrich Wilhelm

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Dove, Heinrich Wilhelm

(b. Liegnitz, Prussia [now Legnica, Poland], 6 October 1803; d. Berlin, Germany, 4 April 1879)

meteorology, physics.

The son of Wilhelm Benjamin Dove and the former Maria Susanne Sophie Brückner, Dove belonged to a prosperous family of apothecaries and merchants in Liegnitz. His delicate health led him to choose an academic career instead of following the family profession. Dove was an open-minded, communicative person who was interested not only in science but also in politics, history, and philosophy, all of which he studied at the University of Breslau, which he entered in 1821. His doctoral thesis, on climatology, was presented in 1826 to the University of Königsberg, where he lectured until 1829, when he went to Berlin. He became a professor there in 1844. On 26 October 1830 he married Franziska Adelaide Luise Etzel.

Dove devoted much of his time to lecturing, becoming a great popular success. Mainly an experimental physicist, he improved and devised many scientific instruments and illustrated his lectures with elegant experiments. His great interest in education was shown when, in 1837–1849, he edited the Repertorium der Physik, for which he wrote many of the articles himself: on the progress of physics, meteorology, theory of heat, optics, magnetism, and electricity. His contribution to physics centered on observations of the earth’s magnetism; polarization phenomena, especially the optical properties of rock crystals; and induced electricity.

Dove’s principal interest was meteorology. A great step forward in that field had been the extension, in 1780, of a network of thirty-nine observation stations to cover many European countries. This had been organized by the Societas Meteorologica Palatina in Mannheim, Germany, which had demanded uniformity in the mounting and operation of the standard instruments. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, stations were established in Russia and North America, and Humboldt used their observations to draw maps indicating the distribution of temperature throughout the areas covered. This new field, climatology, also interested Dove, who used the many observations to draw maps showing the monthly mean distribution of heat at the earth’s surface. These maps demonstrated how the winds, land masses, and seas influenced heat distribution.

H. W. Brandes emphasized that not only climate but other variables were important in meteorology. In Breslau, Dove studied meteorology with Brandes, and after thorough study of Brandes’ meteorological data he formulated his “Drehungsgesetz” (“law of rotation”) (1827), which states that the order of meteorological phenomena at a single place on the earth’s surface corresponds to what would happen if there were great whirligigs rotating clockwise in the atmosphere. With a southwest wind the temperature rises, and it rains. The wind then moves to the west, the temperature falls, and the barometer rises. When the wind is northeast, the barometric pressure is at a maximum and the temperature at a minimum. Then the pressure begins to fall until the wind again blows from the southwest. It was Dove’s great contribution to meteorology to be the first to find a system in weather changes.

Further progress occurred in 1857, when Buys Ballot, one of Dove’s students, found that winds arise because of differences in atmospheric pressure. Throughout his life Dove defended his own law, which, in contrast with Buys Ballot’s, was founded on the assumption that wind is the primary factor by which weather phenomena should be explained.

Dove was interested in expanding the international collaboration between meteorological institutions that had started with the establishment of the Societas Meteorologica Palatina. He assembled meteorologists from several European countries in Geneva in 1863, but it was not until 1873, with the first international meteorology meeting in Leipzig—in which Dove took no part—that the collaboration was expanded to any great extent.

Dove was director of the Prussian Institute of Meteorology from its founding in 1849, and he was three times elected vice-chancellor of the University of Berlin. In 1853 he received the Copley Medal of the Royal Society, and he was a member of several scientific societies.


I. Original Works. Dove’s scientific writings are listed in the Royal Society’s Catalogue of Scientific Papers, 2 , 329–335; 7 , 553–554; and in Neumann’s biography (see below), p. 72 ff. Most of them were published in Abhandlungen and Monatsberichte der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaft and J. C. Poggendorff’s Annalen der Physik und Chemie. The most important meteorological writings are Meteorologische Untersuchungen (Berlin, 1837); “Das Gesetz der Stürme,” in Monatsberichte der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaft, 52 (1840), 232–239; and Die Verbreitung der Wärme auf der Oberfläche der Erde (Berlin, 1852).

II. Secondary Literature. Further information may be found in “Heinrich Wilhelm Dove,” in Nature, 19 (10 Apr. 1879), 529–530; Hans Neumann, Heinrich Wilhelm Dove. Eine Naturforscher-Biographie (Liegnitz, 1925); and Neue deutsche Biographie, IV (1959), 92 f.

Kurt MØller Pedersen