Peters, Christian August Friedrich

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(b. Hamburg, Germany, 7 September 1806; d. Kiel, Germany, 8 May 1880)


Peters’ father, a merchant, saw to it that his son, who did not regularly attend secondary school, obtained a good knowledge of mathematics and astronomy. He was so successful that H. C. Schumacher, the editor of the Astronomische Nachrichten, learned of Peters and induced him to study geodesy and astronomy. Peters subsequently entered the University of Königsberg, where he received the Ph.D. under Bessel. From 1834 to 1838, as assistant at the Hamburg observatory Peters observed mainly with the transit instrument. In 1839 he was appointed assistant at the new Pulkovo observatory, where he worked for nearly ten years, finally becoming assistant director under F. G. W. Struve. He observed the polestar, the newly discovered planet Neptune, and parallaxes of fixed stars.

In 1849 Peters returned to Könisgsberg to become professor of astronomy. This post was not connected with the directorship of the observatory, but he did have access to Bessel’s famous heliometer. In 1854 Peters moved to Altona as director of the observatory and editor of the Astronomische Nachrichten, of which he edited fifty-eight volumes (40–97), from 1855 till the end of his life. In 1872 the Altona observatory was moved to Kiel and reconstructed on a larger scale, a plan that Peters had favored since 1864. In 1874 Peters became ordinary professor at the University of Kiel.

Both a student and a successor of Bessel, Peters sought to ascertain the base of spherical astronomy. His investigations concerning nutation, the proper motion of Sirius, and the parallaxes of fixed stars are his main achievements.


Peters’ writings include Numerus constans nutationis... in specula Dorpatensi annis 1832–1838 observatis deductus (St. Petersburg, 1842); “Resultate aus den Beobachtungen des Polarsterns an der Pulkowaer Sternwarte,” in Mémoires de l’ Académie impériale des sciences de St.-Pétersbourg, 6th ser., 3 (1844); “Über die eigene Bewegung des Sirius,” in Astronomische Nachrichten,32 (1851), 1–58; “Recherches sur la parallaxe des etoiles fixes,” in Mémoires de l’académie impériate des sciences de st;-Pétersbourg, 6th ser., 5 (1853); “Über die Länge des einfachen Sekundenpendels auf dem Schlosse Güldenstein,” in Astronomische Nachrichten, 40, (1855), 1–152; Bestimmung des Längenunterschiedes Altona-Schwerin (Altona, 1861); “Ein Repsoldsches Äquatorial zu Altona,” in Astronomische Nachrichten,58 (1862), 271–352; Das Land Swante-Wustrow pder das Fischland (Wustrow, 1866); and Bestimmung des Längenunterschiedes Göttingen-Altona (Kiel, 1880).

An obituary is A. Winnecke, in Vierteljahrsschrift der Astronomischen Gesellschaft (Leipzig),16 (1881), 5–8.

H. C. Freiesleben

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Peters, Christian August Friedrich

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