Schmidt, Johann Friedrich Julius

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(b, Eutin, Germany, 26 October 1825; d. Athens, Greece, 7 February 1884)

astronomy, geophysics.

Schmidt was the son of Carl Friedrich Schmidt, a glazier, and Maria Elisabeth Quirling. He received his early education in Eutin and Hamburg, where his interest in the sciences and his aptitude for drawing were encouraged. From 1842 he studied practical astronomy under Carl Rümker at the Hamburg observatory. Then, in 1845, he went to Benzenberg’s private observatory in Bilk, near Düsseldorf. The following year, he assisted Argelander at the latter’s observatory in Bonn, where he became an accomplished astronomer.

With Argelander’s recommendation, Schmidt was named observator at the observatory of the canon and provost E. von Unkrechtsberg in Olmütz (now Olomouc), where he remained from 1853 to 1858. He was then named director (1858) of the new observatory founded by Baron Sica in Athens. Schmidt worked there until his death. He continued the observations that he had begun in Olmütz and also observed comets, variable stars, nebulae, sunspots, and the zodiacal light. He later studied volcanic and seismic phenomena but is known chiefly for his selenographic observations.

Although Schmidt’s research was voluminous, he lacked the means to publish it. But through the intervention of the German ambassador to Greece, this work was placed in the Potsdam observatory.

Schmidt never married. He was well liked and respected at the Greek court; and the evening before his death, he attended the usual social gathering at the German Embassy in Athens. Schmidt received many honors and in 1868 was awarded the Ph.D. honoris causa by the University of Bonn.


Schmodt’s major works are Das Zodiakallicht (Brunswick, 1856); Resultate aus 11-jährigen Beobachtungen der Sonnenflecken (Vienna, 1857); Physikalische Geographie von Griechenland (Athens, 1869); Vulkanstudien (Leipzig, 1874); Studien über Erdbeden (Leipzig, 1875; 2nd ed., 1879); Karte det Gebirge der Mondes nach eigenen Beobachtungen 1840–1874 (Berlin, 1878); and Erläuterungsband (Berlin, 1874).

The only useful secondary source is A. Krueger’s obituary in Astronomische Nachrichten, 108 (1884). 129.

H.-Christ. Freiesleben

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Schmidt, Johann Friedrich Julius

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