Struve, Gustav Wilhelm Ludwig (or Ludwig Ottovich)

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(b. Pulkovo, Russia, 1 November 1858; d, Simferopol, Russia, 4 November 1920), astronomy, geodesy.

Struve completed his Gymnasium studies at Vyborg in 1876, then entered the University of Dorpat, where he graduated in 1880 to become a part-time astronomer at Pulkovo Observatory. In 1883 he defended a dissertation entitled “Resultate aus den in Pulkowa angestellten Vergleichungen von Procyon mit benachbarten Sternen,” then was sent abroad to work at the observations of Bonn, Milan, and Leipzig. In 1885 he participated in the general session of the German Astronomical Society held in Geneva and visited the observatories of Paris, Greenwich, Leiden, and Potsdam before returning to Russia in October of the same year. He worked briefly at Pulkovo before assuming the post of observational astronomer at the University of Dorpat. There he received, in 1887, the doctorate in astronomy for his “Bestimmung der Constante der Präcession und der eigenen Bewegung des Sonnensystems.”

At Dorpat Struve’s chief interest was in the positions and motions of stars. He collaborated with the German Astronomical Society in compiling a catalog of stars between 70° and 75° north declination and later, at Kharkov, in cooperation with N. N. Evdokimov and B. I. Kudrevich, he observed zodiacal stars, reference stars for Eros, and circumpolar stars from 79° to the pole. Many of his publications were concerned with the precession and motion of the solar system.

In 1887 Struve adopted the hypothesis that the rotation of a galaxy is similar to that of a solid body, and derived an angular rotation rate of -0.41” ±0.42” in each hundred years (a value that may be compared to the current one of -0.028” at the distance of the sun from the center of the galaxy). Between 1884 and 1888 he also carried out observations of the occultation of the stars by the moon during total lunar eclipses in the interest of determining the radius of the moon. These results were published in 1893 and earned Struve the first prize of the Russian Astronomical Society. The Society also awarded him its Glazenap Prize for his response (the only one submitted, as it happened) to a competition set, in 1910, on the subject “Treatment of Observations of the Occultation of Stars During the Lunar Eclipses of 1891, 1895, 1898, and 1910.”Reviewing Struve’s researches, which were published in 1915, F. F. Witram noted that Struve “must be considered the most competent scholar in this field.”

In autumn of 1894 Struve moved to Kharkov, where he was first professor extraordinarius and then (from 1897 to 1919) full professor of astronomy and geodesy. He was simultaneously director of the university observatory and, from 1912 until 1919, dean of the faculty of mathematical and physical sciences. He took active part in a number of geodetic projects, including the leveling by which the Kharkov observatory was made part of the Russian state network of altitudes.

In 1919 Struve moved with his family to the Crimea, on the advice of doctors who were treating the illness of his seventeen-year-old son Werner. He became professor of the Tauris University at Simferopol, but his health was weakened by family misfortunes–Werner Struve and a six-year-old daughter died, an elder daughter became ill, and his son Otto had been recalled into the White Army under General Denikin, who was then retreating through the Crimea. Struve died while attending a meeting of the Tauris Learned Association, where he was to have read his paper on the new star in Cygni. His son Otto survived to carry on the family profession.


I Original Works. There is a bibliography of Struve’s writings (22 titles) in Slastenov (see below), 171–172. His most important works are “Resultate aus den in Pulkowa angestellten Vergleichungen von Procyon mit benachbarten Sternen,” in Mémoires de l’Académie impériale des sciences de St.-Pétersbourg, 7th ser., 31 , no. 2 (1883), his master’s thesis; “Bestimmung der Constante der Präcession und der eigenen Bewegung des Sonnensystems,” ibid., 35 , no. 3 (1887), his doctoral diss.; “Bearbeitung der während der totalen Mondfinsternisse 1884 Oct. 4 und 1888 Jan. 28 beobatchteten Sternbedeckungen,” in Beobachtungen der K. Universitäts-Sternwarte zu Jurjew (Dorpat),20 (1893), 1–30; Soedinenie Kharkova s russkoy nivelirnoy setyu tochnoy nivelirovkoy, proizvedennoy professor om L. O. Struve v 1895 i 1899 gg. (“The Connection of Kharkov With the Russian Vertical Control Network by the Accurate Leveling Made by Professor L. Struve in 1895 and 1899”; St. Petersburg, 1902); and Obrabotka nablyudeny pokryty zvezd Lunoyu vo vremya polnykh lunnykh zatmeny (“The Reduction of Observations of the Occultation of Stars by the Moon During Total Lunar Eclipses”; Petrograd, 1915).

II. Secondary Literature. On Struve and his work, see A. I. Slastenov, Astronomia v Kharkovskom universitete za 150 let (“Astronomy at the University of Kharkov for 150 years” Kharkov, 1955), 171–172. There are obituaries in Nauka i ee rabotniki, no. 3 (1921), 37; by L. Courvoisier, in Astronomische Nachrichten, 212 (1921), 351–352: and by N. N. Evdokimov, in Nauka na Ukraine, no. 4 (1922), 428–430. On Struve’s work in the prize contest of the Russian Astronomical Society, see F. F. Witram, “Otzyv” (“Review”), in Izvestiya Russkago astronomicheskago obshchestva, 21 , no. 6 (1915), 144–149.

Z. K. Sokolovskaya

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Struve, Gustav Wilhelm Ludwig (or Ludwig Ottovich)

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