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Weiss, Edmund


(b. Freiwaldau, Austrian Silesia [now Jesenik, Czechoslovakia], 26 August 1837; d. Vienna, Austria, 21 June 1917), astronomy.

Weiss, son of Joseph Weiss, a physician, and twin of the botanist Gustav Adolph Weiss, received his earliest education in England (1843-1847). After his father’s death, he attended the secondary school at Troppau, Austrian Silesia. In 1855 he entered the University of Vienna, where he studied astronomy, mathematics, and physics, receiving the doctorate in 1860. He was hired as assistant astronomer at the university observatory in 1858 and became an associate astronomer in 1862. In addition to participating in both astronomical and geodetical observations. Weiss became a lecturer in mathematics in 1861 and associate professor in 1869.

When, in 1872, Littrow’s idea of building a great modern observatory on the hills of Währing, a suburb of Vienna, approached realization, Weiss was sent to visit new observatories and optical factories in England and the United States. This experience enabled him to contribute substantially to the definitive plans of the new institute. He became full professor of astronomy in 1875 and, eight months after Littrow’s death, succeeded him as director of the observatory (1878). He was also president of the Austrian Commission for Geodesy and a member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences.

Weiss organized and participated in expeditions to observe several solar eclipses, the 1874 transit of Venus, and the Leonid meteor showers in 1899. His main contributions to astronomy concern the determination of the orbits of comets. of minor planets, and of meteor showers. In opposition to Schiaparelli’s opinion that comets might have been formed by accretion in meteor showers. Weiss proposed in 1868 the now generally accepted view that the latter are products of gradual destriction of comets by tidal forces.


I. Original Works. Weiss’s books include Bilder-Atlas der sternenwelt (Esslingen, 1892); Über Kometen mit besonderer Beziehung auf den Halley’schen (Vienna, 1909): and Katalogisierung von Argelanders Zonen vom 45. bis 80. Grade nördlicher Deklination (Vienna, 1919).

Weiss’s most important papers were published by the Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Wien, math. naturwiss. Kl., in its Denkschriften and Sitzungsberichte, 2nd ser. (here abbreviated, respectively, as AK.D. and AK.SB.): “Bahnbestimmung von (66) Maja,” in Ak.SB., 51 (1865), 77–96; “Berechnung der Sonnenfinsternisse der Jahre 1867-1870,” ibid., 54 (1866), 796–810, and 56 (1867), 429–454; “Bericht über die Beobachtungen während der ringformigen Sonnenfinstenis 1867 in Dalmatien,” ibid., 55 (1867), 905–944; “Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Sternschnuppen,” ibid., 57 (1868). 281–342, and 62 (1870), 277–344; “Beobachtungen während der totalen Sonnenfinsternis 1868 in Aden, etc.,” ibid., 58 (1868), 697–720, 882–894; 60 (1869), 326–340; 62 (1870), 873–1016; “Sprungweise Änderungen in einzelen Reductionselementen eines Instruments,” ibid., 64 (1871), 77–104; “Bestimmung der Längendifferenz Wien—Wiener Neustadt durch Chronometer-Übertragung,” ibid., 65 (1872), 97–119; “Die Praktische Astronomie in Amerika,” in Vierteljahrschrift der Astronomischen Gesellschaft, 8 (1873), 296–321; “Beobachtung des Venusdurchganges 1874 in Jassy,” in Ak.SB., 71 (1875), 185–203; “Bahn der Cometen 1843 I und 1880 a,” ibid., 82 (1880), 95–114; “Differentialquotient der wahren Anomalie und des Radiusvectors nach der Excentricität in stark excentrischen Bahnen,” ibid., 83 (1881), 466–478; and “Entwicklungen zum Lagrange’schen Reversions-Theorem und Anwendung auf die Lösung der Kepler’schen Gleichung,” in Ak.D., 49 (1885), 133–170.

Further articles by Weiss are “Der Binomialreihe verwandte Reihengruppen,” in Ak.SB., 91 (1885), 587–596; “Bestimmung von M bei Olbers’ Methode der Berechnung einer Cometenbahn mit besondere Berücksichtigung auf den Ausnahmefall,” ibid., 92 (1885), 1456-1477; “Berechnung der Präzession etc.,” in Ak.D., 53 (1887), 53–80: “Berechnung einer Cometenbahn mit Berücksichtigung von Gliedern höherer Ordnung,” in Ak.SB., 100 (1891), 1132-1150; “Systematische Differenzen südlicher Sternkataloge,” ibid., 101 (1892), 1269-1406; “Bestimmung der Bahn eines Himmelskörpers aus drei Beobachtungen,” in Ak.D., 60 (1893), 345–394; “Höhenberechnung der Sternschnuppen,” ibid., 77 (1905), 255–356; “Beiträge zur Kenntnis der atmosphärischen Elektrizität, in Ak.SB., 115 (1906), 1285-1320: “Sichtbarkeitsverhältnisse des Kometen 1905 IV,” ibid., 116 (1907), 3–16: “Berechnung einer Elllipse aus zwei Radien und dem eingescholossenen Winkel,” ibid., 345–366: and “Untersuchungen über die Bahn der Kometen 1907 II und 1742,” in Ak.D., 84 (1909), 1–14.

Collections of observations of shooting stars were presented by Weiss in Annalen der Universitäts sternwarte in Wien, 3rd ser., 20 (1870), 1–114; 23 (1873), 1–113; and 27 (1877), 1–133; Many records of observations, and other minor notes, are in Astronomische Nachrichten, 48 (1848)–176 (1907).

His works are listed in Poggendorff, 11. 1290: 111 , 1429: IV, 1615-1616, 1716: V, 1350-1351.

II.Secondary Literature. Joseph von Hepperger wrote three obituaries: in Astronomische Nachrichten, 204 (1917), 431: in Almanach der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien, 68 (1918), 243–248: and Vierteljahrschrift der Astronomischen Gesellschaft, 53 (1918), 6–14.

Konradin Ferrari D’Occhieppo

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