Wilhelm Ahrens - 1925-02-23

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To the discovery of the 1000 Asteroids & also to the 70th Anniversary of Gauss' death (Feb'y 23d - 1855)
by Dr. Wilhelm Ahrens -- Rostock, Germany

        The first day of the last - century, Jan'y 1st 1801, brought to the world an important extension of its previous knowledge of the Solar system - On that day the first of the Asteroids was discovered. The first of those Asteroids, which in our solar System complete the void between Mars and Jupiter, already perceived by Kepler.
        On that day, Joseph Piazzi, the Director of the University at Palermo, who had already for almost a decade been regularly observing the fixed stars noticed a small star of the 8th magnitude which however, much to his surprise, he was unable to find again the next night in the same location; instead of it, however, he saw, at some distance from the other location, another star not previously observed -- this same experience was repeated again on Jan'y 3rd. So he (Piazzi) was forced to conclude that the newly discovered star was a wandering star -- a Comet or Planet. The astronomer continued his search for the newly found Heavenly body, but adverse conditions in the way of unfavorable weather and serious sickness arose very soon to interfere with it. These discoveries of Piazzi were not learned of by the other Observatories until some time later and in the meantime the mysterious star had moved so far toward the Sun, that further observations could not be made until fall -- but even then the efforts of the different observatories /page 2/ to sight the new Heavenly body with the telescopes were without results. Calculations of the orbits of these new planets, from such inadequate data as the brief period allowed to Piazzi for his observations permitted was of course immediately undertaken by the different observatories, but the methods of Orbit calculation at that time were not such as to lead to accurate results -- and it appeared as if these recently discovered celestial bodies were to be again lost to the scientific world -- In this dilemma, unexpected help arose for the astronomers -- Help from a city which had no observatory, very likely not even a telescope worthy of the name within its walls -- Braunshweig. Living there was a young scholar, then little known who without the external aids & instruments of astronomers, was yet possessed of an inner vision so far reaching & a mathematical genius so marvellously piercing that he was able from calculations at his desk to so accurately locate the missing orbit of the lost minor planet, that now the work of retracing & rediscovery, by the men equipped with the telescope could not fail of success. This young scholar was Carl Friedrich Gauss, who from the few incomplete notations of Piazzi, was able, so accurately to calculate the orbit of the new Asteroid that now at the same time two astronomers, Zach in Gotha & Olbers in Bremer again found the lost planet. Further observations -- of Ceres by Olbers one of her rediscoverers, led him (in the next year, 1802) to discover a second planet. /page 3/... missing

/page 4/
letters to Gauss, wrote "From a few lines in your last letter, I can almost believe that you are feeling the beneficent attraction of some beautiful star whose compelling force (to put it in few words) could soon influence you to change your confirmed bachelor life for that of a matrimonial state." The scholarly man of Bremen, in practical life a physician, pursued Astronomy (which was indebted to him for such great advances only as a pleasure & recreation. Lichtenberg said of him "If only every one in their work accomplished what Olbers does in his recreation" = He had read aright. The beautiful star referred to in his letter to Gauss, was a young lady of Braunschweig, and exactly one year from the Olbers letter, their married life had its commencement. In August 1806 Gauss became for the first time a father - Father of a son, to whom he gave the name "Joseph" ----- after Joseph Piazzi, the discoverer of "Ceres" = the history of the discovery of Ceres presaged a brilliant & shining uprising of the Life Star of Gauss - To be sure the youthful investigator, even before his calculation of the orbit of Ceres, had presented to Science, another & in importance incomparably greater gift -- An enduring unsurpassable work on mathematics & The enduring and classical "Disquisitiones  Arithmeticae", published only a short time previously -- this work, however, being purely mathematical, concerned only the most abstract principles of Science -- The Theory of Numbers -- and remained /page 5/ even to the most important scholars of the time, with but few exceptions unintelligible & obscure --  In contrast to this, the rediscovery of Ceres had been a concrete spectacular accomplishment, which with one stroke had made the Braunschweig investigator (Gauss) universally renowned.  It was the discovery of Piazzi's which gave him the opportunity of revealing in most impressive form, his remar[k]able mathematical superiority to all of his co[n]temporaries.  This particular work had also the effect of improving his own personal affairs very materially & made possible the establishment of his own home.  thus the first child of the young father remains pointedly, by his given name, "Joseph", closely associated with the history of the discovery of Ceres --
When Gauss in the year 1806 gave his first born the name of the discoverer of Ceres he certainly had no thought, indeed he could not have had any perception, of the fact, that in doing so, he was forming the first link of a little chain to which would be added in the following years different & far reaching links through which this bit of astronomical history was in a way woven into the family of the great discoverer.

In the year 1807 there was again discovered another minor planet, the fourth, the discoverer of this being agin Olbers.  Since he had already once as we know exercised /page 6/ his privelege as a discover [sic], of christening it he now turned over to Gauss  -- the original computor of the orbits of these new heavenly bodies.  Olbers writing him "you have assumed for yourself such a fatherly interest in all of these rediscovered children & have done so much more for their development, than the discoverers themselves, it is only just and right that you should have the responsibility of a godfather relation.  Gauss accepted the proffered position of Godfather and exceedingly happy in his home life he named Olbers' "little daughter" Vesta the goddess of the family hearth, the tutelar [sic] Goddess of clean morals & spotless virtue.  Olbers continued in the letter .... to ask "should I ever be in the position of  needing a godfather whether in the Heavens of here on earth, I foresee that I must turn to you again dearest friend.  Happy man, whose dear name for thousands of years to come, the two goddesses of Wisdom (Pallas) and Virtue (Vesta) will glorify in the Sublime & enduring monument of the sky

The opportunity for inviting Olbers to a christening was soon to come to Gauss, not however in the Heavens, but upon the Earth.  On the 29 February 1808, he became for the second time a father -- of a daughter who in later years, became the wife of the renowned orientalist, Ewald -- this child was named Wilhelmine after William Olbers -- The third time so had Gauss already informed Olbers it must be Harding the discoverer of the third little planet and the fourth /page 7/ time yon [sic] again -- "I will see if I can not overtake the planets and keep up with them -- In connection with these hitherto cheerful words of the happy man happy man [sic] who could not foresee how soon thereafter his happy home was to be overwhelmed by the death of his dear wife.  It may be remarked here that it was the good fate of Gauss to realize his Asteroid programme -- to overtake the smaller planets, yes and to pass them.
Of the six children born to Gauss, of his two marriages (his 2d wife was Minna Waldeck) four of them bore the given names of the discoverers of the first four minor planets.  When he for the second time, at the birth of a son, who was named Wilhem (after Olbers) proffered Olbers the duty of Godfather, he wrote him, "You must allow me my very dear Olbers to beg of you again to be Godfather -- since the new planets which have meant so much to me in my surroundings must all receive their rights.
The early astronomers (who in connection with astronomy, very generally did homage to & served the "mad little daughter" as Kepler once termed Astrology) taught that every human being was born under some planet & that their development & fate were controlled by the particular constellation under which they were born --
Had Gauss a remnant of Astrological superstition when he named his children after the discoverer of those planets and did he believe he could bring the blessing of Heaven upon their lives? ----------- By no means and besides a hard fate had not realized for him his fatherly expectations -- The last named son, but more particularly another, who it is true was not named after a planet discoverer, at times for several years, caused the father many worries & cares

After the first four minor planets there were no others discovered for the nex 10 years -- not until the year 1845 did another smallplanet make its appearance -- its discoverer was an amateur astronomer -- Postmaster "Hencke" of Driesen -- the small telescope, with which he made this discovery, through an opening in the roof was later acquired by Director Archenbold and is now in the Astronomical Museum of the Trepton observatory Berlin.  Again a little later in the year 1847, a sixth planet was discovered by the same "Hencke"
Since he had himself once exercised his christening privelege this was again accorded to Gauss -- who gave it the name of Hebe --
In the last ten years of Gauss' life there were discovered not less than 29 minor planets -- not to mention the discovery so particularly important to astronomy of the Glorious Neptune.
The Great Investigator was now an old man and had been for years a widower for the second time -- He thought no more now of keeping pace with the Asteroids.
Even the paternal obligations as exercised by him /page 9/ in his orbit calculation of the first four planets he had surrendered to younger professional scientists; all more or less students of his in his classical work in the calculation of orbits of the Planets -- Theoria Motus Corporum Coelestrium", who had directly or indirectly fitted themselves for it --
The orbit computations of the first four planets which after the discovery of the Hencke planet had been adopted by the University of Paris particularly emphasized the fact that the ("Methods de Monsieur Gauss ehnens [sic] zugrunde liege" & they were based on the Gauss methods --
By the end of the century the number of the known minor planets had increased to nearly 500 & very early in the year 1924 the first 1000 -- was completed -- soon afterwards this number was exceeded -- 






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