Thursday, May 29, 2014

Johann Heinrich von Mädler and the First Accurate Map of the Moon

The Moon
On May 29, 1794, German astronomer Johann Heinrich von Mädler was born. He ist best known for producing the first exact map of the Moon, the Mappa Selenographica.

Even though Mädler's talents were discovered very early into his childhood. Unfortunately, his parents passed away very early and he had to care care of his younger siblings, even though he had always wished to study mathematics and astronomy. He financed his family though private tutoring and eventually managed to receive an official teaching licence. Starting from 1818, Mädler finally studied mathematics at the University of Berlin under the well known mathematician Martin Ohm. Also, he received many lessons in astronomy. His first published obervations were performed in 1822.

In this period, Mädler also got to know the wealthy hobby astronomer Wilhelm Beer. Mädler taught the man in science and was able to use his private observatory, where he observed mostly the moon and later planet Mars together with Beer. The first accurate maps of Mars and the Moon were created in the 1830s. Mädler drew a huge map of the moon, which was published in 1834. In later years, smaller maps were also published and soon became standard reading in the scientific community. These works made Mädler very popular and his reputation as an astronomer increased, wherefore he was announced professor of astronomy in 1837.

The scientists spent some time observing the Moon in Estonia in order to create an even bigger map, but unfortunately, the weather was not suitable most of the time and he was only able to make some detailed drawings. However, Mädler also found some time to perform observations on double stars and fixed stars. During his life as a scientist, Mädler also worked as a scoentific journalist and wrote about the young pioneer photographic pioneer Henry Fox Talbot. It is assumed that Mädler coined the term 'photographie' in 1839.

At yovisto, you may be interested in a video lecture by Ross Beyer, who talks about "Making maps to explore the Earth, Moon, and Mars".

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