Gottfried Kirch


Born the son of a shoemaker in Guben geboren.

Initally he was school teacher in Langgrün and Neundorf near Lobenstein

Later astronomer in Coburg, Leipzig and Guben as well as Berlin from 1700.

He learnt astronomy from Erhard Weigel in Jena and Johannes Hevelius in Danzig.

From 1667, he published calendars and built telescopes. In 1679 he invented a screw micrometer for astronomical measurements.

In the last quarter of the 17th century, Kirch was the most-read calendar maker and counted amongst the leading German astronomers.

He first discovered a comet with a telescope for the first time in 1680 comet C/1680 V1.

In 1681 he discovered the Wild Duck Cluster, the galactic cluster M 11.

I686, he moved to Leipzig. Together with the farmer and astronomer Christoph Arnold, hr observed the comet of this year. In the same year, he found the variability of γ Cygni, now known to be a Mira-type star. He also dedicated a good deal of time to observing the double-star Mira itself.

He introduced three new constellations, the Reichsapfel (royal orb), the kurfürstliche sword (prince's sword (rough translation) and the Sceptrum Brandenburgicum (scepter of Brandenburg), which were not taken on by the Internationalen Astronomischen Union (IAU) at a leter date.

From Arnold, he met his second wife Maria Margaretha Winkelmann who had taught herself astronomy. During a joint observation of the comet of 1702, he discovered the globular cluster M 5.

For a long period he had been unable to find any employment, and so had to earn his living through the publication of calendars. In the calculations, he was assisted by his second wife and his children. Several series of calendars appeared over several decades. At times he produced up to 13 calendars a year, a few appearing under pseudonyms which continued under these names. By way of example could be mentioned the Christian, Jewish and Turkish Calendars, the Gypsy Calendar of the Sibylla Ptolemaein, a gypsy from Alexandria in Egypt, the Astronomical Miracle Calendar, die Wahrhaftigen Himmels-Boten, die Gespenster- und Haushaltungs-Kalender by Johann Friedrich von Rosenfeld / Der Astronomiae Ergebener and from 1700 the various Academy-Calendars while Astronomer Royal in Berlin.

Only of late has the importance been recognized of the Kirsch Calendars for the spread of the ideas of the early Enlightment and pietism in wide sections of the population. The function of almanacs encompasses guidance, information, education and entertainment. Kirch's Calendars were distinguished by the information of both his own observations and the results of others.A few calendars anticipate the Astronomical yearbooks. A further aspect was the imparting of new knowledge to ordinary people in the context of a growing distancing from astrology and critism of accepted opinions.

In 1700 he become the first astronomer of the Kurfürstlich-Brandenburgischen Societät der Wissenschaften, founded in Berlin on 10th. May 1700 by Kurfürst Friedrich III. (later King Friedrich I. of Prussian). The associated observatory was a reaction to the state Observatories in Greenwich, Paris und St. Petersburg. To finance the academy, the Kurfürst had endowed it with a „Kalenderpatent“ (a monopoly privilege over the publication of calenders). In other words, Kirch and his wife had to finance the academy via their calendar calculations.

After his death, his wife carried on the calculations for thr Calenders. In 1716, his son Christfried Kirch was appointed Director of the Observatory. When he had to prepare the Catholic Silesian Calender after the first Silesian War, the academy appointed his daughter Christine (1696–1782).