Struve, Vasilii Iakovlevich

Struve, Vasilii Iakovlevich


(also Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve). Born Apr. 4 (15), 1793, in Altona, Germany; died Nov. 11 (23), 1864, in St. Petersburg. Russian astronomer and geodesist. Academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1832; corresponding member, 1822).

Struve graduated from the University of Dorpat (Tartu) in 1810. He was director of the Dorpat Astronomical Observatory from 1818 to 1839. He played an important role in the construction and equipping of the Pulkovo Observatory and was director of the observatory from 1839 to 1862.

The Pulkovo Observatory gained worldwide recognition as a result of Struve’s outstanding work in basic astrometry, the determination of the coordinates of celestial bodies, and the compilation of star catalogs. In 1813 he began an extensive program of research on binary stars. His findings were presented most completely in Micrometric Measurements of Binary Stars (1837) and Mean Positions of Stars (1852). In 1822, Struve obtained the first reliable estimates of the parallaxes of 27 stars, and in 1837 he made a precise determination of the parallax of the star Vega (a Lyrae). Under his direction, the Pulkovo Observatory established a system of astronomical constants that was recognized throughout the world and that was not revised for 50 years. He himself carried out the classical determination of the aberration constant by means of a transit instrument of his own design. While studying regularities in the stellar system between 1845 and 1847, Struve introduced an integral equation of stellar statistics, detected the concentration of stars in the principal plane of the Milky Way, demonstrated the existence of cosmic absorption of light, and developed a method of allowing for this absorption in observations.

Struve’s work The Arc of Meridian at 25°20’ Between the Danube and the Arctic Sea (vols. 1–2, 1856–61) presented the results of years of geodetic work on the determination of the arc of meridian. The scientists directing this work included Struve and K. I. Tenner.

Struve was an honorary member of many foreign academies and societies.


In Russian translation:
Etiudy zvezdnoiastronomii. Moscow, 1953. (Contains bibliography.)


Novokshanova (Sokolovskaia), Z. K. Vasilii Iakovlevich Struve. Moscow, 1964.