Astronomy and solar research – Rudolf Wolf and his legacy
Rudolf Wolf (1816 to 1893) was a classical naturalist in the nineteenth century. Born 200 years ago, his broad academic interests, key discoveries, interdisciplinary exchange and diverse publishing and collecting activities still set him apart to this day.
Astronomer and founder of the Eidgenössische Sternwarte
Wolf celebrated his greatest academic successes as an astronomer. In 1852, he joined other scientists in describing the discovery of the connection between fluctuations of the earth's magnetic field and sunspot activity, demonstrating that a sunspot cycle lasts at least eleven years. Wolf's international acclaim as an astronomer led to his appointment at the newly founded Polytechnic School (now ETH Zurich) in Zurich in 1855, where the architect Gottfried Semper constructed the Eidgenössische Sternwarte according to Wolf's specifications. It served Wolf and his successors as a basis for further solar research and observations.
First Director at ETH-Bibliothek
As a secondary function, the professor of astronomy was also elected as the Polytechnic School's first librarian – an ideal appointment: not only did Wolf have broad mathematical and scientific expertise; he was also interested in cultural-scientific issues and enjoyed excellent contacts with Switzerland’s naturalist societies, which supported the establishment of the library by donating books. Wolf presented the first printed catalogue (external link) to coincide with the inauguration of the library in January 1856.
Today, rare astronomical works and other purchases or acquisitions from the Wolf era rank among ETH-Bibliothek's most highly sought-after and valuable old holdings. However, Wolf's legacy goes further: today, ETH-Bibliothek safeguards and renders accessible the Collection of Astronomical Instruments, which is also based on Wolf's collecting activities. This also goes for the hundred-year-old series of sunspot measurements that began with Wolf’s systematic solar observations. ETH-Bibliothek makes many of these historically valuable documents and objects accessible online.
Materials on Wolf, astronomy and solar research
- Works from the collection of Rudolf Wolf
- Wolf's owner's marks (book plates, stamps, covers)
- Search in e-rara.ch (external link)
- Portrait photos of Rudolf Wolf in Image Archive Online (external link)
- Image material from the Collection of Astronomical Instruments in Image Archive Online (external link)
ETH Zurich University Archives
- Unique series of measurements recording sunspots from 1881 to 1995
- Additional records from the Eidgenössische Sternwarte
- Information on the current status of the digitization in the project portrait
Collection of Astronomical Instruments
- Digital images (360° and detailed views) of the objects from the Rudolf Wolf holdings
- Search in E-Pics Collection of Astronomical Instruments (external link)
- Folkers, Gerd; Schmid, Martin: "Under the Sign of the Sun", in: Folkers, Gerd; Schmid, Martin (Hrsg.): Ideas at ETH Zurich that shaped the world, Zürich: Chronos, 2016, S. 103–114.
- Mumenthaler, Rudolf; Voegeli, Yvonne: "Ohne Biblliothek keine Wissenschaft. Zur Geschichte der ETH-Bibliothek Zürich" in: ETH-Bibliothek (Hrsg.): Blättern & Browsen – 150 Jahre ETH-Bibliothek, 2005, S. 11–68.
- Cassini, Jacques. "Éléments d'astronomie (external link)", 1740
- Dicquemare, Jacques François. "La connoissance de l'astronomie: rendue aisée & mise à la portée de tout le monde (external link)", 1771
- Galilei, Galileo. "Dialogo di Galileo Galilei ... : dove ne i congressi di quattro giornate si discorre sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo, Tolemaico, e Copernicano... (external link)", 1632
- Hevelius, Johannes. "Johannis Hevelii Prodromus Cometicus, quo historia, cometae anno 1664 exorti cursum ... (external link)", 1666
- La Caille, Nicolas Louis de. "Coelum australe stelliferum (external link)", 1763
- Münster, Sebastian. "Rudimenta mathematica haec in duos digeruntur libros, quorum prior geometriae tradit principia seu prima elementa... (external link)", 1551
- Ptolemaeus, Claudius. "Almagestum CL. Ptolemei Pheludiensis Alexandrini astronomorum principis opus ingens ac nobile omnes celoru motus continens (external link)", 1515
- Stevin, Simon. "Les oeuvres mathématiques (external link)", 1634
- Zum 200. Geburtstag des Astronomen Rudolf Wolf: "Ich kann diese Unsicherheit nicht länger ertragen" (external link)
- 100 Jahre Sonnenflecken auf 28 000 Blättern (external link)
- Sonnenklar – Astronomie an der ETH (external link)
- Jahr der Astronomie 2009: Porträt von Caroline Herschel (external link)
- Lewis M. Rutherfurd: The Moon (New York, 1865) (external link)
- Die Leidenschaft für die Astronomie, das Bier und die Papageien (external link)
- Astronomie-rara (external link)
- Conrad Meyer: Planisphaerium Coeleste. Zürich 1681 (external link)