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Friedrich Wilhelm August Argelander


The Argelander Program for Early-Career Researchers is named for one of the University of Bonn’s most renowned and passionate researchers, astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm August Argelander (1799-1875). Argelander’s work remains our inspiration in guiding talented young scientists to fulfill their potential and reach for the stars.

Born in Memel (Klaipėda), Lithuania, Argelander began his academic career at the University of Königsberg in Königsberg, Germany (now Kaliningrad, Russia), in 1817. He started out in cameralism, a discipline focused on public finance administration, but soon switched to pursue his interest in astronomy. Argelander studied under Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel, who became Argelander’s mentor and continued to support him throughout his career. In 1820, Argelander became Bessel’s first assistant at his observatory in Königsberg, a position he held through 1823.

In 1822, Argelander received his doctoral degree and published his influential paper “Untersuchungen der Umlaufbahn des Großen Kometen von 1811 (Examination of the obrit of the Great Comet of 1811).” With Bessel’s assistance, he obtained a position at an observatory in Turku, Finland, and became the first professor of the newly formed astronomy department when he was just 29 years old. By 1836, Argelander was internationally renowned and was recruited to the University of Bonn.

Driven by a thirst for knowledge, Argelander made groundbreaking discoveries during his tenure at the University and earned the rare honor of twice being named chancellor.

His greatest achievement was the Bonner Durchmusterung, a comprehensive astrometric star catalog of the entire sky. It was made possible by a method Argelander developed to map a large number of stars in a relatively short period of time. After making the first observations in 1852, he and his staff – Schmidt, Thormann, Schönfeld and Krüger – spent 11 years preparing the catalog for publication. It contained the position and magnitude of 324,198 stars recorded on 48 star charts. The catalog became one of the most influential standard references in the field of astronomy and made the city of Bonn famous around the world.

In 1863, the same year the Bonner Durchmusterung was first published, Argelander also helped found the German Astronomical Society – only the second astronomical society in the world at that time. The international organization continues today, promoting research, collaboration and public education in the field of astronomy.


Argelander's observatory "Sternwarte" today. It is where the Argelander Competence Center and the Bonn Graduate Center is located.

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