Christian Heinrich Friedrich Peters

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This article is about the American astronomer. For the German astronomer (1806–1880), see Christian August Friedrich Peters.
Christian Heinrich Friedrich Peters.
Asteroids discovered: 48
72 Feronia May 29, 1861
75 Eurydike September 22, 1862
77 Frigga November 12, 1862
85 Io September 19, 1865
88 Thisbe June 15, 1866
92 Undina July 7, 1867
98 Ianthe April 18, 1868
102 Miriam August 22, 1868
109 Felicitas October 9, 1869
111 Ate August 14, 1870
112 Iphigenia September 19, 1870
114 Kassandra July 23, 1871
116 Sirona September 8, 1871
122 Gerda July 31, 1872
123 Brunhild July 31, 1872
124 Alkeste August 23, 1872
129 Antigone February 5, 1873
130 Elektra February 17, 1873
131 Vala May 24, 1873
135 Hertha February 18, 1874
144 Vibilia June 3, 1875
145 Adeona June 3, 1875
160 Una February 20, 1876
165 Loreley August 9, 1876
166 Rhodope August 15, 1876
167 Urda August 28, 1876
176 Iduna October 14, 1877
185 Eunike March 1, 1878
188 Menippe June 18, 1878
189 Phthia September 9, 1878
190 Ismene September 22, 1878
191 Kolga September 30, 1878
194 Prokne March 21, 1879
196 Philomela May 14, 1879
199 Byblis July 9, 1879
200 Dynamene July 27, 1879
202 Chryseïs September 11, 1879
203 Pompeja September 25, 1879
206 Hersilia October 13, 1879
209 Dido October 22, 1879
213 Lilaea February 16, 1880
234 Barbara August 12, 1883
249 Ilse August 16, 1885
259 Aletheia June 28, 1886
261 Prymno October 31, 1886
264 Libussa December 22, 1886
270 Anahita October 8, 1887
287 Nephthys August 25, 1889

Christian Heinrich Friedrich Peters (September 19, 1813 – July 18, 1890) was a German-American astronomer, and one of the first to discover asteroids.

He was born in Koldenbüttel in Schleswig, then part of Denmark but later part of Germany, and later studied under Carl Friedrich Gauss. Peters spoke many languages and gravitated to Italy at the time of the Italian unification. His association with radical groups brought him to the attention of authorities, and he fled to Ottoman Turkey, where he became a government advisor. At the suggestion of the resident U.S. consul, he emigrated to the United States in 1854.

Working at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York (near Utica), he was a prolific discoverer of asteroids, discovering 48 of them, beginning with 72 Feronia in 1861 and ending with 287 Nephthys in 1889.

He was involved in litigation in 1889 with his former assistant Charles A. Borst, and the "Great Star-Catalog Case" Peters v. Borst went before the Supreme Court of New York.[1] The judge sided with Peters, but many astronomers and newspapers sided with Borst. Peters died not long after. After his death, the judgment was ultimately reversed on appeal and a new trial was ordered, but it never took place. The eminent astronomer Simon Newcomb devotes a chapter in his memoirs to Peters, as an object lesson in how great scientific talent and poor ethical standards may coexist in a single individual.[2]

Besides asteroids, he co-discovered the periodic comet 80P/Peters-Hartley, and also discovered various nebulae and galaxies.

He died July 18, 1890 in Utica. Historian William Sheehan notes, "Peters was found lying, a half-burned cigar at his fingertips, on the doorstep of the building where he lodged; observing cap on his head, he had fallen in the line of duty, on the way to the observatory the night before."[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "At War about the Stars," The New York Times (February 1, 1889)
  2. ^ Simon Newcomb, The Reminiscences of an Astronomer, (Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1903), p. 372-381
  3. ^ William Sheehan, "Christian Heinrich Friedrich Peters", Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences