Wilhelm Julius Foerster

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Wilhelm Julius Foerster, ca. 1905

Wilhelm Julius Foerster (December 16, 1832 – January 18, 1921) was a German astronomer. His name can also be written Förster, but is usually written "Foerster" even in most German sources where 'ö' is otherwise used in the text.

Biography[edit]

A native of Grünberg, Silesia, he studied at University of Berlin and Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn,[1] and worked as Johann Franz Encke's assistant. In 1860, he co-discovered asteroid 62 Erato with Oskar Lesser, the first co-discovery on record. He became professor of astronomy at the University of Berlin in 1863.[1] After Encke's death in 1865, he became director of the Berlin Observatory, until 1903.

In 1868 he was appointed director of the commission established by the North German Confederation, and continued from 1871 by the German Empire, for the determination of standards of measurement. In this capacity, he superintended the reorganization of the German system of weights and measures on the metric basis. He was elected president of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in 1891.[1]

In 1892, he assisted in the founding of the German Society for Ethical Culture (GSEC; German: Deutsche Gesellschaft für ethische Kultur),[1] in which Albert Einstein also participated). He was also a member of the German Peace Society (German: Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft), and resisted the rise in nationalism brought about by the outbreak of World War I. When 93 German intellectuals signed the Aufruf an die Kulturwelt manifesto in support of the war, Foerster was one of only four intellectuals to sign the Aufruf an die Europäer counter-manifesto (the others were Albert Einstein, the philosopher Otto Buek, and its author, the physiologist Georg Friedrich Nicolai).

Publications[edit]

  • Populäre Mitteilungen (2 vols., 1879 and 1884)
  • Sammlung von Vorträgen und Abhandlungen (2 vols., 1887 and 1890)
  • Studien zur Astrometrie (1888).

Legacy[edit]

The asteroid 6771 Foerster is named after him, and so is the Wilhelm Foerster Sternwarte (William Foerster Observatory; IAU code 544).

Family[edit]

He was the father of the pacifist and ethicist Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster, who also participated in the GSEC, along with Georg von Gizycki.

References[edit]

Asteroids discovered: 1
62 Erato[1] September 14, 1860
1 with Oskar Lesser