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Wolfgang Sartorius von Waltershausen

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Wolfgang Sartorius von Waltershausen drawn in May 22nd 1843 in Rome by August Kestner

Wolfgang Sartorius Freiherr von Waltershausen (17 December 1809 – 16 March 1876) was a German geologist.

Life and work[edit]

Waltershausen was born at Göttingen and educated at this city's university. There he devoted his attention to physical and natural science, and in particular to mineralogy.[1] Waltershausen was named after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was close friends with his parents.[2] Waltershausen's father, Georg, was a writer, lecturer and professor of economics and history at Göttingen. Georg Sartorius (later Sartorius von Waltershausen) is best known in his role of translator and popularizer of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. His son, August, was a well known economist who specialized in American economy, and had at least one of his books translated into English.

Front page of Der Aetna

During a tour in 1834–1835 Waltershausen carried out a series of magnetic observations in various parts of Europe. He then gave his attention to an exhaustive investigation of the volcano of Mount Etna, in Sicily, and carried on the work with some interruptions until 1843 including with Christian Heinrich Friedrich Peters. The chief result of this undertaking was his great Atlas des Ätna (1858–1861), in which he distinguished the lava streams formed during the later centuries.

After his return from Mount Etna, Waltershausen visited Iceland, and subsequently published Physisch-geographische Skizze von Island (1847), Über die vulkanischen Gesteine in Sizilien und Island (1853), and Geologischer Atlas von Island (1853). Meanwhile, he was appointed professor of mineralogy and geology at Göttingen, and held this post for about thirty years, until his death.

In 1866 Waltershausen published an important essay entitled Recherches sur les climats de l'époque actuelle et des époques anciennes; in this he expressed his belief that the Ice age was due to changes in the configuration of the Earth's surface. He died at Göttingen.[1]

In 1880, Arnold von Lasaulx edited Waltershausen notes and published the book Der Aetna (cover page pictured).

Gauss zum Gedächtnis[edit]

Waltershausen was also the author of Gauss zum Gedächtnis, in 1856. This biography, published upon the death of Carl Friedrich Gauss, is viewed as Gauss's biography as Gauss wished it to be told. It is also the source of one of the most famous mathematical quotes, "Mathematics is the queen of the sciences", in full "Mathematics is the queen of the sciences and arithmetic is the queen of mathematics",[3] and the famous story of Gauss as a young boy quickly finding the sum of an arithmetic series.[4]

When Gauss died in Göttingen, two individuals gave eulogies at his funeral: Gauss's son-in-law Heinrich Ewald, and Waltershausen who represented the faculty in Göttingen.

Waltershausen Glacier


The mineral Sartorite[5] as well as the Waltershausen Glacier in Northeast Greenland 73°52′N 24°20′W / 73.867°N 24.333°W / 73.867; -24.333 were named in his honour.


  1. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Waltershausen, Wolfgang Sartorius, Baron von". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 297.
  2. ^ See link to see title page of book of their correspondence.
  3. ^ Die Mathematik ist die Königin der Wissenschaften und die Zahlentheorie ist die Königin der Mathematik. Variants include: "Mathematics is the queen of the sciences and arithmetic is the queen of mathematics. She often condescends to render service to astronomy and other natural sciences, but in all relations she is entitled to the first rank".
  4. ^ See [1] for discussion of original sourcing by Wolfgang Sartorius von Waltershausen.
  5. ^ de:Sartorit

External links[edit]