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Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers

Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers

German physician and astronomer
Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro German physician and astronomer
A.K.A. Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers
Was Scientist Physicist Astronomer Physician
From Germany
Type Healthcare Science
Gender male
Birth 11 October 1758, Hemelingen, Bremen, Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Germany
Death 2 March 1840, Bremen, Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Germany (aged 81 years)
Father: Johann Georg Olbers
The details (from wikipedia)


Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers (/ˈɔːlbərz/; October 11, 1758 – March 2, 1840) was a German physician and astronomer.

Life and career

Olbers was born in Arbergen, today part of Bremen, and studied to be a physician at Göttingen (1777–80). While he was at Göttingen, he studied mathematics with Abraham Gotthelf Kästner. In 1779, while attending to a sick fellow student, he devised a method of calculating cometary orbits which made an epoch in the treatment of the subject. It was the first satisfactory method of calculating cometary orbits. After his graduation in 1780, he began practicing medicine in Bremen. At night he dedicated his time to astronomical observation, making the upper story of his home into an observatory.

On March 28, 1802, Olbers discovered and named the asteroid Pallas. Five years later, on March 29, 1807, he discovered the asteroid Vesta, which he allowed Carl Friedrich Gauss to name. As the word "asteroid" was not yet coined, the literature of the time referred to these minor planets as planets in their own right. He proposed that the asteroid belt, where these objects lay, was the remnants of a planet that had been destroyed. The current view of most scientists is that tidal effects from the planet Jupiter disrupted the planet-formation process in the asteroid belt. On March 6, 1815, Olbers discovered a periodic comet, now named after him (formally designated 13P/Olbers). Olbers' paradox, described by him in 1823 (and then reformulated in 1826), states that the darkness of the night sky conflicts with the supposition of an infinite and eternal static universe.

In 1804 Olbers was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1822, and in 1827 a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Olbers was deputed by his fellow citizens to assist at the baptism of Napoleon II of France on June 9, 1811. He was a member of the corps legislatif in Paris 1812–13. He died in Bremen aged 81. He was twice married, and one son survived him. Olbers' paradox, the argument that the dark sky at night shows that stars cannot be evenly distributed through infinite space, is named for him, though others had also advanced it.


The following celestial features are named for him:

  • The periodic comet 13P/Olbers
  • The minor planet 1002 Olbersia
  • The lunar crater Olbers
  • The albedo feature Olbers on Vesta's surface
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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