Tuesday, 24 September 2013

From Augsburg to the Moon: Johann Matthias Hase

Johann Matthias Hase (Augsburg, Germany, 14th January 1684 – Wittenberg, Germany, 24th September 1742) 


Hase's Map of Europe
Hase's Map of Europe

Our first visiting astronomer was not the most lucky man, as you may recall, so I thought we would meet another gentleman of the stars today in the form of Johann Hase. His tale is a slightly more pleasant one so help yourself to a glass of claret as I reveal the story of a man whose name travelled all the way from Augsburg to the very surface of the moon!

Hase was born the son of a mathematics professor and from an early age showed a natural aptitude for figures and science, eagerly learning at his father's knee. Fiercely intelligent, at the age of 17 the young man became a student at the University of Helmstedt and later the University of Leipzig, where he specialised in mathematics with a particular focus on algebra, which sends a shudder through this particular salon keeper! 

However, despite his very analytical mind, Hase found himself increasingly drawn to philosophy and theology. For a very short time he set his mathematical studies aside to focus on faith but the lure of numbers proved far too strong and soon he was employed as a private tutor, undertaking further study at Leipzig where he developed an abiding fascination with astronomy and cartography.

Hase's academic career advanced at an astounding rate and he took a professorship at Leipzig, writing a number of seminal papers on astronomy and geography, including an amazingly detailed map of the world. Further maps followed of individual countries and continents and Hase became renowned for his cartography. He argued that geography and history were inseparable disciplines, unshakable in his belief that historians could not begin to properly examine the past unless they understood the lands in which events occurred.

Among all of this, Hase found time to pursue his interest in astronomy, even petitioning for the construction of an observatory at Wittenberg to further his studies. He remained involved in academic research until his death and today his name lives on, immortalised in the name of the moon's Hase crater, which the mapmaker would no doubt have appreciated!

2 comments:

  1. A very interesting tale! I'm always amazed at how much the astronomers of this time got done in addition to being astronomers!

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