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Astronomical observatories in Sweden
by Östen Bergstrand (1873 to 1948)


Historical background

When I wrote about the old observatory in Stockholm I found an very interesting article by an old astronomer, Östen Bergstrand. He wrote this article about Sweden's old observatories already 1931 and he died 1948. This old article was written in Swedish language, but I have translated it into English for you who find it interesting about our astronomy history in Sweden.

Here is a link to the original article in Swedish language and some information about the astronomer Östen Bergstrand:

I have tried to keep as much as possibly of the article's original layout. Originally published in Ord och Bild 1931. At bottom of each page I have put some additional information, including maps if you want to visit some of the old beautiful observatories.

Astronomical observatories in Sweden, page 1 to 2

By Östen Bergstrand

Observatori in Stockholm from 18th. Vignette from Vetenskapsakademins documents 1756. Observatory in Stockholm from 18th. Vignette from Vetenskapsakademins documents 1756.
Painter: Unknown

Astronomy belongs to the sciences, the operation of which partly requires a fairly expensive equipment. In a country like ours, with its more limited economic resources, the research work on astronomical observations must already for this reason be handicapped in some respects in comparison with the larger, richer countries, especially the America. It has even been questioned that Swedish astronomy would refrain from scientific observational work and concentrate on processing the observational results that could be made available from elsewhere, where one is happier in terms of favorable climate and large economic resources. That such a development would be highly unfortunate seems obvious to me, and it would

certainly lead to a decline in Swedish astronomy, which has already fought for a high and generally recognized ranking in today's scientific research.

Admittedly, our country, as little in the astronomical as the military field, can enter into any arms race with foreign powers, least of all with the U.S.A. But even if we are to some extent bound by our purely material inferiority in the choice of research tasks, experience shows that insatiable research areas remain open, where even with more modest resources, skillfully chosen working methods can achieve achievements of the highest rank. And in the end, however, it is not only on the large and expensive instruments that it depends, but at least as much on the man who handles them.

Anders Stolpe. Oil panting by F. Klopper. Uppsala Observatorium. Anders Stolpe. Oil panting by F. Klopper. Uppsala Observatorium.

What most gave rise to these reflections is the gratifying fact that one of our hitherto astronomical institutions, namely the Stockholm Observatory, is currently undergoing a complete renewal, which is soon to be completed. In fact, Stockholm's new observatory, located in Saltsjöbaden, will, even if it cannot accommodate the competition with the very largest

in our time, still be one of Europe's foremost in terms of modern facilities and equipment.

In this connection, it might be of some interest to take a look at external conditions under which astronomical science in Sweden has had and is currently working.

The oldest history of astronomy in Sweden is, for natural reasons, almost exclusively linked to the history of Uppsala University. According to H. Schuck, who in an installation program (Uppsala University Yearbook 1911) compiled the sparse associated data that are preserved, astronomy, along with theology and philosophy, was the university's oldest teaching subject and was conducted as such already during the Middle Ages 1. Preserved lecture notes show that teaching on the subject was given during the university's very first year, at least as early as the early 1480s. And in 1508, the learned Vadstena monk Petrus Astronomus, the designer of the famous cathedral court in Uppsala, gave a series of lectures in astronomy, in which he proclaimed such startling propositions that the rumor reached the pious brothers and sisters in Vadstena. The serious fears of Peter's pure doctrine, which had arisen, were meanwhile added by Archbishop Jacob Ulfsson himself.

Spoles observatory in Lund. Detail of Erik Dahlbergs plane over the battle at Lund 1676. Spoles observatory in Lund. Detail of Erik Dahlbergs plane over the battle at Lund 1676.

1 See also K. Lundmark. Some leaves from the history of Swedish astronomy (Pop. Astron. Tidskrift 1928).

Additional information by Lars:

More about Sweden in that era:

More about Stockholm's old observatory:

Location of Stockholm's old observatory. Have a look at my own visit to the observatory, Stockholm old observatory.

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