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


Astronomical observatories in Sweden, page 9 to 10

By Östen Bergstrand

The big Double refractor at Uppsala's observatory. (This is the refractor that is told about in Selma Lagerlöfs' 'Nils Holgerssons resa' The big Double refractor at Uppsala's observatory.
(This is the refractor that is told about in Selma Lagerlöfs' 'Nils Holgerssons resa'.)

Photographer unknown.

Before I go on to discuss the further fate of the Uppsala Observatory, I would like to mention something about the second great advance in the 18th century's efforts to provide permanent residence for astronomical research in Sweden, namely the establishment of the Academy of Sciences' observatory in Stockholm. This event occurred only about a decade after the creation of the Uppsala Observatory 1.

In the same year, 1739, when Celsius started work on the construction of his observatory, the Academy of Sciences was founded in Stockholm. Already a few years later, on the initiative of the academy's secretary Pehr Elvius, the younger question of the establishment of an astronomical observatory for the academy was raised. The thought struck lively.

In 1746, the City of Stockholm leased land for the purpose on Brunkebergsåsen, and the estates agreed that building materials, which could be saved during the ongoing castle construction, could be disposed of. Hårleman also became an architect for this observatory. The foundation stone was laid in 1748, and in 1753 the observatory could be solemnly inaugurated in the presence of King Adolf Fredrik and Queen Lovisa Ulrika. One of Celsius' most prominent disciples, the astronomy assistant professor at Uppsala Pehr Wargentin, became the new observatory's first director and Elvius' successor as the academy's secretary.

1 It is described in a detailed and interesting way by N. V. Nordenmark in his work 'How Stockholm got an observatory' (Pop. Astron. Tidskrift. 1926).

A picture from todays astronomical observation work. A picture from todays astronomical observation work.
Photographer unknown.

The instrumental resources were rather modest. Along with some tubes, a 3-foot quadrant by Bird was probably the most important instrument. But Wargentin's genius overcame the difficulties caused by the scarcity of equipment, and his contributions to astronomical research were remarkable for their time.

As you can see, the time around the middle of the 18th century, with the founding of our first two public observatories, forms a strange epoch in the history of astronomy in Sweden. This era also includes the establishment (1753) of a small observatory at Lund University. It was arranged in the stair tower to the university's library building at Lundagård and thus of a temporary nature, but had to serve for over a hundred years. Its equipment was insignificant, so that the possibility of any more significant astronomical observation activity there hardly existed.

The truly significant and for our country honoring astronomical research work, which was developed at the two observatories in Uppsala and Stockholm during the 18th century, was succeeded by a state of a certain stagnation prevailing during the first half of the 19th century. The rather good equipment of the time, which the institutions received at its inception, gradually became obsolete, and economic and other circumstances stood in the way of maintaining the distinguished traditions of the eighteenth century. In Uppsala, the focus was mainly on the meteorological and earth magnetic observations, and the Stockholm astronomers were most preoccupied with geodetic work.

The second important epoch in the history of the Swedish observatories falls around and somewhat after the middle of the 19th century and is marked by the Uppsala Observatory's relocation and complete renewal and a few years later the emergence of a new university observatory in Lund.

Additional information by Lars:

More about refractor telescope:

More about Pehr Elvius (only Swedish):

More about Carl Hårleman:

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