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Hermann Carl Vogel

Universally acclaimed astrophysicist Hermann Carl Vogel was born in Leipzig, Germany on April 3, 1841. The sixth child of theologian and educator Johann Carl Christoph Vogel, he attended a Leipzig gymnasium (secondary school) where his father was principal until the age of 18. Throughout his childhood, he became acquainted with his father’s friends and colleagues, such as physicist Robert Bunsen (1811-1879) and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). After grammar school, Mr. Vogel attended Dresden's Polytechnical School and then in 1863 studied natural science at the University of Leipzig. Two years' later, he became an assistant at the Leipzig Observatory, and then upon the recommendation of astronomer Karl Bruhns and Professor Johann Karl Friedrich Zollner became a director of amateur astronomer F. G. von Bulow's Bothkamp Observatory in 1870.

Collaborating with his college friend Wilhelm Oswald Lohse (1845-1915), Dr. Vogel began his lifelong study of the universe, and became a pioneer in the field of spectroscopic astronomy. He used a reversible spectroscope to determine the sun's rotational period through the utilization of the Doppler effect. His research also revealed the phenomenon of spectroscopic binaries, two individual stars that light revealed to be revolving around each other. In 1871, Dr. Vogel began dabbling in solar photography by experimenting with dry plates.

Dr. Vogel became a director of the two-year-old Potsdam Astrophysical Observatory in 1882, a position in which he continued until his death. With fellow astronomer Dr. Julius Scheiner, he applied photography to the measurement of spectral Doppler shifts, producing more accurate results than his visual observations at Bothkamp had provided. In 1888, Dr. Vogel presented the paper "The determination of radial velocities of stars by Spectrographic Observation", which celebrated the use of photography in recording nebulae structures and shapes. For his efforts, he received international recognition and was awarded several prizes, including the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1893), the Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Science (1893), the Richard C. White Purple Honors Medal (1899), and the Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal (1906). He was equally known for inspiring and mentoring young astronomy students, for his loyalty to friends and associates, and for his scientific diplomacy.

After several years of declining health, Dr. Hermann Carl Vogel died in Potsdam on August 13, 1907. His astronomical contributions have been memorialized by naming after him the lunar crater Vogel, the Vogel crater on Mars, and the Vogel asteroid (11762). Of the scientist and his legacy, Dr. Edward Knobel remarked when presenting the Royal Astronomical Society's gold medal to his colleague:

"It is a record of unwearying perseverance to accomplish great work; moreover it is the chronicle of a masterly attainment of success. . . . Not only is astronomy enriched by a series of investigations of the greatest value, but a distinct, and indeed marvelous, advance is made in our knowledge and conception of the stellar universe."



Ref:
1990 The Analysis of Starlight: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Astronomical Spectroscopy (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press), p. 79.

2012 Catchers of the Light (Paphos, Cyprus: Stefan Hughes), pp. 861, 881.

1908 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. LXVIII (London: Royal Astronomical Society), pp. 254-257.

1907 Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Vol. XIX (San Francisco: Astronomical Society of the Pacific), p. 238.


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