Monday, February 2, 2009

February 2: Ernst Zinner

Ernst Zinner
February 2, 1886 – August 30, 1970

Ernst Zinner was a German astronomer and noted historian of astronomy. After studies in Munich and Jena he obtained his PhD in 1907 at the University of Jena, followed by stays at the University of Lund, the University of Paris, and the Königstuhl Observatory in Heidelberg. 

On October 23, 1913 he rediscovered the Comet Giacobini-Zinner, which had been previously discovered by Michel Giacobini in 1900. His main work during this time was on variable stars. 

Dr. Ernst Zinner, director of the Remais-Sternwarte in Bamberg (Germany) 1926-1953 and distinguished historian of Renaissance astronomy, is well known to historians of scientific instruments through his manifold publications on instruments, amongst which his Deutsche und niederländische astronomische Instrumente des 11 – 18 Jahrhunderts (Munich: Beck, 1956), is certainly the most widely known.

Zinner was an untiring traveller, always interested to visit instrument collections or to see sundials on public buildings all over Europe before and after the Second World War. He painstakingly noted what he saw and which pictures he took, thereby accumulating an enormous reference collection on instruments.

His main astronomical work centered on stellar astronomy. His main speciality and interest, however, was Rennaissance Astronomy and the history of astronomical instruments, an area in which he started working in 1925. His obituaries quote a total of 9,000 printed pages on this subject, with the most significant ones focusing on biographies and cataloguing early astronomical works and instruments.

The Lunar crater Zinner is named in his honor.

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