Johann Georg Repsold

Johann Georg Repsold (19 September 1770 – 14 January 1830) was a German astronomer and fireman. He began to make astronomic instruments mainly for his own use and his third son Adolf Repsold went on to establish a well-known astronomical instrument making company A & G. Repsold which later became A. Repsold and Sohne.

Johann Georg Repsold

Repsold was born in Wremen near Bremerhaven to a clergyman Johann and his wife Charlotte Friederike Böhmer. Repsold initially studied for a career in theology but moved to study mathematics and drawing under Reinhard Woltmann, an Elbe River pilot who later worked for the Hamburg waterworks. In 1795 Repsold became a river pilot and in 1799 he married Eleonore Scharff, daughter of a captain in the fire brigade and in the same year, he too joined the fire brigade of Hamburg. He met the Swiss astronomer Johann Kaspar Horner who was making measurements in the Elbe river and discovered a common interest in astronomic instrument design and in 1800 he established a workshop. He began to make optical instruments as well and began a correspondence with Carl Friedrich Gauss on achromatic doublets. In 1802 he began building a private observatory, and collaborated in astronomical observations with Heinrich Christian Schumacher. In 1803 he made a transit instrument for Johann Horner and in 1815 Repsold made a meridian circle for Gauss at the Göttingen observatory in 1815. Gauss gave Repsold the plan for a heliotrope which was made in 1821. The Hamburg observatory was destroyed in the Napoleonic Wars in 1811. In 1825 a new observatory was completed at Stadtwall,[1] and Repsold became the director, supplying instruments at his own expense with other funding from the city of Hamburg.[2]

Repsold died in 1830 when he was struck by a falling beam while supervising firefighting at a major fire. The expense of running the observatory was subsequently taken over by the local government, and the new director was Carl Ludwig Christian Rümker. Repsold's observatory was demolished upon the completion of a new observatory, the modern Hamburg Observatory at Bergedorf, between 1906 and 1912. The site is now occupied by the Hamburg Museum. A bronze bust was set up in his honour beside the Hamburg state astronomical observatory. His third son Adolf Repsold took over position in the Hamburg fire-brigade and having apprenticed with his father, he and his brother George began the instrument-making business of A. and G. Repsold. In 1831 they made an instrument for Wilhelm Bessel to use in Edinburgh. The family instrument business was continued by Adolf's son Johann Adolf Repsold (1838-1919).[3][2]

The crater Repsold on the Moon is named after him, as is the asteroid 906 Repsolda.


  1. ^ Hünsch, Matthias (2009). "The telescopes of Hamburg Observatory–history and present situation". Monuments and Sites. 18: 274–283.
  2. ^ a b Koch, Jürgen W. (2003). "Repsold". Neue Deutsche Biographie. Vol. 21. pp. 441–442.
  3. ^ Brenni, Paolo (2017), Chinnici, Ileana (ed.), "Big Is Beautiful: A Few Considerations About the Making of the Large 19th Century Refractors", Merz Telescopes, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 1–18, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-41486-7_1, ISBN 978-3-319-41485-0, retrieved 2021-10-21

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