Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

New book: Alfred Wegener and the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut

Alfred Wegener

Alfred Wegener (1880 -1930) is worldwide mainly known for his theory of continental drift, but also as a polar researcher. However, he studied first astronomy and received his PhD in this field in 1905. His main supervisor was Julius Bauschinger, at that time director of the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut in Berlin. The Astronomische Rechen-Institut, which is located since 1945 in Heidelberg, considers Wegener therefore as his most prominent PhD student.

The (translated) title of Wegener's dissertation is 'The Alfonsine Tables for the use by a modern computer'. In his new book, Prof. Rolan Wielen (ARI Director from 1984 until 2004) an Ute Wielen describe in detail how Wegener received his PhD degree, based on the available documents, and the preparation and the results of his dissertation. The basic origin of Wegeners PhD topic was very probably the discovery of an old 'Astronomical Calendar' (AK) in 1901 by Zedler and the dating of this AK into the year 1448 by Bauschinger. They compare the data given in the AK with data derived from Wegener's converted Alfonsine Tables (AT) and with modern ephemerides. He finds that the data in the AK agree largely with those derived from the AT, if a slight constant shift in the ecliptical longitudes of the planets in the AK is taken into account. This shift is probably due to different definitions of the vernal equinox.

Further Information:
The book can be downloaded at A supplement with scans of selected documents can be downoaded at


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