Kirch, Godfrey

, the first of a family of astronomers, of considerable note, was born at Guben, in Lower Lusatia, in 1640, and educated at Leipsic, where he acquired reputation by the almanacs which he published. In 1692 he married Mary Margaret Winckehnan, who rendered him much useful assistance by making astronomical observations for the construction of his Ephemerides. In 1701, on the establishment of the academy of sciences at Berlin by Frederic I. king of Prussia, that prince appointed him a member of the society, and astronomer in ordinary, with an honourable pension for his support. He died at Berlin in 1710, at the age of seventy-one years. He had been | in the habit of corresponding with all the learned societies of Europe, and published a variety of astronomical treatises, which are in considerable estimation. His wife, Mary Margaret, the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman at Panitzsh, a village near Leipsic, where she was born in 1670, was early noticed for her astronomical talents, and in 1702, some years after her marriage, she first saw a comet, upon, which M. Kirch published his observations. In 1707 she discovered a peculiar aurora borealis, mentioned in the Memoirs of the academy of sciences at Paris for 1716. These exertions of her genius procured her the esteem of the learned at Berlin, notwithstanding which she was in very low circumstances when her husband died. She contrived to maintain herself and educate her children, by constructing almanacs; and, in 1711, she published a dissertation entitled “Preparations for observing the grand Conjunctions of Saturn, Jupiter, &c.” Soon after this she found a patron in the baron de Throsick, and on his death two years afterwards, removed to Dantzic, when Peter the Great wished to engage her to settle in his empire. She preferred her native country, and, in 1716, accompanied her son to Berlin, where she was appointed astronomer to the academy of sciences in that city, and died there in 1720. Their son Christian Fkederic, born at Guben in 1694, who also discovered an early and very strong bias for scientific pursuits, commenced his studies at Berlin, and afterwards continued them at Halle, whence he made excursions for improvement to Nuremberg, Leipsic, and Prussia. He was employed a considerable time in the observatory at Dantzic, and during his residence here, the czar, Peter the Great, offered him an establishment at Moscow; but his attachment to his mother, who was averse from leaving Germany, led him to decline it. In 1717 he was made member of the academy of sciences at Berlin, and in 1723 he was chosen a corresponding member of the royal academy of sciences at Paris, and he shewed himself worthy of that distinction by the frequent valuable contributions which he transmitted to them during the remainder of his life. He died in 1740, in the forty-sixth year of his age. He published several works connected with astronomy, which were in considerable reputation at the period in which he flourished. 1


Bibl. Germanique, vol. III. —Chaufepie.Moreri. —Hutton’s Dictionary,