Eugen (Jeno) Von Gothard

by catcher Saturday, July 21, 2012 4:03 AM

'The First Amateur Astrophotographer'

Born 31st May 1857, Herény, Vas, Hungary  
Died 29th May 1909, Herény, Vas, Hungary

Eugen ‘Jeno’ Von Gothard was born on the 31st of May 1857 in the village of Hereny, near Steinamanger, Hungary, the eldest son of the wealthy land owner Stephan Von Gothard. From an early age Jeno exhibited a great interest in physics, which he inherited from his father; who had been in turn inspired by his father Francis von Gothard. Jeno’s grandfather was a lifelong devotee of scientific experiments, which he conducted avidly for some fifty years from 1780 to 1830. It was therefore, no surprise that through the enthusiastic encouragement of their father, Jeno and his younger brothers Alexander (1859-1939) and Stephen (1869-1948) would devote their lives to scientific research.

After completing his studies in 1879 he travelled abroad for a year or so before returning to his estate at Hereny, with the intention of setting up his own Physics Laboratory. However he changed his plans, partly because of his now awakened interest in Astronomy and also because of the influence of his friend, the astronomer, Dr. Nicolaus Von Konkoly (1842-1916). Jeno decided instead to add an Astronomical slant to his proposed Physics Laboratory and so it came about that on the 20th of October 1881, the first observations were made at the newly inaugurated Hereny Astrophysical Observatory.

By 1885, Von Gothard had abandoned almost entirely visual observations and began concentrating all his efforts on the direct imaging Deep Space Objects (DSOs) and obtaining photographic spectra of stars, clusters, nebulae and comets. On the night of the 1st of September 1886, Von Gothard took the first photograph of the famous ‘Ring’ Nebula, a planetary nebula in the constellation of Lyra; an object which has been likened to a ‘smoke ring’ in Space. In doing so he became the first true amateur Astrophotographer.

To read more on his life and work and the other early pioneers of amateur Astrophotography, read the eBook chapter on Eugen (Jeno) Von Gothard or buy the Book 'Catchers of the Light'

 The 'Ring Nebula', (M57), Eugen Von Gothard, 10-inch reflector, 1886: image courtesy of the Archives of the Gothard Astrophysical Observatory of Eötvös University

Buy the eBook or Printed Book at the 'Catchers of the Light' shop.


Pioneers of Astrophotography

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Stefan Hughes began his career as a professional astronomer, gaining a 1st Class Honours degree in Astronomy from the University of Leicester in 1974 and his PhD four years later on the 'Resonance Orbits of Artificial Satellites due to Lunisolar Perturbations', which was published as a series of papers in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. After graduating he became a Research fellow in Astronomy, followed by a spell as a lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Queen Mary College, London. Then came a ten year long career as an IT Consultant. In 'mid life' he spent several years retraining as a Genealogist, Record Agent and Architectural Historian, which he practiced for a number of years before moving to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where for the past ten years he has been imaging the heavens, as well as researching and writing the 'Catchers of the Light' - A History of Astrophotography.