Wilhelm Oswald Lohse

by catcher Saturday, July 21, 2012 1:52 AM

'The Rainbow Man'

Born: : 13th February 1845, Leipzig, Germany
Died:14th May 1915, Potsdam, Germany

Wilhelm Oswald Lohse, along with his colleagues Hermann Carl Vogel and Julius Scheiner at the Potsdam Observatory were three of the great pioneers of Photographic Astronomical Spectroscopy. Together they made significant contributions to the then new science of Astrophysics. Lohse was the  Chemist who worked with Vogel all his life, providing his friend with the technology to photograph the ‘rainbows of the stars'.

Very little is known about the early life of Wilhelm Oswald Lohse except that he was born on the 13th of February 1845 in the city of Leipzig, the son of a master tailor. He received his elementary education in Leipzig but like Vogel, continued with his secondary education at the Dresden Polytechnic School and then went onto study the University of Leipzig.

Lohse’s most important contribution to Astrophotography was the design and construction of an Astronomical Photographic Camera, which on its completion in 1879 was one of the very earliest of its kind. It was special in that it was a detachable camera and not one permanently fixed to a telescope as for example in the case of a Photoheliograph. Lohse’s camera became one of the best known Astronomical Photographic devices; being described and cited in many works of his time, and proved to be a crucial tool in the development of many new photographic techniques used at the Observatory and elsewhere.

During a ten year period from 1879 to 1889 it is known from his observational notebooks that Lohse took 217 ‘dry’ photographic plates of a variety of astronomical subjects including the Sun, Moon, Planets (Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn), comets, stars, star clusters and nebulae. Lohse plates were taken with the Potsdam Observatory’s then largest telescope, the 12-inch (30-cm) ‘Grosse Rerfraktor’ of Schroder and Repsold; not to be confused with ‘Great Potsdam Double Refractor' which was completed in 1899. 

To read more on his life and work and those of Vogel and Scheiner read the eBook chapter on 'The Rainbow Men' or buy the Book 'Catchers of the Light'.

'Great Orion Nebula' (M42), Wilhelm Oswald Lohse, 12-inch refractor, 1889

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.