Otto Wilhelm von Struve

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Otto Wilhelm von Struve was a Russian astronomer in the nineteenth century who pioneered the study of double stars and made significant contributions to our contemporary understanding of astrophysics. Otto von Struve was the son of Russian astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve, and he followed in his father’s footsteps. He was a prodigy in his day, having finished high school at the age of 15 and university at the age of 20. Otto Wilhelm von Struve assisted his father in cataloging the northern skies while at the Imperial University of Dorpat. Otto Wilhelm is credited with discovering around 500 double star systems, as well as comprehensive published orbital measurements. During his distinguished career, he performed the most precise measurement of the earth’s curvature, known as the Struve Geodetic Arc, classified Saturn’s rings, and identified Uranus’ second moon. Otto Wilhelm, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal, made an incomparable contribution to the science of astronomy. After his death, the family’s name remained well-known in the field of astronomy. Ludwig and Hermann Struve, his sons, both became prominent astronomers, and Otto Struve, his grandson, was also a notable astronomer.

Childhood and Adolescence

Otto Wilhelm von Struve was born on May 7, 1819, in Dorpat, then part of the Russian Empire (present day Tartu, Ukraine). Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve and his wife Emilie Wall had eighteen children, and he was the third of them.

He finished his primary education at Dorpat at the age of 15. He was invited to the Imperial University of Dorpat to listen in on lectures despite the fact that he was too young to attend. He helped his father, who worked at the Dorpat Observatory, while at university.

He was named Assistant Director at the newly finished Pulkovo Observatory when he graduated at the age of 20 in 1839.

He graduated from the University of St. Petersburg with a master’s degree in astronomy in 1841.

Career of Otto Wilhelm von Struve

In 1841, he began his first solo research, attempting to verify William Herschel’s theory that the solar system was traveling toward the constellation of Hercules.

He began his investigation on double stars in 1842, which would eventually make him famous.
He was a member of the team that conducted longitude measurements between Altona, Greenwich, and Pulkovo between 1843 and 1844, which were based on enormous displacements of chronometers across the Earth’s surface.

He devoted himself to researching the sun in 1844, determining its speed to be 7.3 km/s. While a study conducted in 1901 discovered that the speed reported was wrong, Otto Wilhelm was correct in his observation that the sun was significantly slower than most stars in the night sky.

He reported his observations of Uranus’ moons, Ariel and Umbriel, as well as findings on Neptune, in 1851.
Struve took over operation of the Pulkovo Observatory when his father fell ill in 1858. He was appointed Director of the Observatory in 1862 and served in that position until his retirement in 1889.

He submitted his idea on the formation of stars from interstellar materials to the Academy of Sciences in 1861.
He assisted in the organization of the newly opened Tashkent Observatory in 1872.
He journeyed across Asia, Persia, and Egypt in 1874 to study Venus’s orbit.

He assisted in the upgrade of the Pulkovo Observatory from 1879 to 1884. The observatory housed the world’s largest telescope, a 30 inch refracting lens, when it was completed in 1885.

Major Projects of Otto Wilhelm von Struve

Otto Wilhelm von Struve continued his father’s work by compiling the Pulkovo Catalogue of Stellar Coordinates, a catalog of thousands of double stars.

He and William Lassell co-discovered Uranus’ second moon, Umbriel, in 1847.
While researching a solar eclipse in 1851, he came to the conclusion that the waves emanating from the sun were plasma, not an optical illusion. Solar corona was a controversial concept at the time, but it was ultimately confirmed to be correct.

He assisted in the completion of the Meridian arc triangulation from Hammerfest to Nekrasovka in 1852. The Struve Geodetic Arc was named after this precise distance measurement that took into account the curvature of the globe.
He measured Saturn’s rings and assisted in the discovery of its darker inner rings in the 1850s. He devised a naming system for the rings that is still in use today.

Achievements & Awards

The Royal Astronomical Society awarded Otto Wilhelm von Struve the Gold Medal in 1850 for his 1840 work ‘The Determination of the Constant of Precession with Respect to the Proper Motion of the Solar System.’
He was a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences from 1852 to 1889.
Struvena was named for three astronomers from the Struve family, Friedrich Georg Wilhelm, Otto Wilhelm, and Otto, in 1913.

Personal History and Legacy

Emilie Dyrssen was the first woman he married. They had six children together, two daughters and four sons. Emilie passed away in 1863.

In the mid-1860s, he married his second wife, Emma Jankowsky. They had a daughter together.
Ludwig and Hermann, two of his sons, carried on the family tradition and became astronomers. The other two worked for the Ministry of Finances and as geologists, respectively.

Struve resided in St. Petersburg after retiring in 1889, gathering his notes and exchanging communications with other astronomers. He enjoyed traveling and frequently visited Italy and Switzerland.
He flew to Germany in 1895, where he grew ill and decided to stay.
Otto Wilhelm von Struve died in Karlsruhe, Germany, on April 14, 1905.

Otto Wilhelm Von Struve Net Worth

Otto is one of the wealthiest Astronomers and one of the most well-known Astronomers. Otto Wilhelm Von Struve has a net worth of $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


In 1865, he grew unwell, and local doctors predicted that he would not survive. Struve opted to spend the winter in Italy, and when he returned, he was in excellent health.
He was planning to leave the Pulkovo Observatory in 1887, but Tsar Alexander III persuaded him to stay until the Observatory’s 50th anniversary the following year.