Born Lauenburg, (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany), 29 July 1765
Died Göttingen, (Germany), 31 August 1834
Carl Harding is best remembered for his discovery of the third asteroid in 1804, which he found while preparing an ecliptic star atlas. He was the son of Carl Ludwig Harding, a protestant pastor, and his wife Christine Louise (née Engelbrecht).
Following his studies of theology, mathematics, and physics at Göttingen (1786–1789), Harding became a private tutor. In 1796, he joined the household of Johann Schröter at Lilienthal, near Bremen. Harding was soon involved in the widespread observational activities of his patron and, from 1800, held the position of observatory inspector. In 1805, he became a professor of practical astronomy at Göttingen. His promotion to full professorship followed in 1812. Harding was married and had one daughter.
Physical observations of the planets had constituted the main activity of Schröter’s Lilienthal Observatory. But with the discovery of (1) Ceres, positional astronomy became a new and important field of activity. In 1800, the Vereinigte Astronomische Gesellschaft was founded at Lilienthal and established a European network of observers charged with mapping the ecliptic zone of the sky. Harding set to work on this project, and as a consequence, discovered the asteroid (3) Juno in 1804. His careful survey of the sky resulted in 27 maps comprising the Atlas novus coelestis (1808–1823), which plotted roughly 60,000 stars. This first-of-a-kind atlas was drawn without the traditional constellation figures; it remained a basic tool of astronomers until it was superseded by the Bonner Durchmusterung in 1852.
At Göttingen, Harding later joined in another mapping project, the Akademische Sternkarten, edited by Johann Encke at Berlin. Harding’s contribution (hour XV in right ascension) was completed in the first year of the program (1830). In addition, he conducted observations of the planets, comets, variable stars, and lunar occultations. He independently discovered four comets, none of which is now named for him (C/1813 G1, C/1824 O1, C/1825 P1, and C/1832 O1); he recovered comet 2P/Encke in 1825 (the second observed return via successful prediction of this comet). Harding also performed longitude determinations and collected relevant weather data. His results and discoveries were published regularly in Johann Bode ’s Astronomisches Jahrbuch, János von Zach ’s Monatliche Correspondenz, and Heinrich Schumacher ’s Astronomische Nachrichten.