Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 1212-1214

Date:

Kirch, Christine

BornGuben, (Germany), circa1696

Died Berlin, (Germany), 6 May 1782

Christine Kirch worked mainly in the background and supported her father, her mother, her brother, and later other astronomers at Berlin in calculating calendars and in carrying out astronomical observations. The daughter of the astronomer Gottfried Kirch and his second wife, Maria Kirch , and the sister of the astronomer Christfried Kirch , Christine Kirch was educated in astronomy by her parents. She assisted them in their astronomical observations during her childhood. It is reported that Christine Kirch, as a child, was mainly responsible for taking the time (or measuring time intervals by using a pendulum). When she was older, she was introduced to calendar making. Christine Kirch assisted first her mother and later her brother in calculating various calendars. Until 1740, she did not receive a regular salary for her contributions, but only occasionally small donations from the Berlin Academy of Sciences. After the death of Christfried, the academy had to rely more strongly on Christine Kirch’s help in calculating calendars. She became especially responsible for preparing the calendar for Silesia, the province conquered for Prussia in 1740–1742 by Friedrich the Great. The new, populous province significantly increased the income of the Berlin Academy from the academy monopoly on calendars in Prussia. In 1776, Christine Kirch received the very respectable salary of 400 Thaler from the Academy.

Christine Kirch continued her esteemed calendar work up to her old age. When she was 77 years old, the academy put her into a status that we would nowadays describe as “emeritus”: she continued to receive her salary but no longer had an obligation to work. Instead, she was to introduce the new Berlin astronomer Johann Bode to calendar making. Her contacts with Bode were quite friendly, and were probably strongly enhanced by the fact that in 1774 Bode married a grandniece of Christine Kirch. After the death of his first wife in 1782, Bode even married in 1783 another grandniece of Christine Kirch (the older sister of his first wife).

In a letter to Christine Kirch, the academy expressed explicitly its official thanks for her work on calendars. She died as a very respected person.

The youngest sister of Christine Kirch, Margaretha Kirch, was also active in astronomy, but we know only very few details about her life. She was seven when her father died. Later, she observed comets, especially the comet 1743 C1, which was discovered by Augustin Grischow in Berlin on 10 February 1743.

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