BornSiegen (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany), 28 September 1854
DiedKiel, Germany, 13 July 1907
Heinrich Kreutz is chiefly remembered for his work on sun-grazing comets and his editorship of the Astronomische Nachrichten (1896–1907). He was the son of a superintendent of Siegen. After obtaining his secondary education in Siegen, Kreutz studied astronomy at the University of Bonn under the tutorship of Eduard Schönfeld and Carl Krüger. He was awarded his Ph.D. in 1880 for a study of the orbit of the great comet C/1861 J1. Afterward, Kreutz spent several months in Vienna with Edmund Weiss and Theodor von Oppolzer . For roughly a year, he served as a computer at the Recheninstitut in Berlin.
In 1883, Kreutz’s former professor, Krüger, was appointed director of the Kiel Observatory. Along with this responsibility, Krüger assumed the editorship of the Astronomische Nachrichten, then the world’s leading astronomical journal. Kreutz followed Krüger to Kiel, where he accepted a position as computer. From the beginning, however, Kreutz was involved in the editorial work of the Astronomische Nachrichten. In 1888, he was also appointed as lecturer at the University of Kiel; by 1891, he was named an associate professor. About that time, Kreutz married Krüger’s daughter.
Upon Krüger’s death in 1896, Kreutz succeeded him as editor of the Astronomische Nachrichten, a position he held for the rest of his life. In that capacity, he produced its volumes 140–175. Kreutz performed these duties with great care and maintained the journal’s high standards for publication. When faced with an increasing number of longer papers, he founded the Astronomische Abhandlungen (1901), to provide a forum of more comprehensive accounts. Thirteen issues of the Abhandlungen were published before his death. Kreutz also directed the headquarters for astronomical telegrams.
Kreutz’s most important astronomical research work was his investigation of the orbits of the great sun-grazing comets C/1843 D1, C/1880 C1, and C/1882 R1. Through extensive computational work, he provided evidence that these bodies were all members of a similar group of comets, now called the “Kreutz group,” which had their origins in the breakup of a once-larger celestial body.