Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 922-923


Heckmann, Otto Hermann Leopold

BornOpladen, (Nordrhein-Westfalen), Germany, 23 June 1901

DiedGöttingen, Nordrhein-Westfalen (Germany), 13 May 1983

German mathematician and astronomer Otto Heckmann was instrumental in founding the European Southern Observatory [ESO], of which he was the first director, and also wrote a text in theoretical cosmology that guided a generation of researchers in German-speaking countries.

After completing Gymnasium in the Rhineland, Heckmann entered the University of Bonn, completing a doctorate in 1925 with a thesis on the positions and proper motions of stars in the nearby cluster Praesepe, using plates taken at Bonn and under the directorship of Karl Küstner. That same year he married Johanna (née) Topfmeier who predeceased him by 2 years; they had three children.

For two additional years at Bonn, Heckmann worked on the theory of the dynamics of star clusters. (One of the important implications of his thesis observations and that theory is that clusters like Praesepe will dissipate after a ...

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