Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 2369-2370


Wolff, Christian

  • Thomas HockeyAffiliated withDepartment of Earth Science, University of Northern Iowa Email author 

Alternate Name

Wolf, Christian

BornBreslau, (Wroclaw, Poland), 24 January 1679

DiedHalle, (Germany), 9 April 1754

Christian Wolff was educated in his home town of Breslau and then at the Universities of Jena and Leipzig. On the recommendation of his mentor, Gottfried Leibnitz, Wolff was appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Halle in 1706. There he quickly became known as a Leibnitzian philosopher.

After conflicts with Lutheran Pietists, Wolff was banished in 1721. He then obtained a position at the University of Marburg (1723) until recalled to Halle by Frederick the Great (1740). Eventually Wolff became chancellor of the University of Halle (1743).

In astronomy, Wolff often has been lampooned for his overly pluralistic physical description of life on the planet Jupiter: He reasoned that eye-pupil size is proportional to body size. Therefore, at Jupiter (with 5/26 less sunlight than at the Earth), pupils, eyes, and bodies must be proportionately bigger. Wolff ...

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