Born Milan, (Italy), 12 January 1812
Died Albizzate, (Lombardy), Italy, 19 January 1881
Baron Ercole Dembowski observed double stars with unprecedented accuracy, remeasuring almost all stars listed in the Dorpat Catalogue. His instructions and suggestions on how to measure double stars with the micrometer are still considered of great value for the observer.
The son of Giovanni Dembowski, a nobleman of Polish descent and general in the army of the Kingdom of Italy founded by Emperor Napoleon I, Ercole Dembowski was orphaned in 1825 at the age of 13. Dembowski enlisted in the Austrian Imperial Royal Navy, eventually rising to become a commissioned officer. He retired from the navy in 1843 for reasons of health and settled in Naples. In Naples, Dembowski met Antonio Nobile, an astronomer at the Capodimonte Observatory. Encouraged by Nobile, Dembowski purchased a 5-in refractor with which he started to measure double stars from his observatory in San Giorgio a Cremano, a Naples suburb.
In 1857, Dembowski published his first set of double star measures, a reobservation of stars in the Dorpat Catalogue. Other publications followed in 1860, 1864, and 1866. In 1870, Dembowski moved to Gallarate, between Milan and Varese, in northern Italy, where he made a complete revision of Friedrich Struve ’s catalog by using an excellent 7-in Merz refractor. This catalog was published posthumously in 1883 in Rome. In 1879, Dembowski was forced to stop his observing because of frequent gout attacks.
In 1878, the Royal Astronomical Society awarded Dembowski its Gold Medal for his researches on double stars. A crater on the nearside of the Moon was named for him.
- Dembowski, E. (1883). Misure micrometriche di stelle doppie e multiple fatte negli anni 1852–1878. Rome: Salviucci.Google Scholar