1801, Johann Elert Bode published ‘Uranographia’, a celestial atlas
that showed both the positions of the stars with scientific accuracy, and his
own artistic interpretations of the stellar constellation figures.
Uranographia by Johann Elert Bode, 1801 | Royal Institution Rare
Johann Elert Bode (German 19 January 1747 – 23 November 1826) was the
German astronomer known for reforming and popularising the Titius–Bode
law, and naming Uranus.
Bode was directly involved in
research leading from the discovery of a Uranus in 1781. Although it was the
first planet to be discovered by telescope, Uranus is just about visible with
the naked eye. Bode consulted older star charts and found numerous examples of
the planet’s position being given while being mistaken for a star, for example
John Flamsteed, Astronomer Royal in Britain, had listed it in his catalog of
1690 as a star with the name 34 Tauri. These
earlier sightings allowed an exact calculation of the orbit of the new planet.
was also responsible for giving the new planet its name. The
discoverer William Herschel proposed to name it after George
III which was not accepted so readily in other countries. Bode opted for
Uranus, with the apparent logic that just as Saturn was the father of Jupiter,
the new planet should be named after the father of Saturn. There were
further alternatives proposed, but ultimately Bode’s suggestion became the most
widely used - however it had to wait until 1850 before gaining official
acceptance in Britain when the Nautical Almanac Office switched from using the
name Georgium Sidus to Uranus. In 1789,
Bode’s Royal Academy colleague Martin Klaproth was inspired by Bode’s name for
the planet to name his newly discovered element “uranium”.
1787 to 1825 Bode was director of the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut. In
1794, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of
Sciences. In April, 1789 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.
Bode died in Berlin on 23 November 1826, aged 79.
Keep an eye out for more illustrations from Uranographia over the next few days.