Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers Biography - German physician, amateur astronomer

According to the Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers Biography, Olbers was a doctor who had an immense interest in astronomy.

Life and Works

The son of a minister, Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers was born on Oct. 11, 1758 in Arbergen, Germany. He studied medicine at Gottingen and also took a mathematical course. According to the Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers biography, in 1779, while sitting with a sick fellow student, he developed a method of calculating the orbits of comets. His method is still used today. After graduating from medical school in 1780, Olbers went to Bremen, Germany in 1781 and practiced medicine for over forty years. Olbers made the upper story of his home an observatory. Olbers only slept four hours a night so he would spend most of the night studying the skies especially comets.

In 1802, Olbers discovered the asteroid Pallas which he named. In 1807, he discovered the asteroid Vesta which he allowed Carl Gauss to name. Olbers theorized that the asteroids, which at the time were called minor planets, were pieces of a planet that had been destroyed. This theory has since been discarded by the scientific community.

On June 9, 1811 Olbers was formally appointed by fellow citizens to help in the baptism of Napoleon II of France. From 1812-1813 Olbers was a member of the corps legislative in Paris.On March 6, 1815 Olbers discovered a periodic comet which was named after him. He is best remembered for the Olbers Paradox: “Why is the sky dark at night?” He thought the sky should be as bright as the Sun. Many came up with wrong explanations. The real reason is the universe is infinite in time and space and the amount of energy and matter is too small to light up the sky at night.

According to the Heinrick Wilhelm Olbers biography, Olbers was married twice and had one son. He died on March 2, 1840 at the age of eighty-two in Bremen, Germany.


  • 13/POlbers – periodic comet
  • 1002 Olberia – asteroid
  • Olbers Paradox
  • Olbers crater - Moon
  • Olbers – a 200km in diameter albedo( a white spot that reflects the sun’s light) feature on the surface of Vesta

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