On “Carrington, Schwabe, and the gold medal”



I note with interest the article by Cliver [2005] about the early solar investigations of Heinrich Schwabe and Richard Carrington and offer some further insights into Schwabe's work and its reception at the time.

Schwabe commenced his observations in 1826 with a small telescope he had bought some years earlier. For more than 40 years, he observed the Sun and made meteorological notes. In his 1843 essay, he noted a sunspot cycle of about 10 years, but his result aroused little interest with contemporary astronomers. Research at the time was focused on the physics of the planets, the Moon, and other topics. Schwabe had published his data in the well-known Astronomische Nachrichten, but not until Alexander von Humboldt republished it in his Kosmos, volume 3 (1851), did the data begin to be recognized and accepted by Schwabe's fellow scientists. Humboldt's Kosmos was a publication of considerable prestige, and it had a wide circulation among scientists and the educated public. Schwabe's work became familiar to other scientists including Carrington, Angelo Secchi,and Gustav Sporer and, as noted by Cliver, earned him the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.