Schröter, Johann Hieronymus (1745-1816)

Johann Hieronymus Schroeter was a German jurist and astronomer.  He was the founding member of the Celestial Police (Himmelspolizei), owner and manager of its foundation site, the Lilienthal observatory.

The foundation of astronomical association in Lilienthal

Enforced by the success of astronomical meeting Zach and his German astronomer friends initiated to establish an astronomical association. For the founding conference Schröter's observatory in Lilienthal was chosen. The meeting took place between 13-20, September 1800. The association founders were: Ferdinand Adolf von Ende, Johann Gildemeister, dr. Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers, Karl Ludwig Harding, von Zách and Johann Hieronymus Schröter.
The participants intended their association to be international, and by common accord the next astronomers were invited to be a member:
Johann Elert Bode, Berlin; Joseph Tobias Bürg, Wien; Thomas Bugge, Copenhagen; J. C. Burckhardt, Paris; Wilhelm Herschel, Slough, Windsor; Prof. Hurth, Frankfurt am Oder; Georg Simon Klügel, Halle; dr. Koch, Danzig; Nevil Maskelyne, Greenwich; Prof. Melanderhjelm, Stockholm; Pierre Méchain, Paris; Barnaba Oriani, Milan; Joseph Piazzi, Palermo; Schubert, Saint Petersburg; Prof. Sniadecki, Krakko; Charles Thulis, Marseille; Johann Friedrich Wurm, Blaubeuren; Ferdinand von Ende, Celle; Johann Gildemeister, Bremen; Karl Ludwig Harding, Lilienthal; Prof. Svanberg, Uppsala; Wilhelm Olbers, Bremen; Johann Hieronymus Schröter, Lilienthal; von Zách, Gotha.
The listed names can be found among the authors of AGE and its successor the Monatliche Correspondenz, published since January 1, 1800.

The newly formed astronomical association aimed the following tasks:

  • full exploration of the sky between the planets Mars and Jupiter to find previously supposed unknown planet;
  • to search for comets only visible in telescopes, quickly identify of track parameters and to make them available to other researchers;
  • determination of the parallax of fixed stars;
  • search for variable stars;
  • In order to prepare a better than ever star chart introduce astronomers' work with their peers and establish a working relationship among them using the Monatliche Correspondenz.

Vargha Domokosné : Zách János Ferenc (1754–1832) Csillagász, Hungarian

Johann Hieronymus Schröter was born in Erfurt, and studied law at Göttingen University from 1762 until 1767, after which he started a ten-year-long legal practice. In 1777 he was appointed to the Secretary of the Royal Chamber of George III in Hanover, where he made the acquaintance of two of William Herschel's brothers. In 1779 he acquired an achromatic refractor to observe the Sun, Moon and Venus. Herschel's discovery of Uranus in 1781 inspired Schröter to pursue astronomy more seriously, and he resigned his post and became chief magistrate and district governor of Lilienthal. He established an observatory in Lilienthal on his own money. In this observatory was the Celestial Police founded, for which he was a founding member, see sidebox.

His two famous assistant astronomers were Karl Ludwig Harding (1796–1804) and Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1806–1810).

In 1813, he suffered the disruptions of the Napoleonic Wars: his work was ruined, his books, writings and observatory was destroyed. He never recovered from the catastrophe.

In the early 1920s, the then small town Lilienthal did not forget about famous astronomers. We can find Schröter's portrait and Bessel's and Harding's silhouette on three different denomination necessity notes issued after the first world war. On the top are Bessel's and Harding's name, and the legend below: "Johann Hieronymus Schroeter Ober Amtmann zu Lilienthal von 1782-1816" speaks about Schröter's magistrates and its duration. Below: "DIE LILIENTHALER ASTRONOMEN" i. e. The Lilienthal Astronomers.

Bessel 2 reverseBessel 2 obverse

On the reverse of the largest denomination - 75 pfennig - note there is a church and a boat. The inscription: "Die Sparkasse zu Lilienthal gibt diesen Notgeldschein herans zur Ehrung großen Astronomen SCHROETER welcher auf der Sternwarte zu Lilienthal seine bedeutenden astronomischen Entdeckungen machte.", i. e. the Lilienthal savings bank issued this note to honor the great astronomer Schröter whose Lilienthal observatory made possible great discoveries.

Bessel 3 reverseBessel 3 obverse

On the reverse of the second note a man is watching a shooting star.

Bessel 4 reverseBessel 4 obverse

On the reverse of the third cash astronomical instruments can be seen. On the reverse of the two smaller denomination, we find the same inscription around the rim as on the first one.