Who are Friedrich Bessel and William Lassell?

Throughout the history of astronomical accomplishments, an assortment of geniuses has paved the way for distinct and influential discoveries. In this article, we will take a look at a successful British astronomer and important German mathematician and astronomer.

William Lassell (1799-1880)

This British astronomer hailing from Lancashire, England, made tons of money as a brewer of beer, which allowed him to take pleasure in his interest in astronomy. This led to the construction of an observatory close to Liverpool, which held a 24-inch reflector telescope. Over the years, he Lassell was able to make strides in the use of an equatorial mount that allowed easy tracking of objects during the rotation of the Earth. It was he who actually ground and polished the mirror on his own, using instruments that he creates on his own.

All of this hard work paid off, as he became the first to discover Triton , the largest moon of Neptune in 1846. This feat would come just 17days after Neptune was discovered by the German astronomer named Johann Gottfried Galle. In 1848, he would share the co-discovery of Hyperion , a moon associated with Saturn. In 1851, two newer moons of Uranus (Ariel and Umbriel) would become a part of his legacy as well. These accomplishments gained him a notoriety that attracted even royalty. In 1851, when Queen Victoria paid a visit to Liverpool, Lassell was the only local she made a specific request to meet with.
1855 marked the year when Lassell constructed a telescope measuring 48 inches, which he set up in Malta , due to the observing conditions that he deemed much better than Britain.

Over his lifetime, he earned the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1849 and also served as president for the group for two years (beginning in 1870). To this day, there is a crater on the Moon named after Lassell, as well as a crater on Mars and a ring of Neptune.

Friedrich Bessel (1784-1846)

This German mathematician and astronomer is known for first measuring the distance to the star 61 Cygni. He also made notations regarding Sirius and worked on mathematical computations, which were later named the ‘Bessel functions.’ Bessel’s experience in math came with his position as an accountant who worked with cargo ships. He soon found himself helping out with navigational issues. This is where his interest in astronomy blossomed.

His skill and knowledge attracted the attention of German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers (a major figure in the field), especially when he expanded upon the orbital calculation associated with Halley’s Comet. After his work with the comet, he went on to become an assistant at Lilienthal Observatory located close to Bremen, Germany. He then made it his business to work on the stellar observations of James Bradley, where the exact positions of more than 3,000 stars were pinpointed.

All of this was accomplished when Bessel possessed no university education. Despite this , he was able to become a major figure in astronomy in his lifetime. He was also elected a fellow of the Royal Society and won a Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1841. To this day, you can find the asteroid 1552 Bessel named after him and the largest crater on Mare Serenitatis bares his name.