S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Marth, Mr Albert (astronomy)

Born: 5 May 1828, Kolberg, Pomerania, Poland.
Died: 6 August 1897, Heidelberg, Germany.

Albert Marth, an astronomer in Germany and later in Britain, devoted his career to the study of the positions and movements of bodies in the solar system. He studied astronomy at the University of Berlin and then went to the University of Koenigsberg where he became assistant to the professor of astronomy, C.A.F. Peters. From 1852 to 1856 he published his first twelve papers (in German) on the orbital elements and positions of comets and other minor bodies, in the Astronomische Nachrichten. Meanwhile he had moved to England as assistant at the observatory in Regent's Park, London. There he discovered the minor planet Amphitrite on 1 March 1854.

In 1855 Marth was appointed astronomer at Durham Observatory, where he remained for seven years. There, in 1856, he started his research on the motions of the satellites of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. During this period he produced some important methodological papers. In 1862 he became assistant astronomer at Malta, where he compiled a catalogue of the positions of 600 nebulae. He moved to London in 1865 and in 1868 became astronomer at Gateshead to assist in the construction and erection of a 25 inch refractor. After a few years he returned to London, where he remained until 1883 when he was appointed at Markree Observatory at Collooney, County Sligo, Ireland, where he remained for the rest of his life. He did not publish much more up to 1874, but from that time until his death in 1897 most of his numerous papers were ephemerides, published in the Monthly Notices of the Astronomical Society, for observation of the satellites of Neptune (1880-1891), the satellites of Saturn (1875-1895), the satellites of Uranus (1876-1894), the satellites of Mars (1884-1896), the Moon (1886-1898), Jupiter (1875-1896), and Mars (1875-1896).

Marth came to the Cape Colony in 1882, representing the British Transit of Venus Expedition, to observe the transit that took place on 6 December that year. He set up his instruments near the railway line at what was then known as Montagu Road. The settlement was renamed Touws River in 1883. He was assisted in his observations by Calcott M. Stevens*, who had been an assistant at the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, in the eighteen-seventies. The two concrete piers on which their instruments were mounted were declared a national monument in 1938, after H.E. Wood* had drawn attention to their historical significance the previous year.

Marth had a comprehensive knowledge of the history of astronomy and an outstanding memory. The University of Durham awarded him an honorary Master of Arts degree and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1854. He never married and died while on a visit to Heidelberg.

List of sources:
Gill, D. A history and description of the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope. London: HMSO, 1913.

Koorts, W.P. The 1882 transit of Venus: Observations from Wellington. Phobos: Journal of the West Yorkshire Astronomical Society, 2000, Vol. 27(3), pp. 3- . Retrieved from http://canopus.saao.ac.za/~wpk/tov1882/tovwell.html on 2003-7-29.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Obituary: Albert Marth. MNRAS, 1898, Vol. 58, pp. 139-142. Retrieved from http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1898MNRAS..58..139. on 2018-9-6.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

Wood, H.E. Astronomical relics at Touws River, C.P. South African Journal of Science, 1937, Vol. 33, pp. 127-129.

Compiled by: C. Plug