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Horrebow, Peder Nielsen

1. Dates
Born: Loegstoer, Denmark, 14 May 1679 died, Copenhagen, 15 April 1764
Dateinfo: 85
2. Father
Occupation: Miscellaneous
The family were poor fishermen.
3. Nationality
Birth: Loegstoer, Denmark
Career: Denmark
Death: Copenhagen, Denmark
4. Education
Schooling: Copenhagen, M.A., M.D.
Being extremely poor, he worked his way through grammar school.
1703, Univ. of Copenhagen. Ole Roemer made him his assistant in astronomy. From the rest I assume B.A.
1716, M.A., Univ. of Copenhagen.
1725, M.D., Univ. of Copenhagen.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Lutheran : Lutheran
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Astronomy
Subordinate: Mathematics, Physics, Navigation
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia, Medicine
Secondary: Miscellaneous, Patronage, Government
In school he repaired mechanical and musical instruments and cut seals. He was quite gifted in these activities and was able to support himself.
He was Ole Roemer's assistant for four years (1703-7). He lived in Roemer's home.
1707-11, household tutor to Baron Fredrik Krag at Stensballegaard in Jutland.
1711, took modest governmental position as excise writer (some sort of position with the tax inspector).
1714, professor of mathematics and director of the observatory, Univ. of Copenhagen. Apparently he remained in this position for the rest of his life. Roemer had died in 1710; perhaps he no longer held those positions, for a Lars Schive, who died in 1711, was the incumbent. Horrebow had great trouble obtaining the post because he was the son of a poor fisherman and a minor civil servant who had not travelled abroad and knew very little German. He appealed repeatedly to the king, sending him samples of his work and was finally rewarded.
1720, academic notary (academischer Notarius).
1722, member of the university Consistorium.
1725, M.D. He had been practicing medicine since 1719; the degree made the practice legitimate.
8. Patronage
Types: Scientist, Court Official, Government Official
After having worked for Roemer, Horrebow was extremely loyal, and devoted much of the later part of his life to describing Roemer's scientific acheivements after a fire which destroyed all his papers and observations in 1728.
Without the favor of the king, he would not have been appointed professor and director of the observatory. He received a special grant of 300 rdl from the government to repair the observatory and instruments after the fire.
Horrebow's own papers and instruments were destroyed in the fire of 1728. A patron, Vincents Lerche, a wealthy government official, gave him books, allowed him access to Lerche's library, and had the planet machine in the observatory repaired.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Navigation, Cartography, Instruments, Medical Practice
Wrote on navigation.
He invented a way to determine a place's latitude from the stars. The method was soon forgotten despite its value until it was reinvented by the American astronomer Andrew Talcott in 1833. The method now bears both names.
He learned how to correct inherent flaws in instruments long before Tobias Mayer introduced his theory of correction in 1756.
He did in fact practice medicine in order to support his twenty children.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Académie Royal des Sciences, Berlin Academy
Member of the Académie (1725), the Berlin academy (date uncertain), and Videnskabernes Selskab (Society of Scientists in Denmark) in 1747.
  1. C.J. Bougine, Handbuch der allgemeine Literatur-Geschichte (Zurich, 1789). [PN551.B758] Kr.P. Moesgaard, "Horrebow," Dansk Biografisk Leksikon, 6 (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1979), 573-74 [ref. CT1263.D33 1979 v.6] V. Ingerslev, Denmarks Laeger og Laegevaesen, (Copenhagen, 1873- 4), pp. 161-4.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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