Maximilian Hell

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Maximilian Hell
Hell Miksa
Maximilian Hell dressed in Sami clothing during his stay at Vardø in 1769 to observe the Venus transit [1]
Born(1720-05-15)May 15, 1720
DiedApril 14, 1792(1792-04-14) (aged 71)
Scientific career
Fields Astronomy

Maximilian Hell (Hungarian : Hell Miksa) (May 15, 1720 – April 14, 1792) was a Hungarian [1] [2] [3] [4] astronomer and an ordained Jesuit priest from the Kingdom of Hungary.

Hungarian language language spoken in and around Hungary

Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric language spoken in Hungary and parts of several neighbouring countries. It is the official language of Hungary and one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. Outside Hungary it is also spoken by communities of Hungarians in the countries that today make up Slovakia, western Ukraine (Subcarpathia), central and western Romania (Transylvania), northern Serbia (Vojvodina), northern Croatia and northern Slovenia. It is also spoken by Hungarian diaspora communities worldwide, especially in North America and Israel. Like Finnish and Estonian, Hungarian belongs to the Uralic language family. With 13 million speakers, it is the family's largest member by number of speakers.

Astronomy natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects

Astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It applies mathematics, physics, and chemistry in an effort to explain the origin of those objects and phenomena and their evolution. Objects of interest include planets, moons, stars, nebulae, galaxies, and comets; the phenomena also includes supernova explosions, gamma ray bursts, quasars, blazars, pulsars, and cosmic microwave background radiation. More generally, all phenomena that originate outside Earth's atmosphere are within the purview of astronomy. A related but distinct subject is physical cosmology, which is the study of the Universe as a whole.

Society of Jesus male religious congregation of the Catholic Church

The Society of Jesus is a scholarly religious congregation of the Catholic Church for men founded by Ignatius of Loyola and approved by Pope Paul III. The members are called Jesuits. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Jesuits work in education, intellectual research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.



Born as Rudolf Maximilian Höll in Selmecbánya, Kingdom of Hungary (present-day Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia)., [5] but later changed his surname to Hell. He was the third son from the second marriage of his father Matthias Cornelius Hell (Matthäus Kornelius Hell) and his mother Julianna Staindl. The couple had a total of 22 children. Registry entries indicate that the family was of German descent, while Maximilian Hell later in life (ca 1750) is known to declare himself as Hungarian.

Banská Štiavnica Town in Slovakia

Banská Štiavnica is a town in central Slovakia, in the middle of an immense caldera created by the collapse of an ancient volcano. For its size, the caldera is known as Štiavnica Mountains. Banská Štiavnica has a population of more than 10,000. It is a completely preserved medieval town. Because of their historical value, the town and its surroundings were proclaimed by the UNESCO to be a World Heritage Site on December 11, 1993.

Kingdom of Hungary former Central European monarchy (1000–1946)

The Kingdom of Hungary was a monarchy in Central Europe that existed from the Middle Ages into the 20th century. The Principality of Hungary emerged as a Christian kingdom upon the coronation of the first king Stephen I at Esztergom around the year 1000; his family led the monarchy for 300 years. By the 12th century, the kingdom became a European middle power within the Western world.

Slovakia Republic in Central Europe

Slovakia, officially the Slovak Republic, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to the west, and the Czech Republic to the northwest. Slovakia's territory spans about 49,000 square kilometres (19,000 sq mi) and is mostly mountainous. The population is over 5.4 million and consists mostly of Slovaks. The capital and largest city is Bratislava, and the second largest city is Košice. The official language is Slovak.

The place of birth of Maximilian's father is unknown; the settlements Körmöcbánya (today Kremnica), Schlagenwald, (today Horní Slavkov) or Schlackenwerth (today Ostrov nad Ohří) are most frequently given. Born in a mixed German, Hungarian and Slovak town, [5] he presumably knew Slovak to a certain extent [5] and he probably understood Hungarian, [5] but his mother tongue was German. [5] Even so, Hell considered himself a Hungarian. [5] [6] Hell with another Jesuit priest, János Sajnovics tried to explore the already widely discussed but insufficiently documented affinity between the language of the Sami, Finns and the Hungarians during and after their residency in Vardø. (Demonstratio idioma Ungarorum et Lapponum idem esse, 1770 Copenhagen) [1] [7] [8]

Kremnica Town in Slovakia

Kremnica is a town in central Slovakia. It has some 5,300 inhabitants. The well-preserved medieval town built above important gold mines is the site of the oldest still-working mint in the world.

Horní Slavkov Town in Czech Republic

Horní Slavkov is a town in Sokolov District, Karlovy Vary Region, Czech Republic. It has a population of 5,503.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Hell became the director of the Vienna Observatory in 1756. [9] He published the astronomical tables Ephemerides astronomicae ad meridianum Vindobonemsem ("Ephemerides for the Meridian of Vienna"). He and his assistant János Sajnovics went to Vardø in the far north of Norway (then part of Denmark-Norway) to observe the 1769 transit of Venus. He was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters on October 13, 1769. This society also funded the publication of his 1770 account of the Venus passage Observatio transitus Veneris ante discum Solis die 3. Junii anno 1769 (Copenhagen, 1770). [10]

Vienna Observatory observatory in Austria

The Vienna Observatory is an astronomical observatory in Vienna, Austria. It is part of the University of Vienna. The first observatory was built in 1753–1754 on the roof of one of the university buildings.

János Sajnovics Hungarian linguist, anthropologist, astronomer and mathematician

János Sajnovics de Tordas et Káloz was a Hungarian linguist and member of the Jesuit order. He is best known for his pioneering work in comparative linguistics, particularly his systematic demonstration of the linguistic relationship between the Sami languages and Hungarian.

Vardø Municipality in Finnmark, Norway

Vardø  is a municipality in Finnmark county in the extreme northeastern part of Norway. The administrative centre of the municipality is the town of Vardø. Two of the larger villages in the municipality are Kiberg and Svartnes.

There was some controversy about Hell's observations of the transit of Venus because he stayed in Norway for eight months, collecting non-astronomical scientific data about the arctic regions for a planned encyclopedia (which never appeared, in part due to the suppression of the Jesuit order). The publication of his results was delayed, and some (notably Joseph Johann Littrow) accused Hell posthumously of falsifying his results. However, Simon Newcomb carefully studied Hell's notebooks and exonerated him a century after his death in Vienna.

Simon Newcomb American astronomer

Simon Newcomb was a Canadian–American astronomer, applied mathematician and autodidactic polymath, who was Professor of Mathematics in the U.S. Navy and at Johns Hopkins.

Besides astronomy, Hell also had an interest in magnet therapy (the alleged healing power of magnets), although it was Franz Anton Mesmer who went further with this and received most of the credit.

Magnet therapy, magnetic therapy is a pseudoscientific alternative medicine practice involving a weak static magnetic fields produced by a permanent magnet. It is similar to the alternative medicine practice of electromagnetic therapy, which uses a magnetic field generated by an electrically powered device.

In 1771, Hell was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The crater Hell on the Moon is named after him.



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  6. "God God, who had believed that we will find brothers from the same ancient father in the Lapp people! Hungarians, our brethren, who speak our Hungarian language, wear our Hungarian clothes, live according to the customs of our Hungarian fathers, summing it up: our brethren." Maximilian Hell's letter to Pater Höller, written in Vardø, April 6, 1769. More letters from Hell at: (Hungarian)
  7. Jacek Juliusz Jadacki; Witold Strawiński; Jerzy Pelc (1998). In the World of Signs: Essays in Honour of Professor Jerzy Pelc. Rodopi. p. 459. ISBN   9789042003897.
  8. Mikko Korhonen (1986). Finno-Ugrian Language Studies in Finland, 1828-1918. Societas Scientiarum Fennica. p. 226. ISBN   9789516531352.
  9. Kragh 2008 , p. 80
  10. Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab 1742-1942 - Samlinger til Selskabets Historie, vol. 1, Copenhagen, 1942, p. 386.