Cartographer of the Month: Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr

Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr was a German mathematician, astronomer and cartographer. (* 27. September 1677, Nuremberg; 1. Dezember 1750, Nuremberg)

At first he studied Law at the University of Altdorf near Nuremberg. Soon he became very interested in mathematics and physics which he studied at the University of Halle.

Having finished his studies Doppelmayr travelled from 1700 on to several German cities as well as to places in England and the Netherlands where he continued his scientific learning.

In 1702 Doppelmayr returned to Nuremberg an in 1704 becomes appointed professor of mathematics at the Egidiengymnasium, where he had learnt once himself. This professorship he held until his death. From 1710 on he also was director of the famous Eimmart observatory in Nuremburg.

Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr became well-known by his mathematic, astronomic and physical works which became widespread.
The biographic reference work "Historische Nachricht von Nürnbergischen Mathematicis und Künstlern", which was published in 1730, is an important work for the history of natural sciences.

Doppelmayr also published important works on mathematic instruments and translated several scientific works from French and English into German. Together with Johann Georg Puschner (1680-1749), a Nuremberg instrument maker and copper engraver, from 1728 on Doppelmayr published terrestrial and celestial globes.

Another thing which Doppelmayr became famous for are his astronomic maps. When producing them he worked together with Johann Baptist Homann (1664-1724), a famous Nuremberg cartographer, engraver and publisher of maps. The cartographic publishing firm of Homann was continued after his death by his heirs. In 1742 Doppelmayr published at Homann’s Heirs a collection of his splendid copper engraving maps called Atlas Novus Coelestis".
The Atlas contains depictions of the solar system, the planet movements, constellations, a lunar map and a world map. Most of the images are framed by beautiful allegoric figures.

The Atlas Coelestis was intended as an introduction to the fundamentals of astronomy. Besides the star charts, the Atlas includes diagrams illustrating the planetary systems of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe and Riccioli; the elliptic theories of Kepler, Boulliau, Seth Ward and Mercator; the lunar theories of Tycho Brahe, Horrocks and Newton; and Halley's cometary theory.

At the end of his life Doppelmayr dealt with electricity studies. In 1744 he published "Neu entdeckte Phänomena von der elektrischen Kraft" which is considered one of the first reference books in German that solely treats electricity studies.

Doppelmayr died on 1st December 1750 in Nuremberg, and many later sources claim that his death was caused by the fatal effects of a powerful electrical shock which he should have received during an experiment. However, other sources suggest that Doppelmayr’s electrical experiments were performed several years earlier and were therefore not the cause of his death.

In 1791, the German lunar and planetary observer Johann Hieronymus Schroeter named a lunar crater after Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr.