Background
Naum Idelson was born on March 13, 1885, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. His father Ilya Idelson, a mathematician, wished his son to become a lawyer.
13B Universitetskaya Emb., St Petersburg 199034, Russia
After graduating from the Gymnasium Idelson entered the law faculty of Saint Petersburg University, studying mathematics at the same time in the physical-mathematical faculty. His brilliance enabled him to graduate in 1909 from both faculties.
13B Universitetskaya Emb., St Petersburg 199034, Russia
After graduating from the Gymnasium Idelson entered the law faculty of Saint Petersburg University, studying mathematics at the same time in the physical-mathematical faculty. His brilliance enabled him to graduate in 1909 from both faculties.
The crater on the Moon is named after Idelson.
Наум Ильич Идельсон
Astronomer educator historian scientist
Naum Idelson was born on March 13, 1885, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. His father Ilya Idelson, a mathematician, wished his son to become a lawyer.
After graduating from the Gymnasium Idelson entered the law faculty of Saint Petersburg University, studying mathematics at the same time in the physical-mathematical faculty. His brilliance enabled him to graduate in 1909 from both faculties.
For a while, Idelson was assistant to a barrister, but his interest in mathematics led to his teaching that subject in a secondary school. Obviously a born teacher, he devoted all his free time to serious scientific studies - theoretical astronomy and celestial mechanics.
In 1918 Idelson was invited to join the computational bureau of the astronomical section of the P. F. Lesgaft Scientific Institute, headed by the extraordinary scientist and revolutionary N. A. Morozov (named Shlisselburgsky). This bureau computed the astronomical tables known as “The Canon of Solar Eclipses,” which are indispensable for the study of the chronology of Russian history.
Although a project for compiling a Russian astronomical yearbook had been proposed in April 1917 at the First All-Russian Astronomical Congress in Petrograd, not until 1919 was a special institution created - the State Computing Institute - to satisfy the new nation’s need for precise astronomical data for both scientific and practical use. Idelson became the head of the group computing the basic tables of the yearbook, for which project he studied in depth the theory and technique of compiling astronomical ephemerides.
In 1923 the Astronomical-Geodesic Institute was merged with the Computing Institute to form the Leningrad Astronomical Institute. Idelson became the head of its astrometrical section and, in 1924, assistant to the director, B. V. Numerov. In 1924 Idelson visited the Berlin Computing Institute, the Computing Institute at Frankfurt-am-Main, the Paris Bureau of Longitudes, and a number of French observatories. His familiarity with the activity of foreign astronomical computing institutions aided the progress of corresponding work at the new institute, which besides the basic Astronomical Yearbook began publication in 1929 of the Marine Astronomical Yearbook and, later, the Aviation Yearbook and Ephemerides of 500 Zinger Pairs.
At the end of 1920, the Pulkovo Observatory invited Idelson to direct the Petrograd section of its computing bureau, where he organized the compilation of tables of Besselian values A, B, C, D, and E for 1920-1960, necessary for processing meridional observations. Idelson also conducted a huge project for deriving corrections of the equinox from the series of Pulkovo observations of the sun’s position in 1904-1915.
In 1926 Idelson, who had taught mathematics, mechanics, and geophysics at various higher educational institutions, was invited to Leningrad University. In 1933 he became a professor of astronomy there, giving courses in theoretical astrometry, theory of tides, potential theory, theory of the shape of the earth, theory of mathematical analysis of observations, general mechanics, history of astronomy, and history of mechanics. From 1930 to 1937 he also occupied the chair of theoretical mechanics at the Leningrad Institute of Precision Mechanics and Optics.
In December 1941, Idelson was evacuated from blockaded Leningrad to Kazan, where he lectured on celestial mechanics at Kazan University, occupied the chair of geophysics, and headed the gravimetry laboratory. After his return to Leningrad he renewed his work at the university, at the Institute of Precision Mechanics and Optics, and at the Pulkovo Observatory, where he directed the astrometrical section.
Idelson’s areas of basic scientific interest were fundamental astrometry, celestial mechanics, and the history of astronomy. His works related to the theory of ephemerides, published in the appendixes to the Astronomical Yearbook in 1941 and 1942, gained wide recognition, as did those in potential theory and the theory of the shape of the earth, the subject of his basic monograph Potential Theory With an Application to the Theory of the Shape of the Earth and to Geophysics.
Idelson left a deep mark on the history of astronomy. Particularly notable are his excellent book History of the Calendar (1925) and his articles on this subject in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia; his discerning commentaries and articles on Clairaut, Appell, Lobachevsky, Copernicus, and Galileo; and his sketches of Newton, Laplace, and Le Verrier. One of Idelson’s first publications in the history of astronomy, History, and Astronomy (1925), was devoted to a criticism of the “horoscopical method” of investigating the facts of world history developed by Morozov. In it he showed a broad knowledge of the scientific literature of antiquity and great feeling for the spirit of the epoch. He established the authenticity of ancient scientists’ astronomical observations and the special importance of Ptolemy’s Almagest in the history of science.
Idelson’s most important and original work in the history of astronomy was Etudes on the History of Planetary Theories, in which he masterfully investigated the development from Hipparchus to Kepler of mathematical methods of representing the movement of the planets. Unfortunately, all his work in this field has been published only in Russian and has not attracted the foreign attention that it deserves.
In 1914 Idelson was elected a member of the Russian Astronomical Society and of the Society of Amateur Naturalists.
Idelson was the cousin of Alexandra Azarkh-Granovsky, a Soviet actress.