Friedrich Christoph Mayer and his theory of the aurora borealis

  • Eric Chassefière Laboratoire SYRTE, Observatoire de Paris


The eleventh volume in the series presents two articles on the aurora borealis by Friedrich Christoph Mayer (1697–1729), a mathematician at the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg. The first paper, titled “De Luce Boreali” (On the Northern Light), was presented during a session at the newly founded Academy in October 1726. It was printed two years later (1728) in the very first volume of its official periodical, the Commentarii Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae. The second paper, also bearing the title “De Luce Boreali”, constitutes the author’s ‘second thoughts’ on the matter. It was presented during a session in October 1728 but was not printed until after Mayer’s death, in the fifth volume of the Commentarii (1735). Both papers are included in facsimile in this issue of Aurorae Borealis Studia Classica.

Eric Chassefière, member of the Histoire des sciences astronomiques team of the SYRTE laboratory at the Observatoire de Paris, has written an introduction to Mayer’s life and works with a special emphasis on his theory of the aurora borealis. In his introduction, Chassefière also recounts how Mayer’s theory was received by other eighteenth-century savants.