Gustaf Svanberg (1802 - 1882)

Gustaf Svanberg Gustaf Svanberg revitalised astronomy in Uppsala. He restored Celsius’s dilapidated observatory, then used his skills as an organiser and strategist to obtain support for a completely new astronomical observatory, which was inaugurated in 1853.
Gustaf Svanberg initially studied oriental languages but was encouraged to switch to astronomy. As a newly qualified “docent” (Associate Professor), and totally inexperienced in practical astronomy, he received a temporary appointment as astronomical observer at the dilapidated Celsius Observatory. Svanberg immediately began renovating the instruments, and through dismantling them for cleaning he learnt about their construction.

A study trip gives inspiration

Svanberg travelled through Europe and familiarised himself with the latest astronomical research. A visit to the famous researcher Carl Friedrich Gauss in Göttingen was particularly significant. Gauss was then involved in a completely new area of research, geomagnetism, and Svanberg was invited to become a recorder of geomagnetic data. For many years, Uppsala contributed to the international collection of geomagnetic measurements.

During the same journey, Svanberg visited Germany’s most modern observatories. On his return he was able to put forward a well-considered proposal for a new observatory in Uppsala. He worked hard to gain the necessary economic support and then directed the entire twelve-year building project. The observatory was inaugurated in 1853, though it was not until 1860 that funds became available to purchase the instruments.

The observatory becomes a centre for social debate

Gustaf Svanberg never really became a researcher: his administrative work and interest in practical things consumed most of his time. However, during his tenure the observatory became something of a meeting point for Uppsala society, where current issues relating to the university, city and society would be discussed. 

1825              docent in astronomy, temporary astronomical observer and director of the
                      observatory
1829              permanent astronomical observer
1842-1875     professor of astronomy
1853              inauguration of the observatory in the Observatory Park