Nils Dunér (1839 - 1914)

Nils DunérAs Professor of Astronomy, Nils Dunér oversaw a large-scale rebuilding of Uppsala Observatory at the end of the 19th century. He had a great interest in the scientific application of photography and was a leading force during a time of transition for astronomy. Dunér introduced both astrophotography and astrophysics at Uppsala.
At the age of 16, Nils Dunér began to study astronomy, chemistry, physics and mathematics at Lund University. Plans for a new astronomical observatory in Lund were the decisive influence that led him to focus on astronomy.
During the 1860s, Dunér participated as geographer and physicist in two Swedish expeditions to Spitsbergen. Among other things, he produced the most accurate map so far of Bear Island, and as a result a promontory on the island was subsequently named after him. A long study trip to northern Europe and France gave Dunér important contacts and experience of the foremost optical instruments of the time.

Studies of the Sun’s rotation

In the new observatory in Lund, Dunér concentrated on astronomical observations. His most important work was using spectroanalysis to investigate the Sun’s rotation. Dunér had a very accurate spectroscope built in order to measure the Doppler effect of light, whereby the wavelength of the spectral lines changes depending on whether the light source is moving towards, or away from, the observer. Dunér was able to show that the Sun rotates, and that the speed of rotation is greater at the equator than at the poles.

Astrophotography and astrophysics at Uppsala

In 1888 Nils Dunér became Professor of Astronomy at Uppsala University and a dynamic period began. Following a large-scale rebuilding of the Observatory, astrophotography was introduced alongside classical astronomy. This made it possible to begin studying the physical nature of stars, an area of research known as astrophysics, which was completely new for the University.

1863                    receives his doctorate
1864                    becomes observer and lecturer at Lund Observatory
1874–1875          Associate Professor of Astronomy at Lund
1888                    appointed Professor of Astronomy at Uppsala University