Christian Andreas Doppler

Born 1803
Died 1853

Related eponyms


Austrian physicist and mathematician, born november 29, 1803, Salzburg; died March 17, 1853, Venice.

Biography of Christian Andreas Doppler

There is much confusion about Doppler's full name. Searching Google for "Doppler" gives 13,700,000 hits, with these counts for the various variatons of his name:

Johann Christian Doppler - 326
Christian Andreas Doppler - 656
Christian Johann Doppler - 877
Christian Andreas Doppler -656
Johann Christian Andreas Doppler 57

His baptismal certificate says: Christian Andreas Doppler.
His gravesite says: Christian Johann Doppler.
Doppler never used his second name, Andreas.

Christian Andreas Doppler came from a family of master stonemasons who had had a successful business in Salzburg since 1674. He was born in the family house in the Hannibal Platz 1 (now Makart Platz 1), a few doors from Mozart's place at No. 8. He was the second son of Johann Evangelista Doppler, a master stone-mason, and his wife Therese.

Doppler attended primary school in Salzburg and secondary school in Linz, and it soon became apparent that Doppler had outstanding talents in mathematics. At the age of 19, on the recommendation of Simon Stampfer (1790-1864), professor of mathematics at the Salzburg Lyceum, he went to Vienna to study mathematics and physics at the polytechnic institute, now Vienna University of Technology. He graduated in 1825, aged 21, and returned Salzburg, where he supported himself teaching mathematics and physics. He then went back to Vienna to sturdy higher mathematics, mechanics, and astronomy. After completing his studies at the University of Vienna in 1829, Doppler became an assistant to Adam von Burg (1797-1882), the professor of higher mathematics and mechanics at the university. He worked with Burg for four years, and in 1831 published the first of his eventually 51 scientific publications.

The years 1833-1835 were ebb in Doppler's career. He failed in achieving an academic teaching position and for some time had to support himself as a bookkeeper at a cotton factory near the city of Brück. At this time he was close on giving up and had started preparations to emigrate and move to the USA. In 1835 he had sold his possessions and had reached Munich when he eventually was offered a position as professor of elementary mathematics and practical geometry at the State Secondary School in Prague.

Years of toil
The following years were very strenuous. Besides research his position also included a heavy burden of teaching, and Doppler had to spend countless hours in cramped, unhealthy and crowded lecturing rooms. His contemporaries believe that it was during this strenuous time he contracted the tuberculosis which was to take his life. Frustrated, he applied for positions of professor of higher mathematics at the Polytechnic Institute in Vienna and at the Polytechnic in Prague, but without success.

In 1836 he married Mathilda Sturm, also a native of Salzburg, and together the couple had five children. The year after the marriage, in 1837, Doppler changed to a position of assistant professor of advanced mathematics at the technical institution of Prague. He had become an associate member of the Königliche Böhmische Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften i Prague in 1840 and was made a full member in 1843.

In March 1841 Doppler was appointed full professor of practical geometry and elementary mathematics at the State Technical Academy in Prague, and it was as such he on May 25, 1842, at a meeting of the Natural Sciences Section of the Royal Bohemian Society in Prague, presented the work that was to make him world famous: "On the coloured light of double stars and certain other stars of the heaven". The work was published in the transactions of the congress the following year.

In 1844, Doppler's health had deteriorated and he was forced to take sick leave. It was not until 1846 that he was well enough to resume his duties. In 1847 he left Prague for the professorship of mathematics, physics, and mechanics at the Academy of Mines and Forests in Schemnitz (Banská Štiavnica), the oldest mining town in Slovakia. However, with the revolution that broke out in 1848 and shook the Austrian empire, the situation in Schemnitz became difficult, and in 1849 he moved to Vienna, where he was appointed to the polytechnic, succeeding his old teacher Simon Stampfer.

Herr Professor
In 1850 he became director of the new Physical Institute, which was founded for the training og teachers, and was appointed professor of experimental physics at the Royal Imperial University of Vienna, the first such position to exist in Vienna.

The following year he was elected to the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and, two years later, his academic career climaxed as he was appointed professor of experimental physics at the Royal Imperial University of Vienna, the first such position to exist in Vienna. This appointment was made by special ordainment by emperor Franz Josef I (1830-1916). Among the candidates Doppler examined at the Imperial University, was a 20-year-old Augustinian monk, Johann Gregor Mendel, (1822-1884), the father of modern genetics, who studied physics in Vienna in the years of 1851-1853.

Tuberculosis now had a firm grip on him and, in November 1852, he was forced to take leave and went to Venice to regain strength. The mild Mediterranean climate did not, however, have any positive effect. His condition accelerated and, on the morning of March 17 1853, Johann Christian Doppler died in the arms of his wife Mathilda, not yet 50 years of age.

His brother Johann Doppler lived from 1793 to 1838. He was married to Maria Anna Freudlsperger.

Doppler was buried in Venice. The city of Venice honoured Doppler with a "grave of honour" and the physicists of the city erected a plaque in the colonnades of the cemetery.

We thank Martin Lehn and Helen Ackerman, and Bill Johnson, for information submitted.

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