February, 15th 2014
Djordje Stanojevic and astronomy is a text about his contribution to astronomy. It is also a short overview of his book Starry Sky of Independent Serbia, which is one of the first books about astronomy in Serbian.
Djordje Stanojevic is one of the most important Serbian scientists and researchers and the first Serbian popularizer of science as we know it today. He graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Belgrade, Mathematics Department in 1881 but from the beginning of his studies he pursued interest in physics and astronomy. He was the second person on the head of the Astronomical observatory in Serbia in the 19th century and a pioneer of the scientific terminology in astronomy in Serbian. Also, he was the head of the Department for Astronomy and Meteorology at the University of Belgrade. Military Ministry awarded him a scholarship and between 1883 and 1887 he was abroad studying, developing and enhancing his knowledge in the renowned astronomical and weather observatories and institutions in Europe: University of Berlin, Astrophysical observatory in Potsdam, Meteorological Centre in Hamburg, Paris Observatory for Physical Astronomy in Medon, Sorbonne, Greenwich and Pulkovo.
In Medon Stanojevic worked together with Jules Janssen, a renowned astrophysicist who founded Paris Observatory. Due to the fact that Stanojevic achieved outstanding results in the field, he was sent on two scientific-research expeditions at the suggestion of Jules Janssen. The first one was in the European part of Russia, Yaroslav region in Siberia, to the north of Moscow, where he was sent to observe the total solar eclipse on October 19th 1887. As it was cloudy, Stanojevic could only partially see the phase of the total solar eclipse which lasted 20–25 seconds. He published the report about this phenomenon in the journal of the French Academy of Sciences. Stanojevic went on the second expedition with Janssen to Algerian oasis Biskra where he intended to explore the solar spectrum near the horizon so as to examine the influence of the atmosphere of the Earth. This expedition lasted for four and a half months. It began at the end of 1889 and it ended at the beginning of 1890.
During 1886 and 1887, while he was working at the Paris Observatory, Stanojevic published scientific papers on astrology and astrophysics in the journal of the French Academy of Sciences. These were the first Serbian papers in this field. His papers were much better than the papers of other Serbian scientists at the time, so the newly founded Serbian Royal Academy rejected his papers on solar physics. Realising that, he became very disappointed. He gradually gave up work in this field and he started to deal with the issues important for the industrial growth and development of Serbia.
He wrote a book called Zvezdano nebo nezavisne Srbije where he included basic knowledge in astronomy which he had gained in the most renowned astronomical and meteorological observatories. His aim was to introduce Serbian audience to the science of stars. This is one of the first books about astronomy in Serbian which was written for the wider audience of that time. The book was published in 1882 by the Serbian Royal State Printing House in Belgrade. The book represents a very important reading for education and also for the popularization of astronomy in Serbia in the second half of the 19th century. Djordje Stanojevic wrote the book using foreign literature on astronomy. He described astronomical concepts in a systematic, simple, concise and clear way, without any mathematical formulas and equations, and he gave some illustrations with graphs.
The book has got 70 pages, 10 chapters, 22 pictures and 1 astronomical star map at the end. In the foreword Djordje Stanojevic explained the aim of the book and to whom it was dedicated. The names of the chapters in the book are the following: “Stars in General”, “Astronomical Sky Division”, “Number, Distance and Division of Stars by Size: Astronomical Star Maps”, “Star Clusters and Their Stars”, “The Change of the Stellar Sky due to Precession, Nutation, Aberration and Refraction”, „The Real Motion of Stars“, “Variable Stars and New Stars”, “Binary Stars”, “Star Groups and Nebula” and “Milky Way”. Stanojevic described stars in a picturesque and simple way, he pointed out their divisions, he explained what the motion of the stars looks like, he described variable stars and the types of variable stars , binary stars and types of binary stars. Djordje Stanojevic also defined and explained spherical coordinates of the system used in astronomy. He compiled a list of the most famous constellations and he described in detail the process of sky orientation with the help of constellations and astronomical star maps. He described processional and nutational motion of the equinoctial system. In the last chapter he described the Milky Way as it is visible in the sky.
At the end of the book, Stanojevic provided an astronomical star map of Serbia which he described in detail in the third chapter called “Number, Distance and Division of Stars by Size: Astronomical Star Maps”.
In addition to books in Serbian, Djordje Stanojevic wrote books in French. One of them is Le bombardement de l'Université de Belgrade published in Paris in 1912. The book contains 21 photographs and it describes the bombing of the University of Belgrade at the time of the First World War.