Austrian astronomer and mathematician whose interest in
asteroids, comets, and eclipses led to his compiling meticulous lists
of such bodies and events for the use of other astronomers.
Oppolzer was born in Prague (now in the Czech Republic) and studied
medicine, but had a private observatory. In 1866 he became lecturer
in astronomy at the University of Vienna, and professor 1875. He was
made director of the Austrian Geodetic Survey in 1873.
Oppolzer sought, by observation and calculation, to establish the orbits
of asteroids. He was the originator of a novel technique for correcting
orbits he found to be inaccurate.
In 1868, Oppolzer participated in an expedition to study a total eclipse
of the Sun. Afterwards, he decided to calculate the time and path of
every eclipse of the Sun and every eclipse of the Moon for as long a
period as possible. The resulting Canon der Finsternisse 1887 covered
the period 1207 BC-AD 2163.