Johann von Lamont bigraphy, stories - Scottish-German astronomer and magnetician

Johann von Lamont : biography

December 13, 1805 - August 6, 1879

Johann von Lamont FRSE, also referred to as Johann Lamont (1805 –1879), was a Scottish-German astronomer and physicist.


His many honours include ForMemRS, FRSE and title of nobility from the King of Bavaria. The statue on his tomb in Munich has him with an open hand, into which the locals put small coins. In 1934 the Deeside Field Club erected a granite memorial cairn in his memory at Inverey, Scotland. It was unveiled by Sir James Jeans.

The following astronomical features were named in his honor:

  • Lamont (Martian crater).
  • Lamont (lunar crater).


John Lamont was born on 13 December 1805, at Corriemulzie near Inverey in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The son of Robert Lamont (forester to James Duff) and Elizabeth Ewan, his education began at the local school in Inverey, near Braemar. In 1817 his father died and John was sent to be educated at St James' monastery (Scots Benedictine College) at Ratisbon, Germany. He began to work in astronomy and joined the Bogenhausen Observatory, became its director in 1835, took his doctorate of philosophy in 1830 and became professor of astronomy in 1852 at Munich University. At the observatory he undertook the task of creating a star catalog that had about 35,000 entries.

His most important work was on the magnetism of the Earth. He performed magnetic surveys in Bavaria and northern Germany, France, Spain, and Denmark. He discovered a magnetic decennial period (ten-year cycle) and the electric current in the Earth closing the electric "circuit" creating the magnetic field in 1850. This roughly matched the eleven-year sunspot cycle discovered by Heinrich Schwabe.

He calculated the orbits of the moons of Uranus and Saturn, obtaining the first value for Uranus' mass. By chance he observed Neptune in 1845 and twice in 1846, but did not recognize the object as being a new planet.

Lamont is the author of Handbuch des Erdmagnetismus (1849).

He died, single, in Munich, Germany, on 6 August 1879. His considerable wealth was used to found scholarships in sciences.

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