July 31st 2018 would have been Friedrich Robert Helmert‘s 175th birthday. GFZ’s department Geodesy uses this anniversary as an occasion to dedicate an anthology to the founder of modern geodesy. The book takes the readers on a journey to the different stations of Helmert’s scientific career in Potsdam, Berlin, and on his numerous field trips.
Helmert, who died in Potsdam in 1917, spent a quarter of a century working on Telegrafenberg in Potsdam. During his directorship he established the Königlich-Preußische Geodätische Institut, founded in 1870, as the leading geodetic research institution on an international level. Based on archive research in the Archiv der Landeshauptstadt Potsdam or the Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz, the authors – geodesists, former and recent GFZ staff, and historians - trace back Helmert’s career, from his scientific education in Saxony through his work at the Königlich-Preußische Geodätische Institut to his work in national and international boards.
For the first time, his work as a professor at the University of Berlin as well as practical aspects and challenges of his daily scientific work at the beginning of the 20th century are considered, illustrated with numerous, up to now largely unpublished pictures. They show Helmert resurveying the Bonner Grundlinie or on his journeys during the re-determination of the distance between Europe and the USA, initiated by him in 1912. The aim of this project was to verify the theory of drifting continents by Alfred Wegener.
The book finishes with a review of modern satellite geodesy, inconceivable without the fundamental work of Helmert. (ak)