Father Maximilian Hell, SJ
(1720 - 1792)
Court Astronomer



Father Maximilian Hell, SJ on Czechoslovakia Scott 1670
CZECHOSLOVAKIA, 1970, the 250th anniversary of Hell's birth, Scott 1670

Maximilian Hell (Höll) was born in Schemnitz (then Hungary, since 1918 Slovakia). After joining the Jesuits, he studied in Vienna, especially excelling in scientific pursuits, and taught at Leutschau and Klausenberg. In 1755 Maria Theresa of Austria and Hungary appointed him her court astronomer and director of the Imperial Observatory in Vienna. His Ephemerides astronomicae, articles and observations published for many years thereafter, were of enormous importance. In 1767 King Christian VII of Denmark and Norway asked him to direct a scientific expedition to Vardø, Norway to observe the 1769 transit of Venus, an international undertaking to establish the distance from earth to the sun. He took a former collaborator, Johannes Sajnovics, SJ, with him as his assistant. His delay in publishing his results at first led to a charge of falsifying his data; it was not until a century later that he was fully exonerated. Hell had stayed in Norway to collect other data, which were never published because of the Suppression of the Society. More