Mayer_Tobias

Johann Tobias Mayer


Born: 17 Feb 1723 in Marbach, Württemberg, Germany
Died: 20 Feb 1762 in Göttingen, Germany



 

Tobias Mayer was a self taught mathematician who worked as a cartographer in Nürnberg. He discovered the libration of the Moon and this gained him fame which led to his appointment as professor of economics and mathematics at Göttingen in 1751.

Mayer began calculating lunar and solar tables in 1753 and in 1755 he sent them to the British government. These tables were good enough to determine longitude at sea with an accuracy of half a degree. Mayer's method of determining longitude by lunar distances and a formula for correcting errors in longitude due to atmospheric refraction were published in 1770 after his death.

In a preface written to his tables written in 1760 Mayer says

I am the more unwilling my tables should lie any longer concealed; especially as the most celebrated astronomers of almost every age have ardently wished for a perfect theory of the Moon ... on account of its singular use in navigation. I have constructed theses tables ... with respect to the inequalities of motions, from that famous theory of the great Newton, which that eminent mathematician Eulerus first elegantly reduced to general analytic equations.

In the first issue of the Nautical Almanac there was a description by Maskelyne of Mayer's tables

The Tables of the Moon had been brought by the late Professor Mayer of Göttingen to a sufficient exactness to determine the Longitude at Sea to within a Degree, as appeared by the Trials of several Persons who made use of them. The Difficulty and Length of the necessary Calculations seemed the only Obstacles to hinder them from becoming of general Use.

The Board of Longitude sent Mayer's widow pounds3000 as an award for the tables.