Articles | Volume 6, issue 2
07 Jul 2015
 | 07 Jul 2015

History of the Munich–Maisach–Fürstenfeldbruck Geomagnetic Observatory

H. C. Soffel

Abstract. The Munich–Maisach–Fürstenfeldbruck Geomagnetic Observatory is one of the observatories with the longest recordings of the geomagnetic field. It started with hourly measurements on 1 August 1840. The founder of the observatory in Munich was Johann von Lamont (1805–1879), the Director of the Royal Bavarian Astronomical Observatory. He had been stimulated to build his own observatory by the initiative of the Göttingen Magnetic Union founded in 1834 by Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) and Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855). Before 1840 fewer than five observatories existed; the most prominent ones were those in London and Paris. At the beginning Lamont used equipment delivered by Gauss in Göttingen, but soon started to build instruments of his own design. Among them was a nonmagnetic theodolite which allowed precise geomagnetic measurements to be made also in the field. During the 1850s Lamont carried out geomagnetic surveys and produced geomagnetic maps for Germany and many other European countries. At the end of the nineteenth century accurate geomagnetic measurements in Munich became more and more disturbed by the magnetic stray fields from electric tramways and industry. During this period the quality of the data suffered and the measurements had to be interrupted several times. After a provisional solution in Maisach, a village 25 km west of Munich, a final solution could be found in the vicinity of the nearby city of Fürstenfeldbruck. Here the measurements started again on 1 January 1939. Since the 1980s the observatory has been part of INTERMAGNET, an organization providing almost real-time geomagnetic data of the highest quality.