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Ernst Zinner Manuscript Collection

Identifier: MS-0279

Scope and Contents

The Ernst Zinner Manuscript Collection documents Zinner's work as an astronomer and scientist at the Remeis Astronomical Observatory in Bamberg, Germany. The collection dates from 1818-1981, with the bulk of documents created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and consists of almanacs, articles, clippings, correspondence, photographs and other materials. The collection has three major series: Vertical Files, Remeis Astronomical Observatory Files, and Portraits. The Remeis Astronomical Observatory Files include two sub-series: Correspondence and Notes, further divided into two groups – Ernst Hartwig's correspondence and Ernst Zinner's correspondence, and Venus Eclipse Expedition Files. The Vertical Files (1823-1981) consist of material Zinner collected throughout his career, covering a wide variety of astronomical and scientific topics, including notable astronomers, NASA's Apollo missions, the moon, star charts, and almanacs. This most extensive series in the collection is arranged alphabetically and includes monographs, pamphlets, booklets, magazine articles, photographs, newspaper clippings, book excerpts, biographical information, and catalogs. The Remeis Astronomical Observatory Files consist of two subseries: Correspondence and Notes (1818-1973), and Venus Eclipse Expedition Files (1882-1973). The Correspondence and Notes is further sub-divided into two groups: Ernst Hartwig Correspondence (1818-1927), and Ernst Zinner Correspondence and Notes (1870-1973). The Hartwig and Zinner correspondence documents each man's work at the Remeis Astronomical Observatory, as well as their interactions with other astronomers and scientists. The Zinner correspondence further documents Zinner's work with publications issued by Der Naturforschende Verein, later known as the Remers Sternwante, Bamberg.  Correspondence in both groups is primarily in German, with a few letters in English and French. Hartwig's correspondence is filed chronologically, while Zinner's is filed alphabetically by topic. The Venus Eclipse Expedition Files (1882-1915) primarily consists of correspondence between Arthur Von Auwers and Ernst Hartwig regarding Von Auwers trip to Argentina to view the transit of Venus as it passed between the erath and the sun, or the Venus eclipse, on December 6, 1882.  Some publications on the journey are also included. The Portrait series includes photographs, drawings, lithographs, and other images of astronomers, mathematicians, physicists, and other scientists from many different eras, including John Audubon, Aristotle, Tycho Brahe, Copernicus, Galileo, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Johannes Schöner, John Tyndall, and many others.  The series is arranged alphabetically by last name.


  • 1818-1981
  • Majority of material found in 1880-1920


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some of these materials have been transferred to or belong to San Diego State University. The nature of historical archival and manuscript collections means that copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. Copyright resides with the creators of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. Requests for permission to publish must be submitted to the Head of Special Collections, San Diego State University, Library and Information Access. Permissions is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder(s), which must also be obtained in order to publish.  Materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials.

Biographical Note

Ernst Zinner was born in 1886 in Goldberg, Silesia, a region of Central Europe primarily located in modern-day Poland, but which also overlaps current borders of the Czech Republic and Germany. He completed his PhD in 1907 at the University of Jena, also studying at the University of Lund, the University of Paris, and the Königstuhl Observatory in Heidelberg. In 1910, Zinner became Assistant to Ernst Hartwig, then director of the Remeis Astronomical Observatory at Bamberg, Germany. In 1913 Zinner rediscovered the Comet Giacobini-Zinner, which had been previously discoverd by Michel Giacobini in 1900. During the First World War, Zinner worked in the weather service. He returned to the field of astronomy at the end of the war, becoming a lecturer in 1919, and professor of astronomy at the University of Munich in 1924. In 1926, Zinner succeeded Hartwig and became director of the Remeis Astronomical Observatory at Bamberg. He held the office until his retirement in 1953. Over his career, Zinner distinguished himself as an historian of Renaissance astronomy, and authored several books on the subject. The best known of these is Geschichte und Bibliographie der Astronomischen Literatur in Deutschland zur Zeit der Renaissance, a standard reference work still cited as the authority in the field. Among many honors bestowed upon him during his life, the Zinner crater on the Moon is named after him. Zinner was a frequent traveler, and had a great personal interest in scientific instruments and sundials. Traveling throughout Europe both before and after World War II, he visited numerous instrument collections, taking painstaking notes, even on public sundials, thereby accumulating an enormous reference collection on scientific instruments specifically, and astronomy and physics more generally. Fearing the Soviet Union would buy or conceal his personal collection of books and manuscripts, upon his retirement, he sold it to the newly formed Friends of the Malcolm A. Love Library at San Diego State College in 1967. He willed his personal papers to Frankfurt University, from which he had received an honorary doctorate in 1961 in acknowledgement of his great merits to the history of astronomy. Zinner died in 1970.


10.59 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

I. Vertical Files, 1823-1981
II. Remeis Astronomical Observatory Files, 1818-1973
       1.) Correspondence & Notes, 1818-1973
               a.) Ernst Hartwig Correspondence, 1818-1927
               b.) Ernst Zinner Correspondence & Notes, 1870-1973
        2.) Venus Eclipse Expedition Files, 1882-1883
III. Portraits & Images

Source of Acquisition

Ernst Zinner

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Ernst Zinner Manuscript Collection
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US