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Origin

The history of astronomy in Potsdam really began in Berlin. Initiated by Gottfried W. Leibniz, on July 11, 1700 the “Brandenburgische Societät,” which later became the “Prussian Academy of Sciences,” was founded in Berlin by the Elector, Frederick III. Two months earlier, the monopoly on calculating the national calendar had provided funding for an observatory and by May 18 the first director, Gottfried Kirch, had been appointed. This happened quickly because the profit from the national calendar, calculated and sold by the observatory, funded the academy. This method of funding only continued until the beginning of the 19th century, but the calendar has continued to be calculated until very recently, and was only discontinued after Germany’s reunification in 1991.

The first observatory was built on Dorotheen Street in Berlin in 1711 and in 1835 a new observatory building, which was designed by the famous architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, was completed on Linden Street (near Hallesches Tor). From 1927 – 28, Alexander von Humboldt promoted astronomy through his famous 'Kosmos' lectures, and played an important role in providing funding for both the observatory and its instruments.

The Berlin Observatory came to worldwide acclaim when Johann Gottfried Galle discovered the planet Neptune in 1846. The discovery of canal rays by Eugen Goldstein in the physical laboratory of the observatory in 1886 and the discovery of the variation in the altitude of the Earth's pole by Karl Friedrich Küstnerr in 1888 were similarly important.

The last two scientific events took place when Wilhelm Julius Foerster was director of the observatory, which was attached to the University of Berlin at the time. He prepared the basis for the astronomical observatories in Potsdam, including the foundation of the Astrophysical Observatory Potsdam on the Telegrafenberg in 1874 and the relocation of the Berlin Observatory to Babelsberg in 1913.