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Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel
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As a fifteen year old boy Bessel became an apprentice to a mercantile firm;
he became especially interested in foreign trade which
in turn led to an interest in
navigation. He therefore began to study
astronomy and mathematics. He was self-taught, but
awarded a doctorate from Göttingen through the efforts of Gauss. He was
one of the few (Gauss did not suffer fools)
lifelong correspondents of Gauss. He was the director of the
observatory at Königsberg from 1810 until his death in
1846. Bessel determined the properties of the
family of solutions of the equation
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(now known respectively as Bessel functions and Bessel's equation)
while studying perturbations
of the planetary system. Undergraduate mathematics majors see it in the
section on regular singular points in the elementary differential
equations course.
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German Federal Repubic (1984), No. 1422