Friedrich Robert Helmert

Friedrich Robert Helmert

Friedrich Robert Helmert (July 31 1843 – June 15 1917) was a German geodesist and an important writer on the theory of errors.

Helmert was born in Freiberg, Kingdom of Saxony. After schooling in Freiberg and Dresden, he entered the Polytechnische Schule, now Technische Universität, in Dresden to study engineering science in 1859. Finding him especially enthusiastic about geodesy, one of his teachers, August Nagel, hired him while still a student to work on the triangulation of the Erzgebirge and the drafting of the trigonometric network for Saxony. In 1863 Helmert became Nagel's assistant on the Central European Arc Measurement. After a year's study of mathematics and astronomy Helmert obtained his doctor's degree from the University of Leipzig in 1867 for a thesis based on his work for Nagel.

In 1870 Helmert became instructor and in 1872 professor at RWTH Aachen, the new Technical University in Aachen. At Aachen he wrote "Die mathematischen und physikalischen Theorien der höheren Geodäsie" (Part I was published in 1880 and Part II in 1884). This work laid the foundations of modern geodesy. See history of geodesy.

The method of least squares had been introduced into geodesy by Gauss and Helmert wrote a fine book on least squares (1872, with a second edition in 1907) in this tradition. Hald (p. 633) gives this assessment: " [It] is a pedagogical masterpiece; it became a standard text until it was superseded by expositions using matrix algebra." In 1876 Helmert published an article deriving the distribution of the sample variance for a normal population. The work was described in German textbooks, including his own, but the English statisticians 'Student' and Fisher did not know of it and re-derived the distribution.

From 1887 Helmert was professor of advanced geodesy at the University of Berlin and director of the Geodetic Institute. In 1916 he had a stroke and died of its effects the following year in Potsdam.

Helmert received many honours. He was president of the global geodetic association of "Internationale Erdmessung", member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin and recipient of some 25 German and foreign decorations.

ee also

*Helmert transformation
*coordinate system
*Helmert-Wolf blocking
*national survey
*terrestrial gravity field


* Walther Fischer "Helmert, Friedrich Robert" "Dictionary of Scientific Biography" volume 7, pp. 239-241, New York: Scribners 1973.

*Anders Hald (1998) "A History of Mathematical Statistics from 1750 to 1930" New York: Wiley.

*O. B. Sheynin (1995). Helmert's work in the theory of errors. "Archive for History of Exact Sciences," 49, 73-104.

*Die Genauigkeit der Formel von Peters zur Berechnung des wahrscheinlichen Fehlers director Beobachtungen gleicher Genauigkeit, "Astron. Nach.," 88, (1876), 192-218) An extract from the paper is translated and annotated in H. A. David & A. W. F. Edwards (eds.) "Annotated Readings in the History of Statistics", New York: Springer 2001.

External links

* ['NA377') Royal Society citation 1908 (very succinct)]

There is an obituary at
* [ MNRAS 78 (1918) 256]

There is a photograph of Helmert at
* [] on the [ Portraits of Statisticians] page

and three more at

* [ Helmert]

See also
* [ memorial stone]

The first edition of Helmert's textbook on least squares is available at the GDZ site

* [ "Die Ausgleichsrechnung nach der Methode der kleinsten Quadrate"]

A partial scan of "Die mathematischen und physikalischen Theorien der höheren Geodäsie" (Part I) is available on the site
* [ Friedrich Robert Helmert (1841-1917)]

There is an account of Helmert's work on the theory of errors in section 10.6 of
* [ Oscar Sheynin Theory of Probability: A Historical Essay]

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  • Friedrich Robert Helmert — (* 31. Juli 1843 in Freiberg, Sachsen; † 15. Juni 1917 in Potsdam) war ein deutscher Geodät und Mathematiker. Helmert gilt als Begründer der mathematischen und physikalischen Theorien der modernen Geodäsie und wa …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Helmert transformation — The Helmert transformation (named after Friedrich Robert Helmert, 1843 ndash;1917; also called a seven parameter transformation) is a transformation method within a three dimensional space. It is frequently used in geodesy to produce distortion… …   Wikipedia

  • Helmert-Wolf blocking — The Helmert Wolf blockingfn|1 (HWB) is a least squares solution [] for a sparse [ block angular] (CBA) system of linear equations. Friedrich Robert Helmert (1843 1917) reported on… …   Wikipedia

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  • Helmert — Helmert, Friedrich Robert, Geodät, geb. 31. Juli 1843 in Freiberg, studierte seit 1859 in Dresden, wurde 1863 Gradmessungsassistent in Dresden, 1866 in Leipzig, 1869 Observator der Sternwarte in Hamburg, 1870 Professor der Geodäsie an der… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Helmert — Hẹlmert,   Friedrich Robert, Geodät, * Freiberg 31. 7. 1843, ✝ Potsdam 15. 6. 1917; war 1872 86 Professor in Aachen, danach in Berlin; ab 1887 Direktor des Preußischen Geodätischen Instituts in Potsdam und des Zentralbüros der internationalen… …   Universal-Lexikon

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