Short biography of Julius Fenyi

P. Julius Fenyi, S.J. (Fényi Gyula in Hungarian) was an eminent solar astronomer in the Haynald Observatory, Kalocsa, Hungary. The observatory was founded in 1878 by Ludwig Haynald, archbishop of Kalocsa. It functioned as an astronomical observatory until the end of the first World War.

Fenyi was born on 8. January 1845 as eleventh child in a merchant family in Sopron, Hungary. After school years he became a member of the Jesuit order in 1864. In 1871 he was sent to Kalocsa to teach physics, mathematics, chemistry and natural history. During his university years (1874-78) in Innsbruck, besides theology, he studied mathematics and physics. After some years of teaching and serving as an assistant in the new Kalocsa Observatory, in 1885 he became the director of the Observatory, and remained in this office until 1913, when he resigned due to ailing health, but continued his observations. He died on 21. December 1927.

Fenyi was a most prolific observer of solar phenomena, his 32-year continuous series of prominence observations with the same spectroscope is unique. One-third of the observational material used by Pettit, when he formulated his statistical laws of the prominences in 1920, is Fenyi's. He observed also sunspots, and although his main interest was in solar physics, he made significant contributions to the meteorological observations too, even developing an automatic thunderstorm registrator. He published his observations of prominences, sunspot and prominence motions, (now we already know, that also solar flares), solar theories and meteorological works in the leading journals of the era (Astronomische Nachrichten, Astronomy and Astrophysics-Astrophysical Journal, Comptes Rendus, Memorie della Societa degli Spectroscopisti Italiani, Meteorologische Zeitschrift, Rivista di Physica) in more than 200 scientific papers in six languages. Although he left Kalocsa for a longer time only once in 1905, to observe the total solar eclipse of 30. August 1905 in Granada, Spain, he was elected to a member of several learned societies abroad, and finally to a corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1916. As a final tribute to his work, the International Astronomical Union named a lunar crater after him (45S, 105W). The original sunspot drawings of Kalocsa Observatory form a valuable part of the historical collection of the library of the Heliophysical Observatory of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Debrecen, Hungary.

Back to the Activities page