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Antonie Pannekoek

Antonie Pannekoek
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Born (1873-01-02)2 January 1873
Vaassen, Netherlands
Died 28 April 1960(1960-04-28) (aged 87)
Wageningen, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Fields Astronomy, politics
Alma mater Leiden University
Doctoral advisor Template:If empty
Known for council communism
Influences Marx, Engels, Joseph Dietzgen
Influenced Paul Mattick, Guy Debord

Antonie (Anton) Pannekoek (2 January 1873 – 28 April 1960) was a Dutch astronomer, Marxist theorist, and social revolutionary. He was one of the main theorists of council communism (Dutch: radencommunisme).

Biography

Pannekoek studied mathematics and physics in Leiden from 1891. Even before he went to college he was interested in astronomy and studied the variability of Polaris. He published his first article, On the Necessity of Further Researches on the Milky Way, as a student. Some years after he had finished his study he started work at the Leidse Sterrewacht (Leiden observatory), where he wrote his thesis.

After reading Edward Bellamy's Equality, Pannekoek became a convinced socialist and started studying Karl Marx's theories. Soon Pannekoek became a well-known Marxist writer, writing for both Dutch and German magazines. Dissatisfaction with his job at the observatory led him to move to Berlin, where he became a lecturer at the school funded by the Social Democratic Party of Germany. His radical opinions soon got him in trouble with both the German government and the unions.

He was on holiday in the Netherlands when the First World War broke out. Prevented from returning to Germany, he started work as a chemistry and science teacher. Though the Leidse Sterrewacht wanted him back, government opposition because of his Marxist sympathies made this fall through. Instead, the Amsterdam city council got him an appointment at the University of Amsterdam in 1925, first as a part-time professor, and in 1932 also as a full professor.

Astronomy

In his scientific work, Pannekoek started studying the distribution of stars through the Milky Way, as well as the structure of our galaxy. Later he became interested in the nature and evolution of stars. Because of these studies, he is considered to be the founder of astrophysics as a separate discipline in the Netherlands.

Apart from his theoretical work, he also went on several foreign expeditions to observe solar eclipses and take spectra of stars. In 1926 he undertook an expedition to Java in order to chart the Southern Constellations. He was also interested in the history of astronomy and his book, A History of Astronomy, is considered a standard reference on the subject.

His work in galactic structure, astrophysics and the history of astronomy was of international renown and won him an honorary degree from Harvard University in 1936, as well as the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1951. The crater Pannekoek on the Moon and the asteroid 2378 Pannekoek are named after him.

The Astronomical Institute Anton Pannekoek at the University of Amsterdam, of which he had been a director, still carries his name.

Council communism