Spiridon Gopcevic
Prominent Istrians


piridon Gopcevic[h] (also Spiridion Gopchevic), who used the pen name Leo Brenner, was born in Trieste on July 9, 1855 in his parent's palace that was located in the central part of Trieste called the Grand Canal (Canal Grande). His father, also named Spiridon, was a great shipowner in Trieste, but had originated from the village of Podi near Herceg Novi in Boka Kotorska. After losing his fortune, the elder Gopcevic took his own life when Spirodon was just six years old.

astronomer

born in Trieste
1855

After his father's death, his mother sent him to study in Vienna. After she also died, he terminated his studies and started a very successful carreer as a journalist, becoming  famous in all of Europe for his articles from the war zones at the time, including a best-selling narrative of military conflict in which he falsely implied he had participated. Spiridon made his greatest political contribution during this period by speaking out for the unity of all South Slav nationalities under the Kingdom of Serbia. In 1889, he published his ethnographic study "Macedonia and Old Serbia," in which he argued that there were 2 million Serbs in Macedonia and only 200,000 Greeks and 50, 000 Bulgarians. With time he left this political idea and took a position in the Austrian Monarchy. He spent some time in jail for writings concerning the goverment, then terminated his career in journalism in 1893.

That same year, Gopcevic left Vienna with his wife who came from a wealthy family of Austrian nobility. With the support of the Austrian goverment on September 18, 1893, he arrived in Lussinpiccolo (now Mali Lošinj) where he founded his observatory "Manora Sternwarte" which was named for his wife. At this observatory, Spiridon used the 17.5cm refractor telescope at the observatory to make observations of Mars, the rings of Saturn, and other planets. However he would eventually close the observatory in 1909 due to financial problems.

Manora Observatory in Lussinpiccolo (now Mali Lošinj) which Spiridon named after his wife.

The refractor elescope that he used to make observations of Mars, the rings of Saturn, and other planets.

This is when he adopted the name "Leo Brenner" and began his career in astronomy.

Using a 7-inch refractor as his chief instrument, by late 1894 Gopcevic was publishing papers on his observations of the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn and he became known in the world of astronomy. His articles and observations were published in the best astronomy journals at the time, and he corresponded with the greatest astronomers of that time (such as Lowell, Wolf, Palisa, Fauth, etc., and also with Croatian astronomer Oton Kucera). Attempting to  maintain his reputation, he began to boost his observations with extravagamt claims concerning his Mars observations that could not be proved. With that, his reputation started to slide.

By 1895, Spiriton had announced a rotation period for Venus of 23 hours, 57 minutes, and 36.1396 seconds, which he corrected the following year by adding 0.1377 second. Also in 1896 he announced new rotation periods for Mercury (331 hours) and Uranus (8 hours, 17 minutes). His 1896-7 Mars observations were so successful, he reported, that he was able "to see not only all 88 Schiaparellian canals and 12 Lowellian canals, but also to discover 68 new canals, 12 seas, and 4 bridges."

His immensely detailed Mars map, published and praised by Pohle, Flammarion, and others, as well as his Mars articles scattered in a half dozen journals in three languages, helped establish him as a sort of German-language Lowell. An apostle of pluralism, he championed extraterrestrial life ideas in most or all of his four books, especially in his Die Bewohnbarkeit der Welten (1905).

Being confronted with the fact that the major astronomy journals such as Astronomische NachridUenno would no longer publish his articles, in 1899 he began to publish his own journal called "Astronomische Rundschau" (Astronomical Overview) which ran until 1909. During the eleven years of the journal's existence, "he filled it with his astronomica! essays, his incessant and vituperative polemics, papers by other astronomers", and he assumed professional titles that were untrue. In its final March 1909 issue, Brenner revealed to his readers that he was a Count (which apparently he was not) and that he had decided to forsake astronomy.

Having lost his reputation as an astronomer, he left behind the field of astronomy and the city of Lussinpiccolo in 1909 and moved to San Francisco, California, U.S.A. where he wrote music. In 1912, he wrote the lyrics for two operas, "The Paris September Days" and "The Life Saver". His musical endeavors had little success, so he returned to writing on political themes.

Just before the start of World War I, Gopcevic returned to Europe and worked as editor on an army journal in Berlin where he wrote pamphlets on the theme of the reunification of all South-Slav nationalities under the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. He wrote his last paper in 1922 on the subject of Atlantis and Lemuria. The date most frequently shown as his date of death is 1928, but there are two other dates also mentioned. One of them comes with the claim that "he fell into anonimity and died in Berlin in 1936".

The family's Palazzo Gopcevic in Trieste is now a city museum, the "Civico Museo Teatrale Carlo Schmidl".

Palazzo Gopcevich at Via Rossini 4, is the most important civil building on the Canal Grande. It was designed by architect Giovanna Andrea Berlam for Spiridon's father in 1850. Today, it hosts a museum, the "Civico Museo Teatrale Carlo Schmidl".

The facade commemorates with statues the heroes who led the independence of Srbija from the Ottoman empire.

From November 11, 2006 to January 21, 2007, the museum featured  a photographic exhibit of the Istrian "Antonio Santin, un vescovo per la gente." From July 30 to September 15, 2009, it contained an exhibit dedicated to a second Istrian entltled "Fulvio Tomizza - Destino di Frontiera".

The Astronomical Society “Leo Brenner” was founded in 1993 in Mali Losinj (Croatia) around the 100th anniversary of the Gopcevic's original observatory, "Manora Sternwarte" in the town of what is now called Mali Lošinj. The new observatory was the outcome of years of effort on the part of Valter Martinolic who, in 1987, had founded an astronomy section in the elementary school in Mali Lošinj. Being the founder, he was also named the first president of the Society. 

Spiridon Gopcevic is one of the most controversial astronomers in the history of that science, and is a difficult person to describe. He was an historian, diplomat, publicist and astronomer who was involved in politics, journalism, music, writing, history, and astronomy, the author of 15 novels, dramas and poems that were published in Europe. He even had a crater on the moon named after his pseudonym, Leo Brenner. Apart from his scientific endeavors, he travelled throughout the Central and Eastern Balkans doing research and subsequently writing extensively about ethnic communities. It would be probably best to say that he was an adventurer with a great spectrum of knowledge who is today also remembered as a dilettante Austrian astronomer.

For further information about Brenner's strange personality and career, see:

  • Joseph Ashbrook, "The Curious Career of Leo Brenner,"
  • The Astronomical Scrapbook (Cambridge, Mass.: Sky Publishing, 1984), pp. 103--111;
  • Michael Heim, Spiridion Gop_evi: Leben und Werk (Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1966);

For a more sympathetic view, see Martin Stangl, "The Forgotten Legacy of Leo Brenner," Sky & Telescope 90 (1995): 100--102.

Works (partial list):

  • Moderate or Giant Telescopes: Refractors or Reflectors?
  • 1881 - Über Albanien und seine Liga
  • 1888 - Serbien und die Serben
  • 1889 - Macedonia and Old Serbia (Altserbien und Makedonien)
  • 1895/6 Jupiter-Beobachtungen an der Manora-Sternwarte
  • 1896 - Mercury-Beobachtungen an der Manora-Sternwarte
  • 1896 - Saturn-Beobachtungen an der Manora-Sternwarte
  • 1896 - Uranus-Beobachtungen an der Manora-Sternwarte
  • 1896/8 - Jupiter-Beobachtungen auf der Manora-Sternwarte
  • 1898/1901 - Jupiter-Beobachtungen auf der Manora-Sternwarte
  • 1897 - Marsbeobachtungen 1896-97 auf der Manora-Sternwarte in Lussinpiccolo
  • 1898 - Hdb. für Amateurastronomen
  • 1902 - Beobachtungs-Objekte für Amateur-Astronomen - von dem Verfasser des "Handbuchs für Amateur-Astronomen" und der "Spaziergänge durch das Himmelszelt" - Mit 5 Tafeln und 16 Textbildern. Eduard Heinrich Meyer Verlagsbuchhandlung, Leipzig
  • 1914 - Geschichte von Montenegro und Albanien
  • 1916 - Rußland und Serbien (1804-15)
  • 1920 - Österreichs Untergang

Map of Mars 1894

Lussinpiccolo observations 1894. Astronomische Nachrichten  137/3288 1895.

Map of Mars 1896

Brenner 1896
Lussinpiccolo observations 1896. Abhandlungen der Kgl Akademie des Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 1897, fig 3

Map of Mars 1904

Brenner 1904
Lussinpiccolo observations 1894-1903. Astronomische Rundschau Lussinpiccolo, v. 6. 1904.

Drawing of Mars 1899

A drawing of Mars in 1899. From Leo Brenner, Neue Spaziergänge durch das Himmelszelt (Lussinpiccolo, 1904), fig. 2.

Brenner Crater

General characteristics
Latitude 39.0° S
Longitude 39.3° E
Diameter 97 km
Depth Unknown
Colongitude 322° at sunrise
Name source Leo Brenner

Today, the name of Spiridon Gopcevic (Leo Brenner) in the history of astronomy is mostly known as the name of a crater on the Moon called "Leo Brenner", so named by Gopcevic's old friend and German astronomer Phillip Fauth (1867-1941). The crater is in the rugged southeastern part of teh moon's near side, north of Janssen (alte terre meridionali), 39°S / 39,3°E; has a diameter of 97 km and height 3300 m. It is located within one crater diameter northwest of the Metius and Fabricius crater pair.

This ancient formation has been deeply eroded by subsequent impacts, to the point where only the western part still resembles a crater. That face has the most intact part of the rim, although it has been worn down until it forms a low ridge in the surface. The northeast part of the crater has beenreshaped until it is little more than a rough, irregular part of the terrain. The southeastern rim is overlain by a relatively old crater designated 'Brenner A'.

Sources: 

  • Astronomical Society "Leo Brenner" - History - http://public.srce.hr/astrotour/history.htm
  • Michale J. Crowe, The extraterrestrial life debate 1750-1900: the idea of a plurality of worlds from Kant to Lowell, CUP Archive (1988), p. 516
  • Kosovo Origins by Hugo Roth - Ch. 6: Between the Slava and the Prophet - http://www.kosovo.com/sk/history/kosovo_origins/ko_chapter6.html
  • Andromeda - Glossario Lunare - http://digilander.libero.it/andromedda/Glossario%20lunare.htm
  • Images - Leo Brenner Gallery -  http://www.astro-losinj.hr/gallery/brenner/
  • http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Brenner-(crater)
  • Bibliography - http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/onlinebks/mars/notes.htm
  • Bibliography - http://www.biographien.ac.at/oebl/oebl_G/Gopcevic_Spiridon_1855_1909.xml
  • Mars drawing - http://www42.pair.com/infolund/bolaget/DAHAP/solar.html
  • Mars maps - http://planetologia.elte.hu/ipcd/ipcd.html?cim=brenner_mars_maps
  • Google books - http://books.google.com/books?id=-hOkx7Gi4OoC&pg=PA441&lpg=PA441&dq=Leo+Brenner&source=bl&ots=aHCoK0WDXc&sig=HYfvQng2OnQlCUWbGnl_
    Fpr0u_M&hl=en&ei=Xe9SS-aYApGtlAfZncmxCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CCgQ6AEwCThk#v
    =onepage&q=Leo Brenner&f=false

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Created: Sunday, December 15, 2002; Last updated: Saturday, March 14, 2015
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