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German astronomer, b. at Cologne, 18 February, 1806; d. at Münster, Westphalia, 30 June, 1877. He graduated from the gymnasium at Cologne in 1824; in 1827 from the university at Bonn, where during his course he solved two prize questions, one on the reconstruction of the Latin text "De sectione determinata" of Apollonius Pergæus, the other on the solar eclipse of Ennius (350 U. C. "Soli luna obstitit et nox") mentioned by Cicero (De republica, I, 16). He then taught mathematics and sciences in the gymnasium of Cologne (1827-37) and in the commercial high-school at Aachen (1837-52). In 1852, on the request of Alexander von Humboldt, he was appointed by King Frederick William IV to the chair of mathematics and astronomy at the Academy (now University) of Münster, which he filled for twenty-five years; in the same year, on presentation by Argelander, he was honoured by his alma mater at Bonn with the title of doctor honoris causa. He was rector of the academy in 1869, was decorated in 1870 with the order of the Red Eagle, nominated in 1874 foreign associate of the Royal Astronomical Society of London, and in 1877 became honorary member of the Leopoldine Academy and of the Scientific Society of Brussels.
Being endowed with exceptionally good eyes and finding at the academy of Münster only a four-inch telescope, Heis devoted himself to the observation with the eye alone of the brilliance of all the stars visible to the naked eye; his observations were also extended to the Milky Way, the zodiacal light, and shooting-stars. The publications containing the results of these investigations are, "Atlas Coelestis" (Cologne, 1872), with 12 charts, a catalogue of 5421 stars, and the first true delineation of the Milky Way; "Zodiakal-Beobachtungen", extending over twenty-nine years (1847-75);" Sternschnuppen-Beobachtungen", which includes over 15,000 shooting-stars observed by himself and his students during forty-three years (1833-75). The latter two works appeared as vols. I and II of the publications of the royal observatory of Münster (1875 and 1877). The work on the "Atlas", which was the result of twenty-seven years' labour, was accompanied by observations of variable stars (1840-70), into which field he was introduced by Argelander. These observations were recently published by the writer of the present article (Berlin, 1903). He also turned his attention to the auroral light and to sun-spots. Among his minor publications were treatises on the eclipses of the Peloponnesian war (1834), on Halley's comet (1835), on periodic shooting-stars (1849), on the magnitude and number of the stars visible to the naked eye ("De Magnitudine", etc., 1852), which work gained him the title of doctor, on Mira Ceti (1859), and on the fable of Galileo's E pur si muove (1874, also in the Annals of the Scientific Society of Brussels, 1876-77, I). He wrote a number of mathematical text-books, of which the "Sammlung von Beispielen und Aufgaben aus der allgemeinen Arithmetik und Algebra" reached 107 editions in various languages. Heis was one of the founders of "Natur und Offenbarung" (1855), and editor of the scientific journal "Wochenschrift" (1857-1877). Shortly before his death he prepared the design of the Scriptural and symbolical constellations (Orion, Ursa, Pieces, Virgo, Crux) for the ceiling of the choir in the cathedral of Münster. Heis was an excellent teacher, a fatherly friend to his students, charitable to his neighbour, especially the poor, and an exemplary husband and father. During the Vatican Council and the Kulturkampf he stood faithfully by the Church. In 1869 as rector he offered the jubilee congratulations of the Academy of Münster to Pius IX, and in 1872 he received from the same pontiff a precious medal with a Latin Brief for the "Atlas Coelestis" which he had dedicated to the pope through Father Secchi. Heis died of apoplexy, three months before his golden jubilee as teacher. He had his own tombstone prepared in the proportions of the "golden section", with the symbol of the dove and olive-branch from the catacombs.
Monthly Notices R. Astr. Soc. (1878), XXXVIII, 152; Deutscher Hausschatz (1877), III, 807; Mitteilungen Fr. d. Astr. u. kosm. Phys. (1906), XVI, 13.
J. G. Hagen.