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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/561

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SKETCH OF JEAN-CHARLES HOUZEAU.

the courses of the Faculty of Sciences in Paris, but did not seek an academic degree. On his return home, in 1842, he put himself into communication with Quetelet, to obtain a position in the observatory at Brussels, and was appointed a voluntary aid. He had already written a note in the Astronomische Nachrichten, on the position of the zodiacal light, which is cited by Humboldt in the first volume of the Cosmos; but so unknown was he to the scientific world at this time, that Schumacher, the editor of the Tachrichten, wrote to Quetelet to know who he was; and Quetelet was obliged to reply that he knew as little of him as his colleague.

In September, 1846, Houzeau was promoted to a recognized position in the establishment and a salary of fourteen hundred francs. The industry with which he attended to the special duties of this position is illustrated by the fact that during the three years that he held it, he, who had been so frequent a correspondent, did not contribute a single paper to the Academy. The reports of the director, however, amply attest the esteem in which he held his assistant, and the value of Houzeau's services in the work. Some of the fruits of his labors here are embodied in Quetelet's Climate of Belgium, in the preparation of which Houzeau had a large part. The astronomical observations had been interrupted for seven years, when Houzeau took hold. He contributed much to their resumption in 1848. He was usually the first one at the observatory, when any notable event among the stars was announced, to point the telescope at the designated object. Thus, in 1848, he was the first person in Belgium to determine the elements of the orbit of a comet from observations made in the same country; and, on the discovery of Neptune, he at once took observations for the determination of the new planet's right ascension and declination. In 1847 he was charged by the Government with the conduct of geodetical observations on the northern frontier, of which a few points remained to be determined. But his usefulness as an official astronomer was suddenly interrupted by the political events of 1848. Houzeau was a warm republican, with inclinations toward socialism. He had already, in 1839, when hardly twenty years old, been warmly interested in a dispute which arose with Holland, and had been among the first to join a company of volunteers for public defense. On the present occasion he gave free and unambiguous expression to his democratic principles and republican aspirations, and compromised himself by forming relations with persons whose political standing was not good. He published numerous polemical articles in the journals. On the 25th of March, 1849, a meeting at which he was presiding was broken in upon by the Leopoldists, and he and his fellow-republicans were obliged to flee. A few days afterward he was deprived of his position at the observatory for having, the