Grigori Levitski (27 October 1852 Kharkov – 26 October 1918 St. Petersburg) Director in 1894−1908

Levitski finished high school in his home-town with a golden medal and in 1870-74 studied at Kharkov University in the Department of Physics and Chemistry, at the Mining Institute of St. Petersburg, the Department of Mathematics of St. Petersburg University. He graduated from St. Petersburg University with the degree of a candidate of mathematics and received a grant from the department to prepare his Master’s thesis. At the same time he worked at the Pulkovo Observatory, first as a part-time astronomer and since 1876 a calculator. After the defence of the Master’s thesis “About determining the orbits of binary stars”(1879) he began to work at Kharkov University, first as a private assistant professor, later as an assistant professor and in 1884 he became professor extraordinary of astronomy being at the same time the head of the observatory. In Kharkov Levitski founded a new observatory which was equipped with modern technology. In 1893 also the department of seismology was established at the observatory.

In 1894 Levitski was transformed to the post of the acting professor ordinary of astronomy of Tartu University and the director of the Tartu Observatory. In 1898 Levitski became honorary doctor of Kharkov University and he was appointed professor ordinary at Tartu University. From the year 1900 he was a member of the Central Committee of Seismology permanently working at the Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg. In the autumn of 1903 Levitski was appointed for four years the Rector of Tartu University but in the autumn of 1905 he was freed from the post. In 1904 he had retired with the right to continue work. In 1905 he was given the title of professor emeritus. After the year 1905 Levitski did not deliver lectures. In February 1907 Pokrovski was elected the new professor of astronomy. For one and a half years Levitski remained the director of the observatory.

At Tartu University Levitski lectured on general astronomy, higher geodesy, practical and theoretical astronomy. He tried to improve the poor economic situation of the Tartu Observatory. The mechanic Herbst was invited from Pulkovo who mended old instruments and ordered new equipment: the Repsold zenith telescope and horizontal pendulums of different constructions for seismic measurements. In 1895 a stone pavilion with the revolving cupola was built for the zenith telescope; for placing pendulums the old gun powder cellar was adapted. In 1895 systematic visual and in 1897 photographic observations of sunspots started. The Erikson electric clocks were installed. Comets, meteorites, noctilucent clouds were observed involving students in the work. In 1896 the department of seismology was established at the Tartu Observatory and systematic seismological observations were started. Levitski participated in conferences and went on scientific tours in connection with organizing seismic service in Russia. Most of Levitki’s articles and scientific papers during the Tartu period were devoted to determining the orbits of comets but his most important scientific contribution was made by writing science history papers: the Histories of the Observatories of Kharkov and Tartu (1894, 1899) and the Lexicon of Professors of Tartu University (1902-1903).

In 1908 Levitski was appointed the curator of the Vilnius educational district and he left Tartu. In 1911 he went to St. Petersburg and began to work at the Women’s Teacher Training Institute. From 1915 he was the Chairman of the Society of Astronomy of Russia, in 1901-05 the President of the Estonian Naturalists’ Society.