Struve Geodetic Arc (2005)

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The Struve Arc is a chain of survey triangulations stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, through ten countries and over 2,820 km. These are points of a survey, carried out between 1816 and 1855 by the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve, which represented the first accurate measuring of a long segment of a meridian. This helped establish the exact size and shape of our planet and marked an important step in the development of earth sciences and topographic mapping. It is an extraordinary example of scientific collaboration among scientists from different countries, and of collaboration between monarchs for a scientific cause. The original arc consisted of 258 main triangles with 265 main station points. The listed site includes 34 of the original station points, with different markings, i.e. a drilled hole in rock, iron cross, cairns, or built obelisks. 

Russia 1964. Death centenary of Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve (1793-1864). 

So far it has been impossible to find any stamps featuring Struve's Geodetic Arc, only stamps from the locations, but with no relation to the property as such. Instead I have found the following information about Struve, and the Soviet stamp commemorating his death centenary. 

Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve was born in Altona, then part of Denmark, in what is now Germany, to Jacob Struve (1755-1841). He was to become the second of an entire family of astronomers through five generations. To avoid military service, Struve's father, Jacob, moved from Napoleonic Germany to Latvia, then the Livonian province of Imperial Russia. 

  • Russia 1964. Death centenary of Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve (1793-1864). 
In 1808 Struve entered the University of Tartu (Estonia), where he first studied philology, but soon turned his attention to astronomy. From 1813 to 1820 he taught at the university and observed at Dorpat Observatory in Tartu, occupied with research on double stars and geodesy until 1839, when he founded and became director of the new Pulkovo Observatory near St. Petersburg. 

His Danish-German name was at the same changed to Vasily Yakovlevich Struve, which also appears on the above stamp [V. Ya. Struve in Cyrillic characters]. 

Estonia 2002. Tartu University. 370th anniversary of Foundation.

Russia 1989. Pulkovo Observatory, 150th anniversary of foundation.

The countries included in the World Heritage Property of "Struve's Geodetic Arc" are: Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Sweden, and Ukraine. I have been informed that some (but not all) of these countries are preparing release of stamps in 2006 and later, pertaining to "their part" of the property. 

Struve Geodetic Arc comprises points in the region of Tornio (Finland), Ylitornio (Finland), as well as in Haparanda (Sweden), Övertorneå (Sweden), and Pajala (Sweden). As an aside it is interesting that these points were researched already during the 18th century, when Tornio was visited by several expeditions from Central Europe who came to discover the Arctic. The most notable expedition (1736-1737) took place on the order of the French King Louis XV, and was led by a member of the Academie Française, Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, who came to do measurements along the Tornio river so as to prove that the earth is flattened towards the poles. In 1986 the 250th anniversary of this expedition was commemorated through a joint issue by Finland and France. 

Finland 1986. 250th anniversary of the measurement of the Meridian Arc in Laponia, with a portrait of the French scientist Pierre Louis de Maupertuis. Joint issue with France. France 1986. 250th anniversary of the measurement of the Meridian Arc at Equator in Peru, with portraits of French scientists Pierre Louis de Maupertuis and La Dondamine. Joint issue with Finland.

In its justification for inscription the UNESCO states that Struve's Geodetic Arc is the first accurate measuring of a long segment of a meridian, helping in the establishment of the exact size and shape of the world exhibits an important step in the development of earth sciences. It is also an extraordinary example for interchange of human values in the form of scientific collaboration among scientists from different countries. It is at the same time an example for collaboration between monarchs of different powers, for a scientific cause.

The Struve Geodetic Arc is undoubtedly an outstanding example of technological ensemble – presenting the triangulation points of the measuring of the meridian, being the non movable and non tangible part of the measuring technology.

The measuring of the arc and its results are directly associated with men wondering about his world, its shape and size. It is linked with Sir Isaac Newton's theory that the world is not an exact sphere.

Sources and links:

Many thanks to Mr. Leonards Naglis (Latvia) for all help and support. 

Other World Heritage Sites in Finland (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Finland for further information about the individual properties.   

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
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