Carl Vilhelm Ludvig Charlier

Carl Vilhelm Ludvig Charlier


Date of Birth
April 1, 1862
Date of Death
November 5, 1934

Carl Charlier worked in his native Sweden: at the University of Uppsala, where he was educated and later lectured, at Stockholm Observatory, where he was an assistant for two years, and at the University of Lund, where he was observatory director for thirty years. After working in celestial mechanics, the calibration of photographic photometry, and the theory of lenses, he turned to statistics. He made contributions to pure statistics, especially the theory of errors, and made extensive statistical studies of the distribution and motions of stars in the solar neighborhood. He showed that the hotter stars and galactic clusters form a flattened system, but his neglect of interstellar absorption prevented him from realizing the true extent of the Galaxy. He is best known for proposing a hierarchical model of the universe. In his later years he became interested in the history of astronomy and translated Newton’s Principia into Swedish.

Presentation of Bruce medal

Trumpler, R.J., PASP 45, 5-14 (1933).

Other awards

National Academy of Sciences, James Craig Watson Medal, 1924.

Biographical materials

Guttorp, Peter and Georg Lindgren, Wiley Online Library
Svenskt Biografiskt Handlexikon (older, briefer edition) [in Swedish]
Tenn, Joseph S., “C.V.L. Charlier: The Twenty-eighth Bruce Medalist,” Mercury  24, 3, 40 (1995).


L[undmark], K[nut], MNRAS 95, 339-42 (1935).


The Royal Library: The National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library

Named after him

Charlier series or Gram-Charlier series
Lunar crater Charlier
Martian crater Charlier
Minor Planet #8677 Charlier


Papers, etc.

Charlier’s papers are at the University of Lund Library.

Other References: Historical

Festskrift tillagnad C.V.L. Charlier pa hans sextiofemarsdag den 1 april 1927 av larjungar. (H. Ohlssons boktryckeri, Lund, 1927).

Holmberg, Gustav, Astronomy in Sweden, 1860-1940 (Uppsala Newsletter: History Of Science, no. 26 (1997).

Holmberg, Gustav, Reaching for the Stars: Studies in the History of Swedish Stellar and Nebular Astronomy, 1860-1940 (Lund Studies in the History of Science and Ideas, vol. 13, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, 1999).

Humbert, Pierre, “La statistique stellaire et les travaux de l’école suédoise,” Revue des Questions Scientifiques (Sociéte Scientifique de Bruxelles) 13, 244-255 (1928).

Jones, Bernard J.T., Vicent J. Martínez, Enn Saar, and Virginia Trimble, “ Scaling laws in the distribution of galaxies,” Rev. Mod. Phys. 76, 1211-66 (2004) [preprint available free].

Neyman, Jerzy, “The Emergence of Mathematical Statistics: A Historical Sketch with Particular Reference to the United States,” in Owen, D.B., ed., On the History of Statistics and Probability(Marcel Dekker, NY, 1976).

North, J.D., The Measure of the Universe: A History of Modern Cosmology (Oxford U.P., 1965).

Paul, E. Robert, The Milky Way Galaxy and Statistical Cosmology, 1890-1924 (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 1993).

Särndal, Carl-Erik, “Studies in the History of Probability and Statistics. XXVII: The Hypothesis of Elementary Errors and the Scandinavian school in Statistical Theory,” Biometrika 58, 375-391 (1971).

Sheynin, O.B., “On the History of the Statistical Method in Astronomy,” Archive for the History of the Exact Sciences 29, 151-99 (1984).

Sjölander, Nils, A Brief History of Astronomy in Uppsala

Stigler, Stephen M, The History of Statistics : The Measurement of Uncertainty before 1900 (Harvard U.P., 1986), pp. 11-158.

Trumpler, Robert J. & Harold F. Weaver, Statistical Astronomy (University of California Press, 1953).

Whitrow, G.J., “Theoretical Cosmology in the Twentieth Century,” Human Implications of Scientific Advance, Eric Gray Forbes, ed., Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of the History of Science in Edinburgh 10-15 Aug 1977 (Edinburgh U.P., Edinburgh, 1978), p.576-93.

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Other References: Scientific

Charlier, C.V.L., “Über die Vergleichsterne bei Beobachtungen von Veränderlichen,” Astr. Nachr. 110, 261/62-267/68 (1885).

Charlier, C.V.L., “On the Great Nebula of Andromeda,” Astronomical Register 23, 255-66 (1885).

Charlier, Carl V. L., ed., “Star-Gauges at the Observatory of Lund,” Lunds Universitets Årsskrift. N.F. Avd. 2 Bd. 19 Nr. 2

Charlier, C.V.L., Contributions to the Astronomical Theory of an Ice Age (E. Malmstrom, Lund, 1901).

Charlier, C.V.L., Die Mechanik des Himmels (Veit & Co., Leipzig, 1902-1907; W. de Gruyter, Berlin, 1927).

Charlier, C.V.L., Researches into the Theory of Probability (Hakon Ohlsson, Lund, 1906.

Charlier, C.V.L., “On Multiple Solutions in the Determination of Orbits from three Observations,” MNRAS 71, 120-22 (1910).

Charlier, C.V.L., “The Analytical Solution of the Problem of Orbits,” MNRAS 71, 606-09 (1911).

Charlier, C.V.L., Studies in Stellar Statistics (C.W.K. Gleerup Lund, 1912-).

Charlier, C.V.L., “Preliminary Statistics of Nebulae and Clusters,” Arkiv. Mat. Ast. Fys. 9, 15, 1-35 + plates (1913).

Charlier, C.V.L., “Stars, Motions and Distances, An Investigation on the Motion of the Stars,” MNRAS 73, 486 (1913).

Charlier, C.V.L., “Monistic and Dualistic Conceptions of the Stellar Universe,” Observatory 40, 387-94 (1917).

Charlier, C.V.L., Statistical Mechanics Based on the Law of Newton(C.W.K. Gleerup, Lund, 1917).

Charlier, C.V.L., Stellar Clusters and Related Celestial Phenomena, (C.W.K. Gleerup, Lund, 1918].

Charlier, C.V.L., Introduction to Stellar Statistics (Scientia Publisher, Lund, 1921).

Charlier, C.V.L., Lectures on Stellar Statistics (Scientia Publisher, Lund, 1921).

Charlier, C.V.L., “How an Infinite World May be Built Up,” Arkiv. Mat. Ast. Fys. 16, 22, 1-34 (1922).

Charlier, C.V.L., ed. Star-gauges at the Observatory of Lund, (C.W.K. Gleerup Lund, 1923).

Charlier, C.V.L., “On the Rotation of Venus and Mercury” PASP 36, 105-07 (1924).

Charlier, C.V.L., “Do the Star Streams of Kapteyn Exist?” PASP 36, 212-215 (1924).

Charlier, C.V.L., “On the Structure of the Universe: Hitchcock Lectures at the University of California, April, 1924. Fifth Lecture: An Infinite Universe,” PASP 37, 177-91 (1925). (conclusion)

Charlier, C.V.L., The Motion and the Distribution of the Stars, (University of California Press, 1926). Series title: Memoirs of the University of California, v. 7.

Charlier, C.V.L., Statistical Notes on the Draper Catalogue. Communicated October 13th 1926. (Almqvist & Wiksells boktryckeri-a, Stockholm, 1927).

Charlier, C.V. L, A New Form of the Frequency Function (Gleerup, Lund, 1928).

Charlier, C.V.L., Application de la theorie des probabilites a l’astronomie (Gauthier-Villars, Paris, 1931.

Charlier, C.V.L. & L.v. Bortkiewicz, Elements of Mathematical Statistics, ed. and tr. by J.A. Greenwood. (Cambridge, Mass., 1947).

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Other Works: Popularizations, History, etc.

Newton, Isaac, Naturvetenskapens Matematiska Principer [Translation of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by C.V.L. Charlier] (C.W.K. Gleerups, Lund, 1927 (Part I) and 1931 (Parts II and III).