Christian Doppler Biography

Scientist, Mathematician, Physicist (1803–1853)
Christian Doppler was an Austrian mathematician and physicist best known for articulating a principle known as the 'Doppler effect.'


Christian Doppler was born in Salzburg, Austria, on November 29, 1803. He taught mathematics and physics at the university level while conducting his own research. Doppler is best known for articulating an influential principle known as the "Doppler effect" in an 1842 paper. He was often ill and died while convalescing in Venice, Italy, on March 17, 1853.

Early Life

Christian Andreas Doppler was born on November 29, 1803, in Salzburg, Austria. His lack of physical strength kept Doppler from joining his father in his stonemasonry business. Doppler studied philosophy in Salzburg, and mathematics and physics at the Vienna University of Technology and the University of Vienna.

Academic Career

In 1835, Christian Doppler accepted an academic position at what is now Czech Technical University. He published widely, but was known as a harsh instructor who was not popular among his students. He married Mathild Sturm, a native of Strasburg, in 1836. They would have five children over the course of their marriage.

In 1842, Doppler gave a presentation called "Über das farbige Licht der Doppelsterne" ("On the colored light of the double stars and certain other stars of the heavens") at the Royal Bohemian Society of Sciences. The paper theorized that since the pitch of sound from a moving source varies for a stationary observer, the color of the light from a star should alter according to the star's velocity relative to Earth. This principle came to be known as the "Doppler effect." The Doppler effect has been used to support the Big Bang Theory and is often referenced in weather forecasting, radar and navigation.

Doppler left Prague in 1847 and accepted a professorship in mathematics, physics and mechanics at the Academy of Mines and Forests in the Slovakian town of Banska Stiavnica. When revolution broke out in the region in 1848, Doppler was forced to return to Vienna.

In 1850, Doppler was appointed head of the Institute for Experimental Physics at the University of Vienna. One of his students there was Gregor Mendel, known for his tremendous contributions to the field of genetics, who did not impress Doppler at the time. Another member of faculty, Franz Unger, served as a mentor to Mendel.


Doppler did not live long after his return to Vienna. He contracted tuberculosis, which made speech difficult and forced him to take a leave of absence in 1852. He traveled to Italy in search of a warmer climate during his convalescence.

Christian Doppler died of pulmonary disease on March 17, 1853, in Venice, Italy. He is buried inside the Venetian island cemetery of San Michele.

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