Scientist of the Day - Christian Albrecht Jensen
Christian Albrecht Jensen, a Danish artist, was born June 26, 1792. Jensen studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, then spent four years in Rome; when he returned to Denmark in 1822, he decided to specialize in portrait painting. He painted most of the leading cultural figures of Denmark, including Hans Christian Andersen and the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. During Jensen’s own lifetime, his portraits were often criticized, since they were more introspective that those done in the prevailing neoclassical style; in modern times, his portraits are much better appreciated.
He earns a spot here because many of his portraits were of scientists. The most important Danish scientist of the time was Hans Christian Øersted, who in 1820 discovered that an electric current produces magnetic effects, and Jensen painted his portrait (second image). Jensen’s portrait of Carl Friedrich Gauss is today the standard representation of the great mathematician (first image). Jensen also painted the German astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel, who was the first to measure the distance to a star in 1838 (third image). And Jensen journeyed to St. Petersburg to paint the great Russian astronomer, Friedrich George Wilhelm von Struve; we are unable to locate the original oil, but many prints have been made from it, and we show one of the better ones (fourth image). And, of course, like any good portrait artist, Jensen left us a fine painting of himself (fifth image).
If you wish to check out his portraits of literary and cultural figures, including Hans Christian Andersen, there are almost one hundred portraits by Jensen that are catalogued and thumbnailed on Wikimedia Commons.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to firstname.lastname@example.org.