Enno Heeren Dirksen

This summer I spent a few weeks in Paris, and mentioned to a friend on a walk to Père Lachaise that I have a distant relative who may be buried there, and I was quick to dismiss it as a family legend, because a first attempt to find his grave a few years ago had led to nothing. My friend, Aurélie is an art historian and quickly found an entry in a recently digitised document of the archives:

It turns out that Enno Heeren Dirksen is actually not buried at Père Lachaise, but at Montmartre. With this information at hand we headed over to Montmartre, and while I thought this is a fun trip, I gave it very little chance of success, to actually find the grave, which I expected to be unmarked, or collapsed, or in any case impossible to find. I have to admit that I was overjoyed to find a perfectly intact grave, with an inscription that read:

Ici repose
Enno Hero Dirksen
Professeur de Mathematiques
à l’Université de Berlin
Concession à perpetuité
No 367 Année 1850

It’s entirely possible that I’m the first relative who visited his rest place, in 172 years.

My knowledge of his life was until very recently entirely anecdotal, as told by my mother and her brothers, whose grandfather (or great grandfather?) would have met him on his visits home, in Emden. The biography I have found online matches pretty well everything I’ve been told:


I was aware that he interacted with C.F. Gauss, but I would like to know more about the nature of their collaboration on the calculation of orbits of comets and asteroids.

I would also like to learn more about his work leading up to his habilitation, as reflected in his inaugural lecture

Über eine zweckmässige Methode, die Opposition eines Planeten mit der Sonne zu berechnen

I might write about that separately.

He also had a very famous student: Carl Jacobi.

I intend to find out more about his work, and the many students he advised:

Mathematics Genealogy Project – Enno Heeren Dirksen

Maybe on my next visit to Paris?