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hMilutin Milanković

Milutin Milanković was a Serbian mathematician, astronomer, climatologist, doctor
of technology and university professor.
Milutin Milanković was born in the village of Dalj, a settlement on the banks of the
Danube on the Croatian border with Serbia. Their father was a merchant, landlord,
and local politician who died when Milutin was eight; his mother, grandmother, and
an uncle then raised the children. His three brothers died of tuberculosis as
children. Being of sensitive health, he received his elementary education at home in
the classroom without walls, learning from his father Milan, private teachers, and
from numerous relatives and friends of the family, some of whom were renowned
philosophers, inventors, and poets. He attended secondary school in nearby Osijek,
completing it in 1896. In October 1896, at the age of seventeen, he moved
to Vienna to study Civil Engineering at the Vienna University of Technology and
graduated in 1902 with the best marks. After graduating and spending his
obligatory year in military service, Milanković borrowed money from an uncle to pay
for additional schooling at the Technical High School in engineering. He researched
concrete and wrote a theoretical evaluation of it as a building material. At age
twenty-five, his Ph.D. thesis was entitled Theory of Pressure Curves and its
implementation allowed for assessment of pressure curves' shape and properties
when continuous pressure is applied, which is very useful in bridge, cupola and
abutment building. His thesis was successfully defended on 12 December 1904. He
then worked for an engineering firm in Vienna, using his knowledge to design
While studying the works of the contemporaneous climatologist Julius von Hann,
Milanković noticed a significant issue, which became one of the major objects of his
scientific research: a mystery of ice age. Despite having valuable data on the
distribution of ice ages on Alps, climatologists and geologists could not discover the
basic causes—that is, the different insolations of the Earth during past ages
remained beyond the scope of these sciences. But Milanković decided to follow their
path and attempt correctly to calculate the magnitude of such influences.
Milanković sought the solution of these complex problems in the field of spherical
geometry, celestial mechanics, and theoretical physics. He began working on it in
1912, after he had realized that "most of meteorology is nothing but a collection of
innumerable empirical findings, mainly numerical data, with traces of physics used
to explain some of them. He published the first paper on the subject entitled "On
the mathematical theory of climate" in Belgrade on 5 April 1912. His next paper
was entitled "Distribution of the sun radiation on the earth's surface" and was
published on 5 June 1913. He correctly calculates the intensity of insolation and
developed a mathematical theory describing Earth’s climate zones. It allowed
reconstruction of the Earth's climate, and also its predictions, as well as gave us the
first reliable data about the climate conditions on other planets. Then he tried to
find a mathematical model of a cosmic mechanism to describe the Earth's climatic
and geological history. He published a paper on the subject entitled "About the
issue of the astronomical theory of ice ages" in 1914. But the cosmic mechanism
was not an easy problem, and Milanković took two years to develop an
astronomical theory. At the same time, the July Crisis between the Austro-
Hungarian empire and Serbia broke out, which led to World War I. On 14 June
1914, Milanković married Kristina Topuzović and went on his honeymoon to his
native village of Dalj in Austro-Hungary, where he heard about the beginning of the
World War I. He was arrested as a citizen of Serbia and was sent to Prison in
Austria. His wife went to Vienna to talk to Emanuel Czuber, who was his mentor
and a good friend. Through his social connections, Professor Czuber arranged
Milanković's release from prison and permission to spend his captivity in Budapest
with the right to work. Milanković spent four years in Budapest, almost the entire
war. He used mathematical methods to study the current climate of inner planets of
the solar system. In 1916 he published a paper entitled "Investigation of the
climate of the planet Mars". Milanković calculated that the average temperature in
the lower layers the atmosphere on Mars is −45°C and the average surface
temperature is −17°C. In addition to considering Mars, he dealt with the climatic
conditions prevailing on Venus and Mercury.[10] His calculations of the temperature
conditions on the neighboring Moon are particularly significant. Milanković knew
that one day on the Moon lasts 15 Earth days, and this is the amount and length of
night. After World War I, Milanković returned to Belgrade with his family on 19
March 1919. He continued his professorial career, becoming a full professor at the
University of Belgrade. From 1912 to 1917, he wrote and published seven papers
on mathematical theories of climate both on the Earth and on the other planets. He
formulated a precise, numerical climatological model with the capacity for
reconstruction of the past and prediction of the future, and established the
astronomical theory of climate as a generalized mathematical theory of insolation.
When these most important problems of the theory were solved, and a firm
foundation for further work built, Milanković finished a book which was published in
1920, by the Gauthier-Villars in Paris under the title "Théorie mathématique des
phénomènes thermiques produits par la radiation solaire" (Mathematical Theory of
Heat Phenomena Produced by Solar Radiation). Immediately after the publication of
this book in 1920, meteorologists recognized it as a significant contribution to the
study of contemporary climate.
To collect his scientific work on the theory of solar radiation that was scattered in
many books and papers, Milanković began his life's work in 1939. This tome was
entitled "Canon of Insolation of the Earth and Its Application to the Problem of the
Ice Ages", which covered his nearly three decades of research, including a large
number of formulas, calculations and schemes, but also summarized universal laws
through which it was possible to explain cyclical climate change and the attendant
11 ice ages - his namesake Milankovitch cycles. Milanković spent two years
arranging and writing the "Canon". The manuscript was submitted to print on 2
April 1941 – four days before the attack of Nazi Germany and its allies on the
Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In the bombing of Belgrade on 6 April 1941, the printing
house where his work was being printed was destroyed; however, almost all of the
printed sheet paper remained undamaged in the printing warehouse. After the
successful occupation of Serbia on 15 May 1941, two German officers and geology
students came to Milanković in his house and brought greetings from Professor
Wolfgang Soergel of Freiburg. Milanković gave them the only complete printed copy
of the "Canon" to send to Soergel, to make certain that his work would be
preserved. Milanković did not take part in the work of the university during the
occupation, and after the war he was reinstated as professor.
Milutin Milanković died on 12 December in 1958 at the age of 79.d
In honour of his achievements in astronomy, an impact crater on the far side of the
Moon was given the name Milankovic at the 14th IAU General Assembly in 1970.
His name is also given to a crater on Mars at the 15th IAU General Assembly in
1973. Since 1993 the Milutin Milankovitch Medal has been awarded by the
European Geophysical Society (called the EGU since 2003) for contributions in the
area of long-term climate and modeling. A main belt asteroid discovered in 1936
has also been dubbed 1605 Milankovitch. At NASA, in their edition of "On the
Shoulders of Giants", Milanković has been ranked among the top fifteen minds of all
time in the field of earth sciences.