Latvia is a part of world’s science movement as at times it was here where major scientific achievements were done affecting the development of science in general. The maps of the Earth were rewritten right after one of the greatest surveys of Earth was performed in the middle of the 19th century also known as Struve Geodetic Arc points’ survey which partially was carried out in the territory of Latvia (1816-1826).
Astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve and military topographer Carl Tenner were carrying out a geodetic survey which confirmed the theory of Isaac Newton claiming that Earth does not have a precise form of a sphere, but that it is flattened in direction of poles. It took 39 years to prove this. During these years measurements stretching from the shores of Arctic Ocean to the estuary of the Danube river at the Black Sea were made with specially designed equipment. As a result geodetic points were established on the surface of Earth which in nowadays can be located in territories of ten countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. The points located in Latvia are special due to the fact that both prominent surveyors – Struve and Tenner – worked here side by side, nevertheless each of them used different system units. Struve used toises (1 toises = 1,949 m), but Tenner – fathoms (1 fathom = 21336 m). The territory of Latvia in this science project is special because here was the point of encounter of both scientists. Struve was surveying from north to Jēkabpils where he passed on the baton to Tenner who surveyed southwards to Lithuania.
This was a cooperation not only among scientists, but among two super powers – the Swedish-Norwegian Union and Russian Empire. It demonstrates that super powers besides their disputes may also have noble goals that promote the development of science, education and culture. In 2005 Struve Geodetic Arc was inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List as unique and the most accurate, long segment surveying system of its time which showcase the development technical evolution and history of science. This list includes 34 of Struve Geodetic Arc points from ten countries marking it as one of the few cultural heritage sites which may not be identified by the characteristics of ethnic culture.
Two of the standpoints inscribed on the World Heritage List are located in Latvia – one in Jēkabpils and the other in Ziestu kalns, Ērgļi municipality. Latvian Geospatial Information Agency has also fixed other precise locations in Jaunjelgava, Sala and Gulbene municipalities where Struve Geodetic Arc Survey is marked by standpoints. All of these points are preserved and promoted to remind that cooperation is the way how we all can benefit the most.
Visual material: Latvian Geospatial Information Agency and Evija Maļkeviča