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Henning Munch Engelhart

Henning Munch Engelhart (also known as Engelhardt) must truly rate as an unsung hero during the Danish colonisation period. He was born in Rendalen in Norway in 1757.   After studying at the Latin School in Christiania (today's Oslo), he took a degree in Theology from the University of Copenhagen. He was also proficient in mathematics, astronomy and geography.  He came to Tranquebar as a ship's parson in 1784. He was put in charge of registering all the Danish archive materials in Tranquebar. With the help of his  professor in astronomy, Thomas Bugge, he brought several astronomical instruments to Tranquebar and established an astronomical observatory in the tower of the Zion's Church. The instruments that he established at the observatory were a 2' astronomical circle, a transit instrument with a 3' astronomical telescope, an astronomical clock, a 2' telescope with 2 objectives and a 8' Dollond telescope.  The observatory was finished sometime in 1788. During 1788 and 1789, Engelhardt measured the latitude and longitude of Tranquebar. He measured the latitude to be 11 1' 20" N. The modern value is 11 1' 34" N!. He also measured the time difference between Tranquebar and Greenwich  through an observation of Jupiter's satellites (and a comparison with the Nautical Almanac from Britian) to be 5 h 18' 58" whereeas the true value today is 5 h 19' 25"! John Goldingham who is supposed to have established the astronomical observatory in Madras, published in 1822 an article in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in which he ascribed wrongly the measurement of  the longitude of Tranquebar to Topping. Engelhardt started an association called "The Tranquebar Association for knowledge on India"; only one partial proceeding of the association exists. This contains articles by C. S. John on a proposal to establish a botanical garden in Tranquebar, on different snakes in and around Tranquebar.

There is also an article from Engelhardt on the construction of the astronomical observatory: 

The height of the tower from the ground to the floor of the observatory is 40 feet, and the thickness of the walls is 3’. One climbs up to the balcony of the Zion church, and a flight of stairs with 22 steps leads to the observatory, which has a gallery on one side. The tower is in the form of a rectangle 13 ’ in length and 12’ in breadth. The inside length of the observatory is 11 ’, and is 10’ broad...".

 Engelhardt also had written "A history of the Danish East Indian Establishments" which has not been published, and is in a manuscript form.

Already during January 1791, he was sent to the Nicobars to make a  survey of the Islands (called Friedriks Islands) for their colonisation. While on the way, as well as at Nancowri, he made several astronomical and meterological observations which can be found in the Extracts from his journal (RA) until March 16, 1791.  However, within ten days of his arrival, he died of Malaria (Nicobar fever) (and not due to drowning due to the negligence of negroes, as has been claimed) and was buried on the island of Taraka (currently known as Terasa or Teressa). .