Michael Johannes Petronius Bille was a Danish-Norwegian, and Prussian naval officer born 8 November 1769 in Stege on the Danish Island of Møn into a naval family which had produced and would produce Danish admirals.
Michael was sailing on the Danish frigate Bornholm (captained by his father Mathias) when it was caught in a hurricane off the Danish West Indies Islands. After days of struggle, the ship ran aground off Newport, County Mayo, Ireland on March 17, 1782. Mathias died in the affair. Bille became an officer in the Danish-Norwegian Navy in 1789 and participated in the Battle of Copenhagen on 2 April 1801, where he commanded the lower battery of the Prøvesteenen which fired the first shot at the British.
Over fifteen years he also served as a teacher of mathematics and astronomy at the Seekadettenakademiet (Dansk Søværnets Officersskole). From 1807-1811, he served as a captain stationed in Kristiansand in charge of the gunboat squadron (Roflotillen). In 1812-1813 he commanded a French warship in the Scheldt. From 1815 he served as pilot inspector in Helsingor until he entered Prussian service in 1820.
In 1821 he began a very fruitful career as director of the Prussian Navigationsschule in Danzig. After three years he moved the school into a building that lay outside Danzig at the mouth of the Radaune River because the St. Jacob Church was inadequate. The school was then assigned to the war schooner Stralsund commanded by Longé. From 1825 the school also had the gunboat Danzig. Bille and the vessels were under the authority of the Ministry of War in Berlin. This may be seen as the beginning of the Prussian Navy.
The number of students increased from 40 in 1827 to 115-120 in 1831.
He resigned from Prussian service 3 May 1838 because he had become a Rear Admiral the Danish Navy, which was also his resignation from the Danish navy. He had performed excellently and was still well remembered in 1897: “A better leader for this branch of navigation at that time would have been difficult to find. The Danish origin was not an obstacle to him while fulfilling his official duties with pleasure and zeal.”
As Rear Admiral from 1838 he busied himself with writing and research in natural sciences. In 1840 he published a book on navigation Tankar om och i navigationen. He died in Copenhagen 27 March 1845.
Bille, Michael von (1840). Tankar om och i navigationen. Carl Deleen.