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A History in Handwriting: The Directors of the CfA

In the mid-19th century, the popular exchange of current scholarship between academic institutions led to the creation of Harvard College Observatory astronomical literature collection. At that time, the materials were housed in the Phillips Library, where they remained into the early 20th century. The collection continued to grow, and in 1971 the HCO moved their …

[View of Arequipa Station of Harvard College Observatory with mountains in background] B

“A Peculiar Sense of Proprietorship”

From 1889 through 1927, the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) operated a southern sky photography station in the Peruvian Andes. Led by Solon Bailey, the expedition spent two seasons observing on ‘Mt. Harvard’ near Chosica (close to Lima), before relocating south to Arequipa in 1891, where clearer weather conditions offered better sight. Throughout the life of …

Drive and Joy: Annie Jump Cannon at HCO

Annie Jump Cannon’s astronomy translated the dense skies into a scientific form, and her mere presence made the observatory halls most welcoming and accessible. She could not classify the stars without her colleagues’ help, but they were helpless without her energy and strategy. At the observatory for forty-five years, she became it — embodying its …

Whipple’s Moonwatch: Amateur Astronomers in the Space Age

October 4, 2017 marked the 60th anniversary of the launch of Earth’s first artificial satellite “Sputnik,” in 1957. The world was astonished by the news that the Soviet Union had successfully put a satellite into Earth’s orbit for the first time in history. Sputnik had a profound impact on international relations, military affairs, science, and technology. …

Cecilia and Sergei: American Astronomers

Many great minds and personalities have graced this Observatory, but few so illustrious as those of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin and her husband Sergei. Together, and separately, they made great impacts on how astronomers see the universe. Cecilia began questioning the make-up of the stars, finding in her graduate research that hydrogen and helium are massively more …

Illustrating Astronomy: E.L. Trouvelot at HCO

Celestial photography often stands as the legacy of the Harvard College Observatory in its early years. But its directors still recognized the value of old-fashioned observations of a human eye in real time. To assist their work at the telescope, they tended to hire assistants trained in astronomy and skilled in mathematics. But Joseph Winlock, …

Annie Jump Cannon: Account of the Total Eclipse

[Background Note: Annie Jump Cannon traveled to Virginia Beach, VA to see the total solar eclipse of May 28, 1900. She wrote this journal shortly after observation. The journal is now part of the Papers of Annie Jump Cannon, 1863-1978 collection at the Harvard University Archives (HUGFP 125). This transcription of the original was written by …