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Category Archives: CfA History

Frank Kameny: Cold War Astronomy and the Lavender Scare

*With this blog series, we also hope to instigate meaningful conversations about our institution’s history. We therefore invite you to comment on our posts and share your thoughts with us. Franklin Edward Kameny decided at four-years-old that he was going to be a scientist. It was another year or two…

James Baker: WW2 and The Observatory Optical Project

*With this blog series, we also hope to instigate meaningful conversations about our institution’s history. We therefore invite you to comment on our posts and share your thoughts with us. In the summer of 1938, James Baker and his wife Elizabeth traveled to Stockholm for the annual meeting of the…

The Sinking of the S.S. Robin Goodfellow

On July 25, 1944, German submarine U-862 torpedoed and sunk the S.S. Robin Goodfellow, a U.S. freighter en route from Cape Town, South Africa to New York. A nearby British motor merchant received the distress signal, but was unable to intervene. None of the eight officers, thirty-three crewmen, or twenty-eight…

Dorrit Hoffleit: Harvard Astronomers in the Second World War

*With this blog series, we also hope to instigate meaningful conversations about our institution’s history. We therefore invite you to comment on our posts and share your thoughts with us. Dorrit Hoffleit moved to Cambridge, MA as a young teenager. Her older brother, then only fourteen himself, was a new…

George Ellery Hale, Mount Wilson, and the Griffith Observatory

*With this blog series, we also hope to instigate meaningful conversations about our institution’s history. We therefore invite you to comment on our posts and share your thoughts with us. George Ellery Hale was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 29, 1868. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, his…

Amateur Telescope-Making: Popular Astronomy and the Great Depression

*With this blog series, we also hope to instigate meaningful conversations about our institution’s history. We therefore invite you to comment on our posts and share your thoughts with us. The highly publicized return of Halley’s Comet in 1910 remains one of the most high-profile events of modern astronomy. Stories…

1920: Harvard Astronomy in the Aftermath of WW1

*With this blog series, we also hope to instigate meaningful conversations about our institution’s history. We therefore invite you to comment on our posts and share your thoughts with us. Jazz Age America, also known as the “Roaring Twenties” or the “Golden Age Twenties” in Europe, was born from the…

Summer Blog Series: An Updated Mission Statement

The prevailing theme behind the Library’s summer blog series has been to share snapshots in the history of the H.C.O. and S.A.O. where significant national or international events intersected with astrophysical scholarship. Due to the widespread closure of libraries and archives relating to Covid-19, much of our research for this…

“All Closed and Lenses Covered”: The Boyden Station in Arequipa

***In Fall 2019, the Wolbach Library displayed a small exhibit on the history of the Boyden Station entitled, “A Peculiar Sense of Proprietorship,” which directly addressed the imperialist actions of Harvard astronomers in Peru. The accompanying blog is still available here: https://wolba.ch/gazette/arequipa/. The blog and exhibit were adapted from Alex…

Astronomers in a Chemists’ War

In August 1914, as the ‘Great War’ began, a pair of French scientists started working on a machine to detect enemy artillery fire using recorded sound. Charles Nordmann, the leader of the two and a career astronomer, was best known for his failed attempts at the turn of the century…