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Category Archives: CfA History

Sir Arthur Eddington and The World War One Eclipses

Just weeks after the start of World War One, German astronomer Erwin Finlay-Freundlich led an expedition into Russian-controlled Crimea to photograph the total solar eclipse on August 21, 1914. An American expedition, led by William Wallace Campbell from the Lick Observatory, arrived in Kiev with similar intentions. Earlier that spring,…

The “First and Second Civil War Comets”

Horace Parnell Tuttle’s career in astronomy began when failing eyesight forced his older brother, Charles Wesley Tuttle, to abandon his own fledging astronomical career. Charles redirected his academic pursuits, enrolling in Harvard Law School, and Horace replaced his older brother at the Harvard College Observatory. Educated in the early days…

Thaddeus Lowe and The U.S. Army Ballooning Corps

On April 20, 1861, Thaddeus Lowe left Cincinnati, OH, with plans to travel to Washington D.C. in the basket of a balloon he’d named the “Enterprise.” It was a test flight (and a calculated publicity stunt) towards what he hoped might eventually become an aerial journey across the Atlantic. Wearing…

Major Philip Sidney Coolidge (1830 – 1863)

On September 19, 1863, Major Philip Sidney Coolidge died leading the 16th U.S. Infantry into battle at Chickamauga, presumably. A great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson on his mother’s side, and a man who by all accounts lived “a strangely roving adventurous life,” Boston newspapers disagreed over his fate into the early…

George Phillips Bond: HCO and The Civil War

William Cranch Bond, a Boston clockmaker and the founding Director of the Harvard College Observatory, died on January 29, 1859. In less than a month, his son and longtime assistant, George Phillips Bond became the Observatory’s second Director and the Phillips Professor of Astronomy at Harvard College. At the height…

The Hancock Telescope and the Smallpox Epidemic of 1764

In January 1764, the General Court of Massachusetts temporarily adjourned to Cambridge following an outbreak of smallpox in Boston. In the following months, almost a third of the city was inoculated against the disease, including future president John Adams. An estimated 170 people died during the epidemic, 124 from smallpox…

CfA History: Introducing A Summer Blog Series

In recent months, the Covid-19 pandemic has interrupted the daily operations of businesses, schools, and other facets of normal life. Many people, including those at the Center for Astrophysics, have found themselves working remotely or working in modified ways to better adhere to the unique challenges of recent public safety…