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Category Archives: Historical

Updates on Project PHAEDRA

Over the past few months, our library staff has been working hard to unravel the mysteries of Project PHAEDRA. Consisting of over 100 boxes recently rediscovered that contain Harvard College Observatory’s notebooks, journals, and observations from the nineteenth century, this material has the potential to reveal aspects of the Observatory’s…

Introducing Project PHAEDRA!

Project PHAEDRA: Preserving Harvard’s Early Data and Research in Astronomy Recently, research material originally produced during the mid-to-late 19th century and early 20th century by researchers at the Harvard College Observatory was re-discovered in the HCO Plate Stacks holdings. These early notebooks and other materials are absolutely irreplaceable. The material represents…

Journal of Williamina Paton Fleming Curator of Astronomical Photographs. Harvard College Observatory

[Background Note: The “Chest of 1900” was a time-capsule project to document everyday life at Harvard University for the month of March 1900. Many project participants contributed diaries; below is that of Williamina Paton Fleming, Curator of Astronomical Photographs at the Harvard College Observatory. Raphaelle Lapotre transcribed the journal during…

Joel H. Metcalf Biography (Part 4)

Joel Hastings Metcalf Part 4: A Legacy of Discovery In 1910, Metcalf moved to Winchester, Massachusetts, where he continued his work as a preacher and found an eager audience, as demonstrated by his sermons being published in the local newspaper, the Winchester Star, on more than one occasion[1]. Of course,…

Joel H. Metcalf Biography (Part 3)

Joel Hastings Metcalf Part 3: From Amateur to Expert Following his period of study at Oxford and time of further rest away from his ministerial profession, Metcalf found himself in Taunton, Massachusetts, in 1904, where he had accepted a position at the Unitarian Church. He became associated with the Harvard…

Joel H. Metcalf Biography (Part 2)

Joel Hastings Metcalf Part 2: The Cultivation of a Passion Metcalf’s fascination with astronomy would prove to be much more than a youthful pursuit forgotten with age, though it would not be center of his professional life either. That role was left to his work as a preacher, a calling…

Joel H. Metcalf Biography (Part 1)

 Joel Hastings Metcalf Part 1: From An Early Age The Reverend Joel Hastings Metcalf was a passionate figure who made many important and fascinating contributions to the field of astronomy at Harvard during the early part of the 20th century. Being trained and educated as a minister, astronomy was not…

Boyden Observatory through the 60″ Rockefeller Reflector

The 60-inch Rockefeller Reflector is one of the main telescopes at Boyden Observatory, currently located in Bloemfontein, South Africa. It all started when Uriah A. Boyden, a mechanical engineer in Boston, MA, donated $238,000 to Harvard College in 1879 to extend astronomical research. With the newly acquired money, Harvard declared…

The Damon Telescopes

One of the biggest contributions of Edward Pickering, who was the director of Harvard College Observatory for 42 years (1876-1918), is initiating a program to map the variability of objects in the night sky [1]. One of the main consequences of this program was to collect a huge number of…

Rediscovering the Horsehead Nebula

Rediscovering the Horsehead Nebula There are currently about 500,000 photographic plates residing at the Harvard College Observatory. The collection is unique in its coverage of the sky (both the northern and southern hemispheres), its coverage of time (data dating back to the 1880s), as well as its sheer size (the…