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Collection Highlights: The Bond Death Masks

On February 4, 1921, Solon Bailey penned a letter in confirmation of the recent acquisition of two curious objects into the Harvard College Observatory collections. “My dear Mr. Bond,” he wrote, “the plaster casts of Professor William C. Bond and his father, William Bond, are received. The Observatory will care for these casts or dispose …

A glass plate negative backlit by a white light. The plate has a spray of dark stars and a few large groupings of stars.

Wolbach Library and the Glass Plate Collection

We are happy to share that HCO’s Astronomical Photographic Glass Plate Collection is now part of the Wolbach Library! This change was initiated to ensure that all projects associated with the Plates, including ongoing digitization efforts, are able to take full advantage of the resources available through Wolbach’s connections to the Harvard Library and the …

CfA Special Collections: A Blog Series

The John G. Wolbach Library at the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is a research library with large historical collections documenting the history of the Harvard College Observatory, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and the history of astronomical study in the United States more broadly. Included in the library are non-circulating special collections materials which …

Cultural Astronomy Series: Dismantling the Fathers of Invention

This essay is part of our on-going series on Cultural Astronomy, which will address cultural and historical themes in science and astronomy with the hope of developing open and informed discussion on the complex, historically-rooted challenges facing our community. History loves its fathers. I do not mean biological fathers, but rather the idea that certain innovations …

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 before he managed to narrow …

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 International Astronomical Union. The trip, …

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 armed guards on board survived. …

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 student at Harvard with an …