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COLLECTION Identifier: UAV 630.38.5

Records of the Harvard College Observatory Director Leo Goldberg


Leo Goldberg (1913-1987), astronomer and astrophysicist, was director of the Harvard College Observatory from 1966 to 1971. The Records of the Harvard College Observatory Director Leo Goldberg document his tenure as head of the Observatory from 1966 to 1969, and consist of correspondence, memoranda, research proposals, and reports related to the scientific and administrative functions of the Observatory, as well as its relationship with other observatories, projects, and organizations, particularly the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. The series also contains photographs, diazos, and blueprints of scientific equipment and grounds.


  • 1960-1969


Researcher Access

This series is open for research with the following exception: Personnel and student records are closed for 80 years. Specific restrictions are noted at the subseries and folder levels; please see reference staff for details.


4 cubic feet (10 document boxes, 10 oversized folders, 1 half-document box)
20 photographs

The Records of the Harvard College Observatory Director Leo Goldberg primarily document his tenure as head of the Observatory from 1966 to 1969, although a small number of materials predate his administration and there are no records from 1970 to 1971, the last two years of his term. The records primarily consist of correspondence, memoranda, research proposals, and reports related to the scientific, teaching, and administrative activities of the Observatory.

Incoming and outgoing correspondence with various Harvard departments, employees, and administrators sheds light on the daily operations, administrative functions, personnel decisions, and teaching objectives of the Observatory, particularly regarding its hiring, contractual, and salary decisions. Documents related to the Observatory’s scientific programs include budgets, research proposals, reports, and equipment inventories. Goldberg also corresponded with many astronomers and scientists from around the world, as well as with many notable Harvard astronomers, such as Carl Sagan, Fred Whipple, John Wolbach, Donald Menzel, and Hector C. Ingrao. Some letters relate to the political and social climate at the University, such as May 1969 memoranda between Goldberg and Harvard College Observatory astronomer Richard McCray, which discuss the student occupation of University Hall and resulting Committee of Fifteen.

Consistent with the Observatory’s long history of employing women, there is significant correspondence with female astronomers and scientists, including Barbara Bell, Helen Spence Federer, Margaret Lewis, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, Dorothy Weeks, and Frances Woodworth Wright.

A substantial amount of letters and corresponding materials relate to Harvard’s close working relationship with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, including the institution’s annual reports and memoranda. Correspondence from the mid-1960s also documents the transfer of Boyden Station’s equipment and operations from Harvard to the Smithsonian. Correspondence, funding, research proposals, and progress reports related to the Northeast Radio Observatory Corporation (NEROC) and Cambridge Radio Observatory Committee (CAMROC), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Solar Satellite Project, and Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO) document the Observatory’s collaborations with other organizations and governmental agencies.

The records also include photographs and blueprints of scientific equipment, particularly telescopes, as well as of the buildings and grounds of the Observatory's Agassiz Station in Harvard, Massachusetts.

Historical note on the Harvard College Observatory

The Harvard College Observatory was founded in 1839 by the Harvard Corporation after decades of attempts to develop an observatory at Harvard University. Under the Observatory's first two directors, William Cranch Bond and his son, George Phillips Bond, the Observatory began an extensive study of the Orion Nebula and Saturn, discovering the eighth satellite of Saturn, Hyperion in 1848; and the dark inner ring of Saturn (the Crepe Ring) in 1850. Pioneers in astrophotography, the Bonds produced the first recognizable daguerreotype of the Moon and the star Vega in 1850; and the first photographic print of the Moon in 1857. The Observatory became the world's foremost producer of stellar spectra and magnitudes, established an observing station in Peru, and applied mass-production techniques to the analysis of data during the directorship of Edward C. Pickering from 1877 to 1919. Harlow Shapley, director of the Observatory in the 1950s, expanded the scope of the Observatory's galactic research tracking minor planets and asteroids in the Solar System and increasing its telescopic power with the establishment of the Oak Ridge station, also known as the George R. Agassiz Station, in Harvard, Massachusetts. In the 1960s and 1970s, Observatory directors Donald H. Menzel and Leo Goldberg maintained programs in solar and stellar astrophysics and space astronomy. In 1973, the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (founded in 1890) merged to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The Center is a research institute that carries on studies in astronomy, astrophysics, earth and space sciences, and science education.

Biographical note on Leo Goldberg

Leopold “Leo” Goldberg (1913-1987), astronomer and astrophysicist, was director of the Harvard College Observatory from 1966 to 1971. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College in 1934, remained at the University for graduate school to study under Observatory director Donald Howard Menzel, and earned his doctorate in 1938. Goldberg stayed at Harvard until 1941, when he left to work at the McMath-Hulbert Observatory in Detroit, Michigan.

During World War II, Goldberg worked as a consultant to the United States Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance, researching antiaircraft applications. After the war, in 1946, he worked at the University of Michigan as chair of the astronomy department and director of its observatory, where he remained until 1960. At this time, Goldberg returned to Harvard to teach and work at the Observatory, becoming its director in 1966, a role he maintained until 1971. After Harvard, he served as director of the Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona from 1971 until his retirement in 1977. Goldberg was also president of the American Astronomical Society from 1964 to 1966 and of the International Astronomical Union from 1971 to 1976. He died in 1987.


The records are arranged in five series:

  1. Harvard University Administrative Files, 1960-1969
  2. Research Projects, 1964-1968
  3. Affiliated Observatories, 1962-1969
  4. Correspondence with staff, faculty, and others, 1960-1969
  5. Photographs, 1962-[1969]


The archivist maintained the existing series titles and their order, with the exception of the "Photographs, 1962-[1969]" series, which was previously classified as UAV 630.38.5 p. The original order of the folders within each series was also maintained by the archivist.

Related Materials

The Harvard University Archives also holds:

  1. Papers of Leo Goldberg, 1933-1987 (HUGFP 83.xx)
  2. Leo Goldberg: Photograph Albums, 1960-1975 (HUGFP 83.81)
  3. The collaboration between physics and astrophysics, with reference to the cosmic behavior of helium [dissertation], by Leo Goldberg (HU 89.165.1024)

Processing Information

Processed by Olivia Mandica-Hart in December 2022-January 2023. Processing included some physical re-housing and the creation of this finding aid.

Harvard College Observatory. Records of the Harvard College Observatory Director Leo Goldberg, 1960-1969 : an inventory
Harvard University Archives
December 16, 2022
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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Cambridge MA 02138 USA
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