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COLLECTION Identifier: HUGFP 125

Papers of Annie Jump Cannon


The collection documents both the personal and professional life of Annie Jump Cannon, the first astronomer to systematically classify the stars.  It contains diaries, autobiographical writings, correspondence, manuscripts, and photographs, relating to her life and career.


  • Creation: 1863-1978


Access to Collection

Open for research.

Please note AJC Scrapbook, 1879-1893 (HUG 125.36 Box 1) is closed to research due to its fragile condition.


12 cubic feet (35 boxes and 4 folders)

The papers of Annie Jump Cannon document both her personal and professional activities. They contain diaries, autobiographical writings, correspondence, manuscripts of writings and speeches, notes, photographs, and memorabilia (including scrapbooks, guest books, autograph books, clippings, diplomas, and ephemera). This collection also includes papers of Margaret Mayall about Annie Jump Cannon.

Biography of Annie Jump Cannon

Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941) was the first astronomer to systematically classify the stars. She classified stars according to their stellar spectra using a procedure set up by Williamina Fleming. She is credited with classifying 400,000 stellar bodies and discovering more than 300 variable stars, 5 novae, and one spectroscopic binary.

After earning a B.S. at Wellesley College in 1884, she spent the next ten years both at home and travelling abroad. She returned to Wellesley in 1894 for graduate study in mathematics, physics, and astronomy. She became interested in stellar spectra while studying under Professor Sarah Whiting. In 1895, Cannon began her study of astronomy at Radcliffe College, joining the Harvard College Observatory staff in 1897.

She spent the rest of her life in the Harvard College Observatory. In 1897 she was a research assistant under Professor E. C. Pickering. She became Curator of Astronomical Photographs in 1911, and in 1940, just two years before her retirement, she was finally awarded the rank of professor as the William Cranch Bond Astronomer.

She published the nine-volume Henry Draper Catalog, containing information about 225,000 stars, and supplemented by the Henry Draper Extension. The catalog is still accepted as an international standard. She received many honors and awards, including a D.Sc. from Oxford University, making her the first woman to receive an honorary degree from that institution.

Provenance and Custodial History Information

Margaret Mayall, Cannon's assistant, inherited the correspondence, photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia of Annie Jump Cannon. Her involvement with this collection is therefore significant. Many of the folders were created by Mayall. These folders are identified by the abbreviation MM or MWM at the end of the folder title. In addition, Mayall contributed some of her own papers about Cannon. These papers are in the series, Correspondence and Other Papers About Annie Jump Cannon.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Margaret Mayall: Accession 11689, 17 May 1989 and accession 11723, 9 June 1989.

Related Materials

General folder about Annie Jump Cannon (HUGB-C 145.50) and Reprints of publications by Annie Jump Cannon (HUGB-C 145.72) in the Harvard University Archives. See also publications by and about Annie Jump Cannon cataloged in Harvard's on-line integrated library system.

Inventory update

This document updated 2023 October 20.

List of Abbreviations

Abbreviations for People

AJC = Jump Cannon

MLM = Margaret W. Mayall

MM = Margaret W. Mayall

HS = Harlow Shapley

BLW = Barbara L. Welther

Abbreviations for Societies

AG = Astronomische Gesellschaft

AAUW = American Association of University Women

AAAS = American Association for the Advancement of Science

APS = American Philosophical Society

IAU = International Astronomical Union

RAS = Royal Astronomical Society

Abbreviations for Journals and Publications

HD = Henry Draper Catalogue

HA = Harvard Annals

Processing Information

This collection contains a photograph album that includes a contemporary term and image that is now considered derogatory and racist.

Cannon, Annie Jump, 1863-1941.  Papers of Annie Jump Cannon : an inventory
Harvard University Archives
Published in 2000
Language of description
This finding aid has been encoded by the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics as part of a collaborative project supported by a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities, an independent federal agency. Collaboration members in 1999 consisted of: American Institute of Physics, California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Rice University, University of Alaska, University of Illinois, and University of Texas.

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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