Papers of Donald Howard Menzel, 1931-1986
Donald Howard Menzel (1901-1976) taught astronomy at Harvard, and was director of the Harvard College Observatory from 1952 to 1966. According to the National Academy of Sciences' Biographical Memoir, "Menzel was one of the first practitioners of theoretical astrophysics in the United States and pioneered the application of quantum mechanics to astronomical spectroscopy." These papers chiefly document Menzel's professional life of research, writing, and participation in professional organizations.
Language of Materials
Access to Collection
This collection is open for most research uses by permission of the Harvard University Archives. Certain files may contain Harvard University records and as such are subject to 50- or 80-year restrictions on access. Contact the Reference Staff of the Harvard University Archives for details.
Extent43.3 cubic feet (129 boxes)
Papers pertain mostly to Menzel's professional activities and scientific reasearch and writing, with some personal and Harvard related material. Includes correspondence with societies (International Astronomical Union, International Scientific Radio Union), U.S. Navy and Air Force, publishers, and various individuals, such as prominent scientists and students. Of particular interest is his correspondence with John F. Kennedy (1959-1963) regarding a variety of scientific and political concerns. Other related material includes proposals, contracts and reports concerning cryptanalysis, solar and other research for the U.S. government and corporations; reports, photographs, and engineering drawings for the Harvard College Observatory; and financial and other reports, blueprints, policy manuals and organization charts from various Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy projects. Writing files include manuscripts, notes and scientific data, outlines and related correspondence for scientific and popular works. Also manuscript of autobiography and his creative writings and drawings. Personal material includes photographs, scrapbooks, transcript of U.S. Air Force security hearing board in 1950. Related publications and reference material also available in repository.
Biography of Donald Howard Menzel
Donald Howard Menzel (1901-1976) taught astronomy at Harvard, and was director of the Harvard College Observatory from 1952 to 1966. According to the National Academy of Sciences' Biographical Memoir, "Menzel was one of the first practitioners of theoretical astrophysics in the United States and pioneered the application of quantum mechanics to astronomical spectroscopy."
His academic career began at the University of Denver, where he earned AB and MA degrees. He earned his Ph.D. at Princeton. He first came to Harvard when Harlow Shapley employed him as a research assistant for three summers while he was studying at Princeton. He taught briefly at the University of Iowa and Ohio State until he received an appointment at Lick Observatory. He came to Harvard in 1932.
World War II interrupted his teaching and research. He spent a year in administrative duties and teaching cryptanalysis, then joined the U.S. Navy.
After the war, he returned to Harvard. In 1952, he began as acting director of the Harvard College Observatory, becoming permanent director after two years. Under his leadership, Harvard forged a relationship with the Smithsonian Institution, which lead to the establishment of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Provenance and Acquisition Information
Unnumbered accessions: 21 March 1944 from D. W. Bailey; January 1963, April 1972, and May 1973 from D. H. Menzel
Accession number: 7542?, 7549? unknown dates
Accession number: 7781; received: 1975 December 19
Accession number: 8119; received: 1977 May 26
Accession number: 8128; received: 1977 June 7
Accession number: 8220; received: 1977 September 12
Accession number: 8352; received: 1977 May 26
Accession number: 8515; received: 1978 November 01
Accession number: 8639; received: 1979 May 03
Accession number: 8748; received: 1979 August 14
Accession number: 9200; received: 1981 June 08
Accession number: 9734; received: 1983 June 01
Accession number: 10277; received: 1984 October 10
Accession number: 10742; received: 1986 May 20
Accession number: 11628; received: 1989 February 06
Accession number: 11859; received: 1989 November 7
Accession number: 12306; received: 1991 October 29
Some of Menzel's papers relating to his loss of security clearance may be at the University of Denver.
This document last updated 2022 March 7.
- Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy.
- Astronomers -- Archives.
- Astronomy -- Research.
- Astronomy -- Societies, etc.
- Astronomy -- Study and teaching.
- Eclipses, Solar -- 1973.
- Harvard College Observatory
- Harvard University -- Faculty
- International Astronomical Union.
- International Scientific Radio Union.
- Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963.
- United States. Air Force.
- United States. Navy
- Menzel, Donald Howard, 1901- Papers of Donald Howard Menzel : an inventory
- 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.
- EAD ID
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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