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COLLECTION Identifier: HUM 294

Margaret Mayall personal archive

Overview

Margaret Walton Mayall (1902-1995) was an American astronomer. After receiving her MA from Radcliffe College in 1928, she began working at the Harvard College Observatory. This collection contains 35 black and white photographs, which depict the Harvard College Observatory staff camping in southeastern Maine to watch the total solar eclipse on August 31, 1932. Also includes Mayall’s 1957 G. Bruce Blair Award and a copy of Mayall’s 1970 Manual for Observing Variable Stars, revised edition.

Dates

  • 1932, 1957, and 1970

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Extent

0.17 cubic feet (1 half-document box)
35 photographs
The collection contains 35 black and white photographs, which depict the Harvard College Observatory staff camping in southeastern Maine to watch the total solar eclipse on August 31, 1932. The photographs, which are pasted onto index cards and include typewritten captions on the back of each card, show staff members; views of the campsite and surrounding areas in Gray, Maine; telescopes and other equipment; and the United States Naval Observatory camera in Limerick, Maine. The photographs show several Harvard College Observatory staff members, including Fred Whipple, Leland and Eloise Barnes, Bill and Dorothy Calder, Ray Boyd, Annie Jump Cannon, and Mayall herself, among others. Because Mayall is not in most of the photographs, it is possible that she was the photographer.

The collection also includes a Western Amateur Astronomers’ G. Bruce Blair Award, which was given to Mayall for achievement in amateur astronomy in 1957; the medal is housed in its original blue velvet box. There is also a copy of Mayall’s Manual for Observing Variable Stars, revised edition, which was published in April 1970.

Biographical note on Margaret Mayall

Margaret Walton Mayall (1902-1995) was an American astronomer. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 1925, and received her MA from Radcliffe College in 1928. Soon after graduation, she began working at the Harvard College Observatory, under the direction of Annie Jump Cannon. During World War II, her work at the Observatory was interrupted to participate in a Special Weapons Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Throughout her career at Harvard, she published approximately twenty papers on the photometry and spectral classes of variable stars; in 1949, Harlow Shapley offered her the job of Recorder for the American Association of Variable Star Observers to Mayall, a position she held until her retirement in 1973. In 1958, she won the Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy. Mayall died on December 6, 1995 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Historical note on the 1932 solar eclipse A total solar eclipse occurred on August 31, 1932. Totality was visible from the Canadian Northwest Territories (today's Northwest Territories and Nunavut) and Quebec, as well as in parts of the United States, including northeastern Vermont, New Hampshire, southwestern Maine, the northeastern tip of Massachusetts, and northeastern Cape Cod.
Historical note on The American Association of Variable Star Observers The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) was founded in 1911, and is responsible for coordinating, collecting, evaluating, analyzing, publishing, and archiving variable star observations made largely by amateur astronomers, which are then made available to professional astronomers, researchers, and educators. Originally located in Connecticut, After AAVSO's incorporation in 1918 it de facto moved to the Harvard College Observatory, which later officially provided an office as the AAVSO headquarters (1931–1953).

Arrangement

This collection was arranged in chronological order by the archivist.

Custodial History

The photographs were transferred to the Harvard University Archives from the Harvard College Observatory’s Plate Stacks; the photographs and the medal were donated to the Plate Stacks on May 20, 2016 by Polly Malcolm.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred to the Harvard University Archives in November 2016.

Related Materials

The Harvard University Archives also holds the Margaret Mayall collection of material related to Annie Jump Cannon [accessions], 1927-1993 (13494), as well as several collections related to the Harvard College Observatory, including General information by and about the Harvard College Observatory, 1839- (HUF 165.2, HUB 1630) Photographic views of the Harvard College Observatory, 1860-1964 (HUV 1210), and Records relating to solar eclipses, 1869, 1870, 1889 and 1932 (UAV 630.432.10).

Processing Information

This collection was processed in October 2017 by Olivia Mandica-Hart. Processing involved physical re-housing and the creation of this finding aid. This finding aid was created by Olivia Mandica-Hart in October 2017.
Link to catalog
Title
Mayall, Margaret W. (Margaret Walton). Margaret Mayall personal archive, 1932, 1957, and 1970 : an inventory
Status
completed
Author
Harvard University Archives
Date
October 13, 2017
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English
EAD ID
hua19017

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.

Contact:
Pusey Library
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461