Records of the Harvard College Observatory Chronometric Expedition
- Harvard College Observatory (Organization)
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7.88 cubic feet (19 flat boxes, 3 letter document boxes, 1 half-document letter box, 1 legal document box)
The correspondence includes many letters between Observatory director William Cranch Bond and U.S. Coast Survey superintendent A.D. Bache. The letters discuss equipment needs, budgets, and give descriptions of the expeditions’ progressions. Bond also wrote to several notable figures about the logistics and results of the expeditions, including to United States Consul to England Nathaniel Hawthorne, scientist Philip Sidney Coolidge, and Bond's son, Richard F. Bond. The letters provide insight into the planning and execution of the surveys, as well as the ensuing publication of the scientific results. The notebooks primarily contain chronometric comparison calculations from Cambridge, Liverpool, and Greenwich; some notebooks also include longitudinal and temperature comparisons, and U.S. Coast Survey planning notes. The records also include some memoranda related to the planning of the expeditions, reports of the results, and materials related to the expeditions’ publications.
Historical note on the Chronometric Expedition
During the next several years, the Observatory became an important center for astronomical training and research, and building relationships with other institutions. Harlow Shapley, director from 1921 to 1952, inaugurated a program of graduate study in astronomy. Mandating that public education be a part of the Observatory’s mission, Shapley required students in the Harvard program to present lectures on astronomy to public school children. Donald H. Menzel (1952-1966) arranged a cooperative relationship with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (founded in 1890) and its relocation to Cambridge in 1955. Financial support for the Observatory expanded under Leo Goldberg (1966-1970), and in 1973 George B. Field (1972-1983) created an administrative umbrella organization, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, to coordinate the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory’s programs. Today, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics continues studies in astronomy, astrophysics, earth and space sciences, and science education, while the Harvard College Observatory supports Harvard’s Department of Astronomy.
Bond’s father William (died 1848) was a clockmaker and established William Bond & Son. The firm made scientific instruments, particularly chronometers. In 1804, from directions he found in an old French textbook, Bond made his first chronometer. Bond continued his work improving chronometers so that by 1812, they were regularly used on Boston merchant ships. After viewing a total eclipse of the sun in 1806, Bond became fascinated with astronomy. Between 1825 and 1830, he increasingly improved the accuracy of his chronometers, and in 1838, he received a contract from the United States Navy to make longitudinal and other measurements during its exploratory expeditions from 1838 to 1842.
The establishment of an observatory at Harvard University was fostered by astronomical discoveries taking place in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The plans for the observatory remained dormant until 1839, when Harvard president Josiah Quincy persuaded Bond to move his astronomical instruments to Dana House and become the first Astronomical Observer to Harvard University. Working without pay for the next five years, Bond remained at Dana House making what were in large part meteorological and magnetic observations. However, using the limited equipment available, Bond also observed occultations, eclipses, and comets; in addition to continuing his work as a clockmaker; and carrying out his duties to the United States Navy. Bond also began planning the construction of a new Harvard observatory and the addition of new equipment. After Bond died in 1859, his son George Phillips Bond succeeded him as director of the Harvard College Observatory.
- Computations and data sheets, 1848-1875 and undated
- Correspondence and notes, 1849-1856
- Notebooks, 1849-1855
- Reports, data, and memoranda, 1845-1855 and undated
- United States Coast Survey Chronometric Expedition data sheets, 1849-1855 and undated
- Holden, Edward Singleton and Mrs. Richard F. Bond. Memorials of William Cranch Bond: Director of the Harvard College Observatory, 1840-1859, and of His Son George Phillips Bond, Director ... 1859-1865. San Francisco: C.A. Murdock & Company, 1897.
- Astronomers -- United States.
- Astronomy -- History.
- Bond, George Phillips, 1825-1865.
- Bond, Richard Fifield, 1827-1866
- Harvard University -- Astronomy
- Longitude -- Measurement -- History.
- Time measurements.
- U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.
- United States Coast Survey.
- Variable stars.
- William Bond & Son
- Harvard College Observatory. Records of the Harvard College Observatory Chronometric Expedition, 1845-1875: an inventory
- Harvard University Archives
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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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