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SERIES Identifier: UAV 630.95.3

Records of the Harvard College Observatory Director's Office

Scope and Contents

The Records of the Harvard College Observatory Director's Office contains memoranda, reports, minutes, budgets, and correspondence from the Physics, Astronomy, and Earth and Planetary Sciences departments. The series also includes documents from the Oak Ridge Observatory, the Donald Menzel Memorial Service, and the Space Infrared Telescope Facility. It includes materials for visiting committees, curriculum vitae, candidate evaluations, and other records concerning appointments, as well as records related to other topics.


  • [circa 1964-1991 and undated]


Conditions Governing Access

The records are open for research, with the following exceptions: Harvard University records are restricted for 50 years. Personnel and student records are closed for 80 years. Please see reference staff for further details.


8.75 cubic feet (25 document boxes)

Historical note on the Harvard College Observatory

In 1839, the Harvard Corporation appointed William Cranch Bond the first Astronomical Observer to the University, thereby taking the first step in establishing the Harvard College Observatory, after which the first telescope was installed in 1847. Scholars and students had studied astronomy at Harvard since the seventeenth century, but it wasn’t until a large comet sparked public interest in 1843 that donors began donating funds to build an observatory. During the tenure of the Harvard College Observatory’s first three directors, William Cranch Bond (1839-1859), George Phillips Bond (1859-1865), and Joseph Winlock (1866-1875), much of the Observatory’s research focused on lunar photography and chronometric activities to establish American longitude and to operate a time service for the United States government and commercial interests. In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, under the direction of Edward C. Pickering (1877-1919), research shifted from celestial mechanics and positional astronomy to astrophysics. The Observatory developed into a major research institution, focusing on photographic star surveys, spectroscopic analysis, and culminating in publication of the Henry Draper Catalogue, with spectroscopic classifications for 225,300 stars. During Pickering’s tenure, many women astronomers, including Annie Jump Cannon, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, and Williamina Fleming performed essential research at the Observatory.


This record series is arranged in alphabetical order.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession 13291; received on April 26, 1996.

Related Materials

The Harvard University Archives holds many record series related to the Harvard College Observatory (UAV 630.xx).

Processing Information

This finding aid was created by Olivia Mandica-Hart in March 2020. Information in this finding aid was assembled from legacy paper inventories and container management data. The collection was not re-examined by the archivist.

Harvard College Observatory. Records of the Harvard College Observatory Director's Office, [circa 1964-1991 and undated] : an inventory
Harvard University Archives
March 16, 2020
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.

Pusey Library
Harvard Yard
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461