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COLLECTION Identifier: 82-M146 – 85-M7

Papers of Henrietta Hill Swope, 1917-1982


Papers of astronomer Henrietta Hill Swope.


  • Creation: 1917-1982

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Henrietta Hill Swope is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


2.42 linear feet ((2 cartons, 1 file box) plus 16 photograph folders and volumes)

This collection consists of Henrietta Hill Swope's correspondence with friends, family and colleagues in astronomy; travel diaries and information; engagement calendars; some astronomical material; and clippings and photographs of Swope and her colleagues. Included are some papers of her father, Gerard Swope, and the correspondence of her parents, of Swope's brothers, Gerard, John and David Swope, and of their children with Swope.


Henrietta Hill Swope, astronomer, was the eldest child of Gerard and Mary Dayton (Hill) Swope; her mother was the daughter of Thomas Hill, president of Harvard University, 1862-1868. She received her A.B. from Barnard College in 1926 and her A.M. from Radcliffe College in 1928. In 1936, while assistant at the Harvard Observatory (1928-1942), she was a member of the expedition sent jointly by the Harvard Observatory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study the solar eclipse in Soviet Central Asia. During World War II she was staff member of the M.I.T. Radiation Laboratory and then served as a mathematician in the Hydrographic Office of the United States Department of the Navy. From 1947 to 1952 she taught astronomy at Barnard College and in 1952 was appointed assistant, later research fellow, at the Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories in California. After her retirement in 1968, she continued to work at the Observatories.

Swope was a member of the American Astronomical Society; she received the American Astronomical Society Annie Jump Cannon Prize in 1968 for her research on photometry and variable stars. She was responsible for developing a new yardstick for measuring the universe: calibrating distance by determining the brightness of stars. She received the Distinguished Alumna Award of Barnard College in 1975 and the Barnard Medal of Distinction in 1980.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acc. nos: 82-M146, 82-M167, 85-M7

This collection was given to the Schlesinger Library by Mary Hill Swope, niece of Henrietta Hill Swope, in July and August 1982, and in January 1985.


  1. Carton 1: Folders 17-51
  2. Carton 2: Folders 52-97
  3. Box 3: Folders 98-118

Processing Information

By: Jane S. Knowles

Date: October 1982

Swope, Henrietta Hill, 1902-1982. Papers of Henrietta Hill Swope, 1917-1982: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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