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Smith College seal
Department of Astronomy records, 1847-1996
6.458 linear feet (16 containers)
Collection number: CA.MS.00072

Abstract:
The collection contains papers related to the Smith College Astronomy Department. Founded in 1887 with the building of a new observatory and with Mary E. Byrd as Director, it became part of the Five College Astronomy Department starting in 1960. Records include a history of the department, booklets, course and faculty information, diagrams, account books, notebooks and photographs of astronomical observations, information on observatory instruments, correspondence, and notes and photographs of astronomical societies. Student work is also included, as well as information on the Five College Program.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Restrictions on use:

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Smith College Archives

Biographical / Historical

The first mention of astronomy being taught at Smith College was in the first College Circular in 1872, where it is listed as a study for the upper classes. In 1878, the circulars named William C. Esty as the Astronomy Professor. Esty was a professor at Amherst College who came to Smith for three hours a week in the fall term. In 1881, Esty was replaced by Professor David P. Todd, another Amherst professor who taught limited courses at Smith.

In the 1885-1886 school year, two trustees gave funds to erect a new observatory and purchase astronomical instruments. A plaque on the new building read "This observatory with its apparatus is a tribute of affection to Henrietta Chapin Seelye and Sarah Tappan Williston by their husbands A.D. 1886." The observatiory had a steel moveable dome, a telescope with a glass 12 inches in diameter, transit instruments, chronometer, clock, and other astronomical instruments selected by Todd.

In 1887, Smith hired Mary E. Byrd as Teacher of Astronomy and the Director of the Observatory. Also in 1887, the Astronomy Department started offering courses in all three semesters and took on two graduate students, Bessie and Laura Gill. Byrd was known as a strong willed woman, and she retired in 1906 after a fight with the administration over the college's acceptance of money from Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, which she found reprehensible. During her time at Smith, Byrd wrote several manuals on teaching astronomy at the colligiate level using the laboratory model and pioneered a method of determining cometary positions by photography.

In 1906, Byrd was suceeded by her assistant Harriet W. Bigelow ('93), who was primarily interested in comets. When Bigelow started, she had one or two assistants, but when Marion LeRoy Burton came on as president in 1910 he changed course requirements so that every student had to take courses in a mathematical science. Enrollment in astronomy courses went up to 400, so the Astronomy Departement grew to five. In 1927, students were no longer required to take both biological and mathematical sciences, and the department shrank to two faculty. In 1934, Bigelow died suddenly on sabatical in Java. Marjorie Williams, who had been Assistant Professor since 1925, took over for Bigelow until she retired in 1956.

The Five College Astronomy Department (FCAD), was founded in 1960 as a collaborative arrangement between the Astronomy Departments of Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges plus the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Hampshire College was added to the group after its creation in 1970. The first major collective research initiative was the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory, begun in 1970. The original meter-wave telescope was replaced by the world's largest millimeter-wave telescope, which is still in use in 2019.

As of 2019, the Astronomy Department is now made up of four faculty members, with research interests in the formation of stars within molecular clouds, galaxy formation and evolution, and ultra-faint radio sources. The department offers a major and minor in astronomy, as well as a minor in astrophysics. It is still part of the FCAD.

Scope and Contents

Records include a history of the department, booklets, course and faculty information, diagrams, account books, notebooks and photographs of astronomical observations, information on observatory instruments, correspondence, and notes and photographs of astronomical societies. Student work is also included, as well as information on the Five College Program.

This collection is organized into five series:

  1. I. Office Files
  2. II. Student Work
  3. III. Five College Program
  4. IV. Observatory Records
  5. V. Societies

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Restrictions on use:

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Preferred Citation

Department of Astronomy Records, Smith College Archives, CA-MS-00072, Smith College Special Collections, Northampton, Massachusetts.

History of the Collection

Source unknown.

Processing Information

Processed by Gayla Spaulding


Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email: specialcollections@smith.edu
URL: https://www.smith.edu/libraries/special-collections
Language
English
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Contents List
SERIES I. OFFICE FILES



SERIES I. OFFICE FILES consists of background information on the program of studies, account books, correspondence and course information.

Sciences: General
1951-1996 undated

Box 1223: folder 1
History of Science Studies Program of Studies
1983-84

Box 1223: folder 2
Astronomy



General
1939-1993 undated

Box 1223: folder 3
Account book
1898-1934

Box 1223: folder 4
Budget sheets
1911-1933

Box 1223: folder 5
Code
1939 undated

Box 1223: folder 6
Conferences
1929-1938

Box 1223: folder 7
Correspondence
1885-1947 undated

Box 1223: folder 8-9
Courses
1934-1986


11-37b


Box 1223: folder 10
101-237


Box 1223: folder 11
100-110


Box 1223: folder 12
Astronomy Department



Reports
1888-1904

Box 1224: folder 1
Annual Reports
1906-09

Box 1224: folder 2
Reports and minutes
1919-1920

Box 1224: folder 3
Secretary's book
1919-1920

Box 1224: folder 4
SERIES II. STUDENT WORK



SERIES II. STUDENT WORK consists of rules, models and diagrams of observations, photographs and charts of eclipses and student notebooks.

Rules, models and diagrams
1902-05

Box 1225: folder 1
Comets: Telegrams re: observations
1939-1954

Box 1225: folder 2
Eclipses: Photographs and charts
6/13/17 5/14/38 11/7/38

Box 1225: folder 3
Five observation notebooks
1905-1915

Box 1225
Eleven comet observation computer books
1902-1930

Box 1226
SERIES III. FIVE COLLEGE PROGRAM



SERIES III. FIVE COLLEGE PROGRAM consists of faculty lists, Four-College Astronomy Department information, information on laboratory work, examinations, observatory visitor books, photographs and course notebooks.

Course notebooks



Astronomy 11
1930

Box 1227
Astronomy 10b (teaching course)
ca.1913

Box 1227
Astronomy 22
1924-25

Box 1227
Astronomy 8a
1906-08

Box 1227
Astronomy (general)
1915

Box 1227
Astronomy, Special Honors
1928-1930

Box 1227
Smith College Observatory Notices
1955 1973

Box 1228: folder 1
Five-college observatory radio telescope
1976

Box 1228: folder 2
Faculty list
undated

Box 1228: folder 3
Four-College



Astronomy Department
1953-1965

Box 1228: folder 4-5
Graduate program
1962-64

Box 1228: folder 6
Faculty
1959

Box 1228: folder 7
Observatory in Whately
1962-1974

Box 1228: folder 8
General
1935-1966

Box 1228: folder 9
Gifts and grants
1958

Box 1228: folder 10
Laboratory work
undated

Box 1228: folder 11
Library
1931-1948 undated

Box 1228: folder 12
Examinations
1912-1939

Box 1228: folder 13
National Science Foundation
1961-67

Box 1228: folder 14
SERIES IV. OBSERVATORY RECORDS



SERIES IV. OBSERVATORY RECORDS consists mostly of notebooks on charts and plates, mean and apparent star places, radial velocity, variable stars, the Meridian Circle, sunspots and transit instrument observations, but also contains correspondence and information on observatory instruments.

Observatory visitor book
1955-58

Box 1229
Open house
1933-1956

Box 1229: folder 1
Order book
1896-1933

Box 1229: folder 2
Smith College Observatory Notices
1977-1981

Box 1229: folder 3
Parties
1977

Box 1229: folder 4
Photographs



Classes
1890s-1900s 1930s

Box 1229: folder 5-6
Solar eclipse
April 7, 1940

Box 1229: folder 7
Telescopes
1990-92

Box 1229: folder 8
Meridian Circle observations, seven notebooks
1894-1904

Box 1230
Meridian Circle reductions, four notebooks
1888-1957

Box 1230
Correspondence
1885-86

Box 1231: folder 1
Equipment
1888-1957

Box 1231: folder 2
Instruments



Camera
1936

Box 1231: folder 3
Chronograph
1887-1904

Box 1231: folder 4
Chronometer
1934-1947

Box 1231: folder 5
Clock
1887-89 1960

Box 1231: folder 6
Field glasses
1893-1908

Box 1231: folder 7
Gaertner measuring machine
1943

Box 1231: folder 8
Levels
1888-1903 1945

Box 1231: folder 9
Micrometer
1888-1907

Box 1231: folder 10
Photographic reflectors
1847

Box 1231: folder 11
Telescopes
1885-1920 1957-59

Box 1231: folder 12
Gaertner, 6"
1910-11

Box 1231: folder 13
Portable
1890-1909 1937

Box 1231: folder 14
Information
1885 1979

Box 1231: folder 15
Observatory, position
1900-1914

Box 1231: folder 16
Schedule book
1901 1906-07

Box 1232: folder 1
Science building
1945 undated

Box 1232: folder 2
Notebooks: star observations
1893-1906 1911

Box 1232: folder 3
Notebooks


Box 1232: folder 4
charts and plates
1918

Box 1232
mean and Apparent star places
1905-1916

Box 1232
Marjorie Williams



Radial velocities
1929 1936-39

Box 1232: folder 5
Variable stars



Correspondence
1934-1946

Box 1232: folder 6
Photographs
1900 1904 undated

Box 1232: folder 7
Field 8
1930-38 undated

Box 1232: folder 8
Field 8 plots
undated

Box 1232: folder 9
Notebooks: Meridian Circle observations books I-III
1887-1894

Box 1233
Notes: Meridian stones, lines, marks and gnomons
1901

Box 1233: folder 1
Notebooks


Box 1234
Sunspot observations books I-II
1908-1945

Box 1234
Sunspot observations books III-IV
1945-1953

Box 1234
AAVSU sunspot observations
1945-1951

Box 1234
Equatorial telescope observations books I-IV
1891-1931

Box 1234
Sky photographic observations



3" telescope
1933-1978

Box 1235: folder 1-2
11" telescope
1930-1977

Box 1235: folder 3-4
Notebooks: Transit instrument observations, books I-VIII
1904-08

Box 1236
SERIES V. SOCIETIES



SERIES V. SOCIETIES consists of information , photographs, records, notes and predictions of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), the Astronomy Club, Smith College Astronomical Society, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space and Telescopium.

American Association of Variable Star Observers



Photos, records, notes and predictions
1929-1952

Box 1237: folder 1
Memos, correspondence and notes
1976

Box 1237: folder 2
Photographs
1920-1950 undated

Box 1237: folder 3-4
Astronomy Club: Charter
1955

Box 1237: folder 5
Smith College Astronomical Society



Annual letter
1900-1923

Box 1237: folder 6
Constitution


Box 1237: folder 7
Records
1891-1921

Box 1237: folder 8
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space
1993

Box 1237: folder 9
Telescopium



Meeting notes, questionnaire
1913-1938

Box 1237.1
Minutes
1899-1940

Box 1237.1
Telescopium and Astronomical Society (visitor and graduate name book)
1907-1954

Box 1237.1

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Astronomy--Study and teaching (Higher)--Massachusetts
  • Astronomy--Study and teaching (Higher)--Massachusetts--Northampton.
  • Smith College Astronomical Society.
  • Smith College--History--Sources.
  • Smith College. Astronomy Club
  • Smith College. Dept. of Astronomy.


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