Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory History Search this
xvii, 401 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Copyright 2018 2018 Smithsonian Institution
This book explores how and why the Smithsonian Institution closed its Astrophysical Observatory in Washington, D.C. in 1955 and moved it as a budget line to Harvard first as a department of the Harvard College Observatory and then as the dominant partner. I examine the years when its founder-director, Fred Whipple, pushed the boundaries of research normally associated with an astronomical observatory to create one of the most complex scientific infrastructures for pursing both classical themes in astronomy, and themes associated as well with national service in areas far removed from the classical techniques of time and navigation. We carry the story to the point when Whipple stepped down as director in consequence of both Harvard and the Smithsonian deciding that a deep restructuring was necessary to better accommodate the survival of the institution as a true hybrid of governmental and private research activities. This is an institutional case-study that explores how changing patterns of patronage influenced disciplinary change in astronomy, and the role key personalities played in building this hybrid institution into one of the largest astronomical institutions on the planet. To my knowledge this is the first study of the effect of new funding sources created by Cold War priorities on a civilian astronomical institution, in fact on two astronomical institutions.--Provided by publisher.