Record Unit 85, records of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, covers the years 1923-1965. Most records end by 1954, with the exception of Quarterly Progress
Reports, which extend through the year 1965. Most of the documentation is of the field stations: Table Mountain, California; Montezuma, Chile; Mount St. Katherine, Egypt;
and Tyrone, New Mexico; with only scattered references to the Mount Brukarros station and Mount Harqua Hala station. There are also records on budget matters and fiscal information
from the Observatory Headquarters in Washington, D.C., concerning the field stations. Most of the information provided in this record unit is correspondence from the Field
Director at each station to the Director of the Observatory and retained copies of the Director's responses. There is additional information in the form of contracts, official
forms, and memoranda.
The records concerning these field stations come primarily from directors Charles Greeley Abbot and Loyal B. Aldrich, with numerous files from field station directors Alfred
F. Moore (Table Mountain and Tyrone stations), Fred A. Greeley (Montezuma station), and Alfred G. Froiland (mostly Table Mountain station). These records are primarily administrative
but also discuss relations between field station staff members. Also included in these records is the National Geographic Station correspondence and information on A. F. Moore's
1931 South African Expedition. These records do not cover the Observatory's move to Cambridge, nor do they go into detail about the opening or closing of any of their established
The information is organized by field station, then alphabetically by subject and finally chronologically within subject. The budget and fiscal information, along with
miscellaneous files, follow the field station files.
In the scientific community, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO; also referred to as APO) has held a prestigious position since its inception. The Astrophysical
Observatory itself was a direct result of the efforts made by Secretary Samuel Pierpont Langley, who was also its first Director.
Samuel Pierpont Langley was a self-taught man without benefit of a higher education. Langley was an intelligent man who knew he wanted to be involved in all aspects of
the scientific process. By 1880, he had perfected the instrument known as the bolometer. The device could be used to measure heat and was best suited for quantitative scientific
work because of its stability and the ability to repeat data. Langley has been called a scientist, an engineer, a naturalist, and an historian. In truth, he had to have been
all of the above to establish himself as a world figure in astrophysics. With what he termed, "The New Astronomy," Langley created a science that focused on the sun and its
effects. In 1887, while working at the Allegheny Observatory in Pennsylvania, Langley was asked to join the staff of the Smithsonian as Assistant Secretary under Spencer Baird
and to help with the creation of the SAO. Quite unexpectedly, and after only a short period of time in Washington, Langley became Secretary of the Institution, and under his
direction, ground was broken on the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in November 1889.
The Observatory building was originally located on the southeast side of the Castle Building, on Smithsonian Institution grounds. During construction several obstacles
were overcome to create a suitable building. The first major problem came as a result of the vibrations from the busy Washington streets. The heavily trodden ground made it
impossible to make sure that the collected data were accurate. This problem was eradicated by raising the structure off the ground and supporting it on deeply-set pylons.
The second obstacle facing the Observatory was the oppressive summer heat and humidity of Washington. What resulted was one of the first year-round constant temperature spectroscopy
rooms, controlled by an ammonia refrigeration system, with a continuous temperature of twenty degrees centigrade. Thus, the Smithsonian was the first institution with an air-conditioned
It was during these early years of the SAO that Charles Greeley Abbot, a twenty-three-year-old from Boston, was hired on as an Observatory assistant. He worked with Langley,
learning the principles of bolometry and spectral radiometry. In 1906, Abbot was asked to take over the Observatory from Langley, who wished to pursue his attempt at manned,
heavier-than-air flight with his "aerodromes." With Abbot came the move away from long-term programmatic studies and onto short-term research projects. These were not as narrowly
focused and thus covered a broader range of topics and influences from physical theory in observation and experimentation.
Under Director Abbot, the Observatory established field stations to achieve a diversified collection of solar constant values. The stations were strategically placed to
ensure diversity in the readings, with the first station opened at Mount Harqua Hala, near Phoenix, Arizona, in use from 1920-1926. Also established in 1920 was Mount Montezuma,
in Antofagasta, Chile, which maintained observations through 1955. The Montezuma station closed only when the skies became too cloudy and the air too filled with smog, from
the local mines, to continue observations. In 1925, the Observatory opened the Table Mountain station in Swartout, California, which would remain in use longer than any of
the other stations, closing in 1962. In Africa, the Observatory established two stations, the first at Mount Brukarros, located in Southwest Africa, in use through 1932, and
the others near Mount Sinai, Egypt, on Mount St. Katherine, 1933-1937. In Silver City, New Mexico, the Tyrone station was in use from 1938-1946, also closing because of increasingly
poor air quality and sky conditions. The SAO made attempts to relocate the stations that they were forced to close or abandon. One such attempt was made at Clark Mountain,
in California, but sufficient funds were unavailable for this field station in 1948.
At Abbot's retirement in 1944, he was succeeded by Loyal B. Aldrich, who had worked for the Observatory for thirty-five years. Aldrich continued as Director until retiring
in 1955. At that point Secretary Carmichael had approved the Observatory's move from Washington and began looking for a suitable location. With the growing concerns facing
the Observatory, Carmichael felt that a move would be the best solution. In 1953, new worries concerning the future of the SAO escalated with the impending retirement of Aldrich
and the unexpected death of his intended successor, William H. Hoover. It was at this time that Secretary Carmichael looked into moving the SAO to Climax, Colorado, and began
discussions with Fred Whipple. After careful consideration, Carmichael decided that the lack of an astrophysical research program at the local university would diminish the
availability of appropriate facilities for the SAO's use. Secretary Carmichael decided instead on a move to the Harvard College Observatory (HCO),Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This move allowed a symbiotic relationship between the two observatories, but also ensured their recognition as two separate facilities.
By moving the SAO to the Harvard College Observatory, the Smithsonian would gain access to the network of solar research stations operated by Harvard, including the Sacramento
Peak Observatory. Direct connections between the SAO and the HCO (via Sacramento) would facilitate further research in astrophysics, and new government contracts could be
expected. The move from Washington, D.C. to Cambridge officially took place on July 1, 1955, under the Directorship of Fred L. Whipple.
While at the HCO, additions were made to the work with which the SAO was involved. They were an integral force in tracking the paths of satellites in "Operation Moonwatch;"
the SAO began the series of "Smithsonian Contributions to Astrophysics," as well as establishing a Photographic Meteorite Program and the Center for Short-Lived Phenomena.
In 1968, they opened yet another field observatory at Mount Hopkins, Arizona, to house the first multiple-mirrored telescope.
On July 1, 1973, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory merged with the Harvard College Observatory to become the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, or CFA,
located at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
1880 -- Samuel Pierpont Langley perfects the bolometer, a heat measuring device suited for quantitative scientific work because of its qualities of stability and repeatability
1887 -- Langley becomes Secretary of the Smithsonian
November 1889 -- Construction on an astrophysical observatory begins on the southeast grounds of the Castle Building
March 1890 -- Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory completed, equipped with a heliostat, a constant-temperature spectroscopy room kept at a year-round temperature of twenty degrees centigrade; and the building was raised on pylons
March 2, 1890 -- Samuel Pierpont Langley becomes the first Director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
March 1890 -- Charles Greeley Abbot hired as an Observatory assistant
June 5, 1890 -- Alexander Graham Bell gives a $5,000 gift for astrophysical research
March 3, 1891 -- First appropriation of $10,000, given to the SAO, from Congress
May 28, 1900 -- Solar eclipse observed
1901 -- SAO published the first volume of "Annals of the Observatory"
February 7, 1906 -- Samuel Pierpont Langley dies and Charles Greeley Abbot becomes Director of the SAO
January 23, 1907 -- Charles Doolittle Walcott becomes Secretary of the Smithsonian
December 16, 1918 -- Charles Greeley Abbot becomes Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian
1920 -- Observatory field station established at Mount Harqua Hala, Arizona
1920 -- Observatory field station established at Montezuma (near Calama) in Antofagasta, Chile
1923 -- "Solar Cooker" set up on Mount Wilson, California
1925 -- Observatory field station established on Table Mountain, Swartout (near Wrightwood), California
1926 -- Abandonment of the Mount Harqua Hala (Arizona) Station
February 9, 1927 -- Secretary Walcott dies
January 10, 1928 -- Charles Greeley Abbot becomes Secretary of the Smithsonian
July 1, 1929 -- Division of Radiation and Organisms established under the SAO
October 19, 1929 -- Earthquake in Antofagasta, Chile, near the Montezuma Station; the station incurred no injuries to the observers nor damage to the equipment
1932 -- Abandonment of Mount Brukarros station in Africa
1933 -- Observatory field station established at Mount St. Katherine, Mount Sinai, Egypt
July 1936 -- Lightning strikes at the Table Mountain, California, field station, no injuries, but buildings and tunnels needed some reconstruction
1937 -- Station abandoned at Mount St. Katherine in Egypt
1938 -- Observatory field station established at Tyrone, Burro Mountain (near Silver City), New Mexico
1939 -- World War II begins
July 1, 1941 -- Division of Radiation and Organisms is funded by Congressional appropriation
June 30, 1944 -- Charles Greeley Abbot retires as Director of the SAO and is succeeded by Loyal B. Aldrich
1945 -- Alexander Wetmore becomes Secretary of the Smithsonian
1945 -- World War II ends
1946 -- Tyrone station (New Mexico) closes
1950-1953 -- Korean War
1953 -- Alexander Wetmore retires; Leonard Carmichael becomes Secretary of the Smithsonian
1953 -- William H. Hoover, long-time employee of the SAO, Chief to the Division of Astrophysical research, and Aldrich's intended successor, dies unexpectedly and Carmichael must begin the search for the next Director of the SAO
June 30, 1953 -- Andrew Kramer, instrument maker for sixty-one years, retires from the SAO
June 30, 1955 -- Loyal B. Aldrich retires
July 1, 1955 -- Montezuma station (Chile) abandoned
1955 -- SAO moves from Washington, D. C., to Cambridge, Massachusetts, under the Directorship of Fred L. Whipple
1956 -- Launching of "Operation Moonwatch" to assist in tracking the paths of satellites
1956 -- SAO begins the series "Smithsonian Contributions to Astrophysics"
1962 -- Table Mountain station (California) closes
1963 -- Photographic Meteorite Programs established
January 31, 1964 -- Leonard Carmichael retires; S. Dillon Ripley becomes Secretary of the Smithsonian
January 1, 1968 -- "Center for Short-Lived Phenomena" established, headquartered at the SAO
October 23, 1968 -- Mt. Hopkins, Arizona, Field Observatory opened; in the future it will house the first multiple-mirror telescope
July 1, 1973 -- SAO merges with the Harvard College Observatory to become the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA)
July 1, 1973 -- Fred L. Whipple retires
September 16, 1973 -- Secretary Emeritus Carmichael dies
December 17, 1973 -- Secretary Emeritus Abbot dies at the age of 101
Greeley, Frederick A. (Frederick Atwood), 1896-1980 Search this
2 cu. ft. (4 document boxes)
Motion pictures (visual works)
These papers document Greeley's career and experiences during his tours of duty at the SAO's radiation observing stations from 1920 to 1956. These materials consist
primarily of correspondence, diaries, notes, manuscripts, photographs, and personal documents.
The correspondence includes incoming and outgoing official correspondence, 1931-1955, mostly with Charles G. Abbot and Loyal Blaine Aldrich concerning daily activities,
equipment and station buildings maintenance, and financial reports; correspondence to family members, 1923-1952, in which Greeley described his experiences and travels; correspondence
with Charles G. Abbot, 1964-1969, mostly concerning Abbot's activities and news of former solar observers; correspondence with researchers interested in the SAO's solar constant
program, 1977-1978, and Oliver Wulf concerning experiments and theories of the solar constant, 1932.
The manuscripts consist of Greeley's unpublished autobiography, "Following the Sun," undated, and consist of typed copies and excerpts of correspondence to members of his
family, 1920-1936; and a typescript of Douglas V. Hoyt's study, "Smithsonian Astrophysical Solar Constant Program," 1978, and includes the published version, 1979.
The diaries were written mostly by Olive A. Greeley, who also served as bolometer assistant at Montezuma, 1943-1946, and as assistant station director at Miami, 1947-1948.
The entries document day-to-day activities at the various stations, mostly at Montezuma, Miami, and Table Mountain, 1938-1955. Entries by Frederick A. Greeley include traveling
expense accounts, 1938 and 1940-1941, and notes written during his travel to Jerusalem, 1936.
The photographs consist of black and white prints of scenes taken by Greeley during his tours of duty. Also included in this collection are personal documents such as passports,
automobile registrations, internal identification cards (Chile), and ship passenger lists; mathematical notes; instrument operation instructions; methods of data computation
issued by Abbot; newspaper articles about the Greeleys and the SAO's solar radiation observing station; transcripts of radio interviews and speeches given by the Greeleys
about their experiences, and about Charles G. Abbot; an April 1930 issue of the National Geographic Magazine in which Mrs. William H. Hoover, the wife of the Mount Brukkaros
station director, described her experiences; and two 8mm motion pictures, one in black and white, showing panoramic views of the Sinai, c. 1934, and one in color, showing
a segment of the Rose Bowl Parade and snow scenes at Table Mountain, 1949.
Additional materials on the SAO solar constant program and Greeley's reports and correspondence can be found in record unit 85. The Archives biographical file also contains
information about the Greeleys, including copies of their vital statistics records.
Frederick Atwood Greeley (1896-1980) was born and raised in Pelham, New Hampshire. In 1920 he began his career with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO)
as a staff member maintaining the SAO's solar radiation observing stations.
The SAO, under the directions of Charles Greeley Abbot, its Director from 1907 to 1944, and Loyal Blaine Aldrich, Assistant Director from 1928 to 1944 and Director from
1944 to 1955, had established several solar radiation observing stations to determine the solar constant of radiation (measuring the amount of heat reaching the earth from
the sun outside the earth's atmosphere.) It was hoped that the data obtained would help improve accuracy in weather forecasting. These stations were established on high-elevation
barren mountaintops in desert regions (usually 7,000 to 9,000 feet above sea-level), where clear atmosphere with few clouds prevails. The major pieces of equipment then in
use were the bolometer, coelostat, galvanometer, and the Angstrom pyrheliometer. Data obtained from these instruments was computed and the results sent to SAO in Washington,
D.C. The personnel who manned these stations served on a rotating term of about three years.
Greeley's tours of duties as bolometer assistant and assistant station director included the solar radiation observing stations at Mount Harqua Hala near Wenden, Arizona,
1920-1923; Montezuma near Calama, Chile, 1923-1926 and 1942-1943; Mount Brukkaros near Keetmanshoop, Southwest Africa, 1926-1929; Table Mountain near Swartout, California,
1930-1933 and 1936-1941; and Mount Saint Katherine in the Sinai, Egypt, 1933-1936. Greeley's duties included operation, readings, and maintenance of the sensitive heat-measuring
instruments; computations of the data obtained from the readings; and routine maintenance of the station's buildings and equipment.
Greeley's tours of duty as station director included the stations at Montezuma, Chile, 1943-1946 and 1951-1955; Miami, Florida (SAO's only sea-level station), 1947-1948;
and Table Mountain, California, 1948-1951 and 1955-1956. Greeley's duties as station director included full responsibility for the adjustment, repair, and operation of the
equipment, as well as management of the station as a unit.
Greeley retired from SAO in December 1956. He lived in Redlands and Laguna Hills, California until his death in 1980.
November 26, 1896 -- Born, Pelham, New Hampshire. Greeley was a second cousin of Charles Greeley Abbot.
1916 -- Graduated high school in Nashua, New Hampshire.
August-November, 1918 -- United States Army
October 1, 1920-March 31, 1923 -- Mount Harqua Hala Station near Wenden, Arizona. Bolometer assistant and station assistant director. Alfred Moore was station director.
April 1, 1923-June 30, 1926 -- Montezuma Station near Calama, Chile. Bolometer assistant and station assistant director. Loyal Blaine Aldrich was station director. (NOTE: Frederick Greeley's brother, Paul Greeley, also served at this station from 1920 to 1922).
July 1, 1926-November 30, 1929 -- Mount Brukkaros Station near Keetmanshoop, Southwest Africa. Assisted in establishing this solar radiation observing station, and served as bolometer assistant and station assistant director. William H. Hoover was station director.
December 1, 1929-December 31, 1932 -- Table Mountain Station near Swartout, California. Bolometer assistant and station assistant director. Harlan Zodtner was station director.
January1, 1933-February 28, 1933 -- Washington, D.C. Prepared and packed for an expedition to Mount Saint Katherine in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.
March 1, 1933-June 30, 1936 -- Mount Saint Katherine Station, Sinai, Egypt near the Monastery of Saint Katherine. Bolometer assistant and assistant station director. Helped establish this solar radiation observing station. Harlan Zodtner was station director.
July 1, 1936-October 31, 1941 -- Table Mountain Station, California. Bolometer assistant and assistant station director. Harlan Zodtner, Hugh Freeman, and Clayton P. Butler were station directors.
June 10,1937 -- Married Olive Adelia Troup (born Maxwell, Iowa, June 10, 1901), Riverside, California.
November 1,1941-February 28, 1942 -- Washington D.C. Prepared for an expedition to Chile.
March 1, 1942-June 30, 1946 -- Montezuma Station, Chile. Bolometer assistant, 1942-1943; station director, 1943-1946. Olive Greeley served as bolometer assistant, 1943-1946. Alfred Moore was station director, 1942-1943.
July 1, 1946-April 30, 1947 -- Washington, D.C. Did research on needle system for quartz fiber galvanometer; repaired and adjusted electronic and optical equipment.
May 1, 1947-July 31, 1948 -- Miami Station. Established solar radiation field station. Station director. Olive Greeley was assistant station director.
August 1, 1948-September 30, 1951 -- Table Mountain Station, California. Station Director. Alfred Froiland, Stanley Aldrich, Albert Pizzuto, and Merwin Utter were assistant station directors.
October 1, 1951-February 28, 1952 -- Washington, D.C. Prepared for an expedition to Chile.
March 1, 1952-June 30, 1955 -- Montezuma Station, Chile. Station director. John Pora and James Zimmerman were assistant station directors.
July 1, 1955-December 1, 1956 -- Table Mountain Station, California. Station director.
December 1, 1956 -- Retired from SAO. 36 years and 3 months of service.
1957-1980 -- Retirement in Redlands, California, 1957-1970, and Laguna Hills, California, 1970-1980.
March 19, 1980 -- Died, Laguna Hills, California, age 84.
May 21,1982 -- Death of Olive A. Greeley, Laguna Hills, California, age 81.
This collection consists of publications and memoranda from JPL relating to Newburn's work with the Laboratory, as well as correspondence with colleagues, including Marcia Neugebauer and H.C. Urey.
Biographical / Historical:
Ray Leon Newburn (1933-), noted lunar and planetary scientist, first came to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as a summer employee, after pursuing graduate study in astronomy at the California Institute of Technology. In his long tenure with JPL, he participated in the development of plans for lunar and planetary exploration and planetary models for mission design, served as JPL representative to NASA's Space Sciences Steering Committee's Astronomy Subcommittee and help establish the Table Mountain Observatory in 1962.
Joseph Tatarewicz, David DeVorkin, Division of Space History, NASM, transfer, 1998, 1998-0058, unknown
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