Theodore Dunham papers


Descriptive Summary

Title: Theodore Dunham papers
Dates: 1926-1977
Collection Number: mssDunham papers
Creator/Collector: Dunham, Theodore, 1897-
Extent: 387 items; 2 boxes.
Repository: Huntington Library. Manuscripts Department
Abstract: Papers of physicist, astronomer, and physician Theodore Dunham.
Language of Material: English


Collection is open to qualified scholars.

Preferred Citation

Theodore Dunham papers. Huntington Library. Manuscripts Department

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mary H. Thompson, February 5, 2013.

Biography/Administrative History

Theodore Dunham, Jr. was Scientific Director of the Fund for Astrophysical Research from its founding in 1936 until his death in 1984. Dunham was born in 1897 in New York City. He attended higher education at Harvard (Bachelor’s degree, chemistry), Cornell (M.D.) and Princeton (A.M. and Ph.D., physics). He was a staff member of the Mount Wilson Observatory from 1928 to 1947. Along with Walter S. Adams, he discovered the strong presence of carbon dioxide in the infrared spectrum of Venus. During World War II from 1942 to 1946, he was Chief of the Optical Instrument Section of the Office of Scientific Research and Development. He then spent several years applying physical methods to medical research, first from 1946 to 1948 as a Warren Fellow in Surgery at Harvard Medical School, and then from 1948 to 1957 at the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester. In 1957 he joined the faculty of the Australian National University and from 1965 to 1970 he was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Tasmania. After returning to the United States in 1970, he resumed his earlier association with Harvard College Observatory.

Scope and Content of Collection

The majority of the collection (364 items) is made up of correspondence between Theodore Dunham and various astronomers throughout the United States and England (and a couple other countries). Dunham and the other astronomers’ research and work are the main topics of the letters. These subjects include: Dunham’s work on stars (including our sun) and planets (Jupiter, Venus); biophysics; telescopes and lenses; and the Fund for Astrophysical Research. There is a folder with correspondence between Dunham, Harry Plaskett (Dunham’s closest friend and astronomer at Oxford), and others regarding Dunham’s attempt at doing his part during World War II. He contacts several people and institutions in England and Canada including the National Research Council in Ottawa looking for a position somewhere. This folder includes a copy of a letter by Dunham to Winston Churchill offering any assistance he can give to the war effort as well as copies of Dunham’s “Summary of Scientific Work” (resume). The majority of the letters by Dunham are copies that he kept for his own records. There are nine photographs mostly astronomical machinery, probably for illustrations for an article by Dunham, including a transparency of the telescope at the Mount Stromlo Observatory. The publications include a copy of Engineering and Science Monthly which is published by California Institute of Technology Alumni Association. The issue contains an article about George Ellery Hale and an article by Edwin Hubble; as well as several reprints of articles by Theodore Dunham alone and articles he co-wrote with Walter S. Adams.

Indexing Terms

Astronomers -- United States -- Archives
Astronomical observatories -- California -- Wilson, Mount (Mountain)
Astronomy -- Photographs
Astronomy -- United States -- 20th century -- Sources
Astrophysics -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
Stars -- Spectra
Telescopes -- Design and construction -- History -- Sources
World War, 1939-1945 -- Civilian relief
Adams, Walter S. (Walter Sydney), 1876-1956
Fowler, R. H. (Ralph Howard), 1889-1944
Hale, George Ellery, 1868-1938
Hubble, Edwin Powell, 1889-1953
Ingalls, Albert G. (Albert Graham)
Jones, H. Spencer (Harold Spencer), 1890-1960
Kurth, Edward Houghton, 1898-
La Gorce, John Oliver, 1880-1959
Lampland, C. O. (Carl Otto), 1873-1951
Marshak, Robert E. (Robert Eugene), 1916-1992
Means, James Howard, 1885-1967
Mees, C. E. Kenneth (Charles Edward Kenneth), 1882-1960
Menzel, Donald H. (Donald Howard), 1901-1976
Moffat, Jay Pierrepont, 1896-1943
Monk, George Spencer, 1884-
Morey, G. W. (George Washington), 1888-1965
Pauling, Linus, 1901-1994
Plaskett, Harry Hemley, 1893-
Plaskett, John Stanley, 1865-1941
Redman, Roderick Oliver
Rhoads, Cornelius P. (Cornelius Packard), 1898-1959
Roach, F. E. (Franklin Evans), 1905-1993
Rule, Bruce H.
Russell, Henry Norris, 1877-1957
Sadler, Donald, 1908-1987
Shane, Charles Donald, 1895-1983
Shapley, Harlow, 1885-1972
Sheppard, S. E. (Samuel Edward)
Slipher, Vesto Melvin, 1875-1969
Smith, James H. C., 1895-1970
Spitzer, Lyman, 1914-1997
Spoehr, H. A. (Herman Augustus), 1885-1954
Stebbins, Joel, 1878-1966
Stewart, John Quincy, 1894-1972
Stratton, Frederick John Marrian, 1881-1960
Struve, Otto, 1897-1963
Swings, P. (Polydore), 1906-1983
Unsold, Albrecht, 1905-
Van Maanen, Adriaan, 1884-1946
Weaver, Warren, 1894-1978
Williams, Evan Gwyn, 1905-1940
Wilson, Albert George, 1918-
Wood, Robert Williams, 1868-1955
Woolley, Richard van der Riet
Wright, F. E. (Frederick Eugene), 1877-1953
Wylie, C. C. (Charles Clayton), 1886-
California Institute of Technology
Carnegie Institution of Washington
Eastman Kodak Company
Fund for Astrophysical Research
Harvard College Observatory
Lick Observatory
Lowell Observatory
Mount Stromlo Observatory
Mount Wilson Observatory -- History -- Sources
National Research Council (U.S.)
National Research Council Canada
Princeton University. Observatory
Royal Astronomical Society
Spencer Lens Company
Thermal Syndicate (Firm)
University of Cambridge. Solar Physics Observatory
University of Oxford. Observatory
Yerkes Observatory
Jupiter (Planet)
Venus (Planet)
Letters (correspondence) -- 20th century
Photographs -- United States -- 20th century
Reprints -- United States -- 20th century

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