Overview of the Collection
Scope and Content
Related Materials in the Huntington Library
Overview of the Collection
Title: Alfred Harrison Joy Papers
Dates (inclusive): 1910-1972
Collection Number: mssJoy papers
Joy, Alfred H. (Alfred
Approximately 2,150 items in 10 boxes
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2129
Abstract: This collection consists of the professional papers of American astronomer Alfred Harrison Joy (1882-1973) and contains correspondence
research files related to Joy's study of stellar radial velocities, variable stars, T Tauri stars, and galactic structure.
There is also an extensive amount of material related to Joy's involvement with the American Astronomical Society and the
Astronomical Society of the Pacific in the collection.
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services
Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to
quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such
activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is
one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
There is no evidence that Joy passed on his literary rights to anyone. The
Carnegie Observatories, as part of the 1987 letter of agreement, have given the
Huntington Library the right to provide permission to publish from the papers.
[Identification of item]. Alfred Harrison Joy Papers, The Huntington Library, San
Placed on permanent deposit in the Huntington Library by the Observatories of the
Carnegie Institution of Washington Collection. This was done in 1989 as part of
a letter of agreement (dated November 5, 1987) between the Huntington and the
Carnegie Observatories. The papers have yet to be officially accessioned.
Cataloging of the papers was completed in 1989 prior to their transfer to the
Alfred Harrison Joy was a distinguished stellar astronomer who spent most of his
professional career at the Mount Wilson Observatory. His work on stellar radial
velocities, variable stars, and galactic structure in the early twentieth century
laid the groundwork for the rapidly expanding field of astrophysics. His pioneering
work, his long tenure at Mount Wilson, his central roles in the Astronomical Society
of the Pacific and American Astronomical Society, and his position as Secretary of
the Observatory make him a significant figure in the history of astronomy.
Alfred H. Joy was born in Greenville, Illinois, on September 23, 1882 to Frank and
Louise (Maynard) Joy. Little is known of his early years, but it appears that Joy's
mother passed on to her son a great love of science. When it was time for him to go
to college, he went to a small local school, Greenville College, operated by the
Free Methodist Church. He took his degree in 1903 in Latin and science, graduating
in a class of seven. Joy then spent the next year at Oberlin College in Ohio,
obtaining an M.A. in physics. His teacher at Oberlin was Charles E. St. John, who
would later become his colleague at Mount Wilson.
Upon receiving his M.A. in 1904, Joy immediately obtained a teaching position at the
American University of Beirut. He was the instructor of physics at Beirut and this
included teaching astronomy. Over the years, his abilities and interest in astronomy
grew, helped by his participation in the 1905 Lick Observatory eclipse expedition in
Egypt, the transit of Mercury, and observations of the 1910 apparition of Halley's
comet. In 1909, Joy spent the summer in Oxford and Cambridge working on the
Carte du Cielproject. In the summer of 1910, Joy
worked as an assistant at the Yerkes Observatory. And in the 1910-11 academic year
he obtained a Thaw fellowship to Princeton where he received valuable astronomy
instruction from Henry Norris Russell. Joy's notebooks from Russell's classes are a
valuable part of this collection (the "classes" were one-on-one instruction sessions
with Russell at his Princeton home). This period, from 1909 to 1911, was crucial in
shaping Joy's future astronomical interests.
Joy returned to Beirut in 1911 where he had recently been appointed director of the
Observatory. In 1914, he traveled to Potsdam, Germany, to continue his research
interests. At Potsdam he came into contact with Karl Schwarzschild and Ejnar
Hertzsprung, two important figures in the growing field of astrophysics. Joy then
went to the Yerkes Observatory for a second time to help in their stellar parallax
program. By 1915, however, the First World War was well underway and Joy found it
impossible to get back to Beirut. Fortunately for him, he had come to the attention
of George Ellery Hale at Mount Wilson, and Hale soon offered Joy a permanent
position at Mount Wilson, a position he held until his retirement thirty-three years
later in 1948.
While Joy's first year at Mount Wilson saw work on solar matters, he soon became
involved in the stellar spectroscopy work headed by Walter S. Adams. Earlier, Adams
and Kohlsch|tter had learned how to accurately determine a star's spectral class and
absolute luminosity. Using this information it became possible for them to calculate
the distance to the star, a quantity referred to as its "spectroscopic parallax."
Joy worked at deciphering numerous stellar spectra until, in 1935, Joy and Adams had
published a catalogue of spectroscopic parallaxes of 4,179 stars.
Joy soon became involved in the study of variable stars. Splitting the stars among
three researchers at Mount Wilson, Joy worked on red semi-regular variable stars.
One exception was the remarkable long-period M-type variable, Mira (omicron Ceti).
Joy had a fondness for this famous star, perhaps due to his spectroscopic discovery
of its faint companion star in 1920. Noting the odd spectrum, Joy had written to R.
G. Aitken at Lick to see if he could visually observe the companion in their large
refracting telescope. Aitken soon saw the faint star, thus confirming Joy's
discovery. Joy also amassed a great deal of information on the W Virginis
(Population II) Cepheids and RR Lyrae stars, material that has led to a greater
understanding of our Galaxy.
Joy's work on variable stars led to many new results which increased astronomers'
understanding of these peculiar objects. He showed in 1933 that the emission lines
in RW Tauri's spectrum were due to a small Saturn-like ring around the brighter
primary star. Joy identified many spectroscopic binaries and initiated spectroscopic
studies of dwarf novae.
Another of Joy's important researches was his study of galactic rotation. From his
earlier studies of the radial velocity of Cepheid variables, he collected a large
sample of data and demonstrated that the Population I Cepheids constituted a
low-velocity family of stars and was able to calculate the coordinates of the
Perhaps Joy's most far-reaching work was that on the T Tauri stars. This came about
because of his study of M-type dwarfs. Joy became acquainted with these latter stars
during his work with Adams. As Joy became interested in the M dwarfs' habit of
"flaring," he came across the unusual star UZ Tauri. This type of star, described by
Joy as a T Tauri variable in 1945, later proved to be the transition between
interstellar clouds and main-sequence stars.
In 1919, Joy married Margherita O. Burns, a computer at the Observatory. The next
year, he was appointed Secretary of the Observatory. In this new position, Joy was
constantly in contact with the community and press regarding astronomical matters in
general and happenings at the Mount Wilson Observatory in particular. Joy remained
as Secretary, in addition to his other duties, until his retirement in 1948.
Joy's most infamous feat was his unfortunate accident in 1946 at the age of
sixty-four when he fell twenty feet from the Cassegrain platform of the 100-inch
telescope to the cement floor. Breaking an arm, a leg, and his hip, Joy was
hospitalized but with characteristic vigor, was back observing eight months
A great deal of correspondence in the collection is with the Astronomical Society of
the Pacific. Joy served in many capacities with this organization, being on its
Board of Directors, President in 1931 and 1939, and from 1945 to 1968, editor of the
Leaflets, a monthly issuance of small eight page reports for laymen and astronomers
on new results in astronomy. In 1950, the Society presented Joy with its highest
award, the Bruce Gold Medal. Joy was active in other organizations as well,
particularly the American Astronomical Society, being its President from 1949 to
1952. In 1949, Joy was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and in 1964 was
named an Associate of the Royal Astronomical Society. In closing, perhaps the best
description of Joy comes from his close friend George H. Herbig: "His scientific
work was typical of the man himself: it was done quietly, patiently, with gentle
humor, with great honesty and generosity. It was accomplished without fanfare,
published without arrogance or pretence, and with recognition of the debt he owed to
others. Joy was usually content simply to report what he had seen or done, in the
conviction that speculation or over-interpretation is often evanescent, but that
solid observations would inevitably survive."
Scope and Content
The collection consists of the professional papers of American astronomer Alfred
Harrison Joy (1882-1973). It includes both incoming and copies of going
correspondence (3 boxes) and research files (manuscripts, lectures, notebooks, etc.)
related to Joy's study of stellar radial velocities, variable stars, T Tauri stars,
and galactic structure.
Correspondents include: Helmut A. Abt, Ansel Adams, Robert Grant Aitken, George
Ellery Hale, George Howard Herbig, Helen Sawyer Hogg, Gerard Peter Kuiper, Willem
Jacob Luyten, Beverly T. Lynds, Paul W. Merrill, Thornton Page, Miroslav Plavec,
Frederick Hanley Seares, and Alexander N. Vyssotsky. There is also an extensive
amount of material related to Joy's involvement with the American Astronomical
Society and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in the collection.
Correspondence (Boxes 1-3)
includes both incoming letters and outgoing carbon copies. They are arranged in
folders alphabetically by named correspondent or subject. The correspondence files
are listed alphabetically according to the last name of the correspondent or, in
some cases, to the first word of the subject heading. If a particular correspondent
has less than three items associated with him or her, then these have been placed in
the "Miscellaneous Correspondence" files at the end. In the list for each file is
noted the correspondent's name, the years covered by the letters, the number of
items in the file, and any extra comments are in brackets below each entry.
Astronomical working papers (Boxes 4-6)
papers are arranged in folders alphabetically according to their subject.
Talks and papers (Box 7)
These are arranged in
folders chronologically according to when they were given or published. Undated
items are placed at the end of the series.
Society material (boxes 7-8)
This series contains
printed programs of conferences and minutes of meetings for the American
Astronomical Society and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. The folders are
arranged chronologically within each society.
Photographs (Box 8)
There are a few folders at the
end of Box 8 which contain three dozen photographs, mainly of stellar spectra.
Notebooks and reprints (Boxes 9-10)
This series contains various
record and note books. Included here are his notes from Henry Norris Russell's
classes and a list of his published papers. Includes one volume of bound
reprints published by Joy in the
Publications of the Astronomical Society of
Organized in the following series: 1. Correspondence (Boxes 1-3), and 2.
Manuscripts, notebooks and volumes, lectures, and research files (Boxes 4-10).
Related Materials in the Huntington Library
Approximately fifty additional separate collections form the Mount Wilson Papers of
the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and are available for
research in the Manuscripts Department of the Huntington Library.
Joy, Alfred H. (Alfred
Harrison), 1882-1973 -- Archives.
of the Pacific.
Observatory -- History -- Sources.
Astronomers -- California, Southern --
Astronomy -- Research.
Stars -- Motion in line of
T Tauri stars.
Lectures -- 20th century.
Letters (correspondence) -- 20th
Manuscripts -- 20th
Notebooks -- 20th century.
Research (document genres) -- 20th
Abt, Helmut A.
Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984.Abt, Helmut
Aitken, Robert Grant, 1864-1951.Abt,
Hale, George Ellery, 1868-1938.Abt,
Herbig, G. H. (George H.)Abt, Helmut
Hogg, Helen Sawyer, 1905-1993.Abt,
Kuiper, Gerard P. (Gerard Peter),
1905-1973.Abt, Helmut A.
Luyten, Willem Jacob, 1899-1994.Abt,
Lynds, Beverly T.Abt, Helmut
Merrill, Paul W. (Paul Willard),
1887-1961.Abt, Helmut A.
Page, Thornton.Abt, Helmut
Plavec, Miroslav.Abt, Helmut
Seares, Frederick Hanley,
1873-1964.Abt, Helmut A.
Vyssotsky, A. N. (Alexander N.),
Astronomical Society of the
Carnegie Institution of