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Theodore Dunham Papers: Finding Aid
mssDunham papers  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing: Added Entries
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Theodore Dunham Papers
    Dates (inclusive): 1926-1977
    Bulk dates: 1926-1955
    Collection Number: mssDunham papers
    Creator: Dunham, Theodore, 1897-
    Extent: 387 items in 2 boxes
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2129
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection chiefly contains correspondence between American physicist and astronomer Theodore Dunham (born 1897) and various astronomers throughout the United States and England (and a couple other countries), chiefly dating from 1926-1955. Subjects include: Dunham's work on stars (including our sun) and planets (Jupiter, Venus); biophysics; telescopes and lenses; and the Fund for Astrophysical Research.
    Language: English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    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.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Theodore Dunham Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


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

    Biographical Note

    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.
    In 1926 he married Miriam Phillips Thompson; they had two children: Theodore Dunham III, and Mary Huntington Dunham.

    Scope and Content

    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.
    Prominent participants include: Walter S. Adams, Ralph Howard Fowler, Albert G. Ingalls, H. Spencer Jones, Edward Kurth, John La Gorce, C. O. Lampland, Robert E. Marshak, James H. Means, Donald H. Menzel, Jay P. Moffat, George Spencer Monk, G. W. Morey, Linus Pauling, Harry H. Plaskett, John Stanley Plaskett, Roderick Oliver Redman, Cornelius P. Rhoads, F. E. Roach, Bruce Rule, Henry Norris Russell, Donald Sadler, Charles D. Shane, Harlow Shapley, S. E. Sheppard, V. M. Slipher, James H. C. Smith, Spencer Lens Company, Lyman Spitzer, H. A. Spoehr, Joel Stebbins, John Q. Stewart, F. J. M. Stratton, Otto Struve, P. Swings, Thermal Syndicate, Albrecht Unsöld, Adriaan Van Maanen, Warren Weaver, Evan Gwyn Williams, Albert George Wilson, Robert Williams Wood, Richard van der riet Woolley, F. E. Wright, and C. C. Wylie.
    Further subjects: Eastman Kodak Company, Mt. Wilson and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Lowell Observatory, Lick Observatory, California Institute of Technology, Yerkes Observatory, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the observatories at Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, and Princeton as well as the National Research Council (U.S. and Canada). George Ellery Hale and Edwin Powell Hubble are mentioned often throughout the collection.


    The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by author and followed by photographs and publications at the end of Box 2.

    Indexing: Added Entries

    • Kurth, Edward Houghton, 1898-. Addressee of Thermal Syndicate (Firm) letter (1932, Sep. 28). Box 2 (19).
    • Marshak, Robert E. (Robert Eugene), 1916-1992. Addressee of Theodore Dunham, 1897- letter (1953, May 22). Box 1 (3).
    • Mees, C. E. Kenneth (Charles Edward Kenneth), 1882-1960. Addressee of Theodore Dunham, 1897- letter (1953, May 2). Box 1 (7).
    • In War work correspondence folder, Box 2 (32):
      • Boyle, Robert William
      • Fowler, R. H. (Ralph Howard), 1889-1944
      • Howlett, Leslie Ernest, 1903-
      • Jones, H. Spencer (Harold Spencer), 1890-1960 Moffat, Jay Pierrepont, 1896-1943
      • National Research Council Canada Plaskett, John Stanley, 1865-1941 Sweny, George W.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Dunham, Theodore, 1897-.
    Hale, George Ellery, 1868-1938.
    Hubble, Edwin, 1889-1953.
    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.
    University of Cambridge. Solar Physics Observatory.
    University of Oxford. Observatory.
    Yerkes Observatory.
    Astronomers -- United States -- Archives.
    Astronomical observatories -- California -- Wilson, Mount (Mountain)
    Astronomy -- Photographs.
    Astronomy -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
    Astrophysics -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
    Stars -- Spectra.
    Telescopes -- Design and construction -- History -- Sources.
    World War, 1939-1945 -- Civilian relief.
    Jupiter (Planet)
    Venus (Planet)


    Letters (correspondence) 20th century.
    Photographs United States 20th century.
    Reprints United States 20th century.

    Alternate Authors

    Adams, Walter S. (Walter Sydney), 1876-1956.
    Fowler, R. H. (Ralph Howard), 1889-1944.
    Ingalls, Albert G. (Albert Graham)
    Jones, H. Spencer (Harold Spencer), 1890-1960.
    Kurth, Edward Houghton, 1898- addressee.
    La Gorce, John Oliver, 1880-1959.
    Lampland, C. O. (Carl Otto), 1873-1951.
    Marshak, Robert E. (Robert Eugene), 1916-1992, addressee.
    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.
    Unsöld, 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. (Frederic Eugene), 1877-1953.
    Wylie, C. C. (Charles Clayton), 1886-
    Spencer Lens Company.
    Thermal Syndicate (Firm)