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Shane (Charles Donald and Mary Lea) papers
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Collection Details
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  • Access
  • Arrangement
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Preferred Citation
  • Related Materials
  • Scope and Contents
  • Publication Rights

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: University of California, Santa Cruz
    Title: Charles Donald and Mary Lea Shane papers
    creator: Shane, Charles Donald
    creator: Shane, Mary Lea
    Identifier/Call Number: MS.270
    Physical Description: 11.2 Linear Feet 17 boxes, 5 oversize boxes
    Date (inclusive): 1895-1983


    Collection is open for research.


    This collection is organized into eight series, with the first seven series containing C. Donald Shane's papers:
    • 1. Alphabetical files
    • 2. Personal and biographical
    • 3. Foreign trips
    • 4. Research
    • 5. Speeches
    • 6. Photographs and illustrations
    • 7. Diplomas, certificates, and regalia
    • 8. Mary Lea Shane papers
    Materials within each series are arranged in their original order.

    Biographical / Historical

    Charles Donald Shane and Mary Lea Heger Shane were key figures at the Lick Observatory during the 20th century. Both were trained in astronomy and were married in 1920, and lived on Mount Hamilton for several years. Donald served as the director of the Lick Observatory from 1945 to 1958, and was integral in the planning and development of the 120-inch reflector telescope, which was named after him in 1978. He is also known in the field of astronomy for his work supporting the existence of aggregated clusters of galaxies, now known as superclusters. Donald married Mary Lea Heger in 1920, who had been working at Lick Observatory since 1919 and went on to earn her Ph.D. in astronomy in 1924. Mary did not pursue a career as an astronomer, but was very involved in the Mount Hamilton community and welcomed visitors from all over the world to the Lick Observatory. She later initiated the preservation and organization of the archives of the Lick Observatory.
    Charles Donald Shane was born on September 6, 1895 in Auburn, California. He began his career in astronomy by attending the University of California, Berkeley, and graduating in 1915 with a bachelor’s degree. He subsequently accepted a teaching position in mathematics and began his graduate work in astronomy, mathematics, and physics. In 1916, he began a two-year residential fellowship at the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, taught in Oregon and Washington during World War I, then returned for another Lick Observatory Fellowship from 1919-1920. In 1920, Shane earned his Ph.D. degree in astronomy and married Mary Lea Heger, and was also appointed as a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. Later he moved to teaching astronomy, and by 1941 he was the chair of the astronomy department at Berkeley. From 1942 to 1945, Shane worked on the Manhattan Project as assistant director for scientific personnel of the Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley and in Los Alamos, New Mexico. After World War II, in 1945, Shane became the director of the Lick Observatory and served for 13 years until 1958. In the 1950s, Shane worked with his assistant Carl Wirtanen to photograph approximately 70% of the night sky with the Lick Observatory’s 20-inch Carnegie astrograph. Shane and Wirtanen counted galaxies on each of the 1,246 photographic plates, and showed the existence of aggregates of galaxy clusters. Shane referred to these aggregated clusters as "clouds", and they are now known as superclusters. After he resigned as director, Shane stayed at Lick as an astronomer until his retirement in 1963. On March 19, 1983, Shane passed away at the age of 87.
    Mary Lea Heger was born on July 13, 1897 in Wilmington, Delaware. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1919, then moved to Mount Hamilton to perform her thesis research at the Lick Observatory. During her time there, she made a discovery of the presence of sodium atoms in interstellar space. She married C. Donald Shane in 1920, and earned her Ph.D. degree at Berkeley in 1924. On Mount Hamilton, Mary enjoyed hosting visitors to the Lick Observatory as the director’s wife, and she spent much of her time doing research on the history of the Lick Observatory and its key historical figures. Later she began collecting and preserving materials related to the Lick Observatory, and in 1966 these documents were moved to the UC Santa Cruz Library as a research collection. In 1982, a ceremony was held at the library to name this collection the Mary Lea Shane Archives of the Lick Observatory (now available as the Lick Observatory Records, collection UA.036). Mary passed away in 1983 at the age of 86.

    Preferred Citation

    Charles Donald and Mary Lea Shane Papers. MS 270. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

    Related Materials

    Related materials can be found in the following series of Lick Observatory records:
    To access the full-text PDFs of the oral histories of Charles Donald and Mary Lea Shane on eScholarship, click the links below:

    Scope and Contents

    This collection contains the papers of Charles Donald Shane, director of the Lick Observatory from 1945-1958, and his wife, Mary Lea Shane. Most of the materials are from Charles Donald Shane's professional work at the Lick Observatory and with the University of California, and include professional and personal correspondence, subject and research files, his autobiography, biographical materials on other astronomers, speeches and essays, site reports from Chile and other foreign trips, photographs of family members and travels, and some of his original research materials. The series of Mary Lea Shane papers contain her research on the Lick Observatory, and correspondence related to her work as the curator of the Lick Observatory Archives throughout the last half of the 20th century.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights for this collection reside with the University of California. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. The publication or use of any work protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use for research or educational purposes requires written permission from the copyright owner. Responsibility for obtaining permissions, and for any use rests exclusively with the user. For more information on copyright or to order a reproduction, please visit guides.library.ucsc.edu/speccoll/reproduction-publication .

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Shane, Charles Donald
    Shane, Charles Donald
    Lick Observatory
    Shane, Mary Lea
    Shane, Mary Lea