Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Seth Barnes Nicholson Papers: Finding Aid
mssNicholson Seth papers  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (89.84 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Indexing: Added Entries and Subjects

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Seth Barnes Nicholson Papers
    Dates (inclusive): 1914-1963
    Collection Number: mssNicholson Seth papers
    Creator: Nicholson, Seth B. (Seth Barnes), 1891-1963.
    Extent: 445 items in 3 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: The collection contains the astronomical research and correspondence of American astronomer Seth Barnes Nicholson (1891-1963), dating from 1914 to 1963. The majority of Nicholson’s research material deals with his study of Jupiter and its moons.
    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]. Seth Barnes Nicholson Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Deposit, Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington Collection, 1988.
    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. Forms part of: The Mount Wilson Papers of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

    Biographical Note

    American astronomer Seth Barnes Nicholson (1891-1963) was born in Springfield, Illinois, on November 21, 1891. He received a Bachelors in Science from Drake University, Des Moines, Indiana, in 1911 and a Ph.D. from the University of California in 1914. He discovered Sinope, the ninth moon of Jupiter, while observing the seventh moon, Pasiphaë, at Lick Observatory. The computation of its orbit was the subject of his Ph.D. thesis.
    Nicholson went on to discover three other moons of Jupiter, along with two asteroids, during his decades’ long career at the Wilson Observatory. His main focus at Wilson Observatory was to monitor solar activity and he wrote the annual sunspot activity reports for most of his career. He made significant discoveries regarding sunspots, especially in regards to their magnetic properties and terrestrial effects.
    Nicholson served as the editor of the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific from 1943 to 1955 and was twice the president of the society. He was awarded the Bruce Medal in 1963, the year he died in Los Angeles.

    Scope and Content

    The collection contains the astronomical research and correspondence of American astronomer Seth Barnes Nicholson (1891-1963). The majority of Nicholson’s research material deals with his study of Jupiter and its moons (Box 1). His other research (Box 2) includes his study of magnetic activity, the asteroid Icarus, Trojan asteroids, Pluto, Venus, the Sun and Sun spots (there is one item dealing with both Jupiter and the Sun in Box 1). There are some pieces of correspondence in the research folders.
    Most of the correspondence (Box 3) is between Nicholson and other astronomers throughout the world; the majority of it is also about Jupiter and its moons, asteroids and sun spots. Notable participants in the collection include: Giorgio Abetti, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Robert Grant Aitken, Joseph Ashbrook, Ira Sprague Bowen, Leland E. Cunningham, Sturla Einarsson, Charles Federer, Paul Herget, Samuel Herrick, Theodor S. Jacobsen, Vladimir Kourganoff, Karl Otto Kiepenheuer, Gerard Kuiper, Willem Luyten, M. G. J. Minnaert, Yngve Öhman, Jan Oort, William Henry Pickering, Frederick Hanley Seares, Harlow Shapley, Otto Struve, Alexander N. Vyssotsky, Fred L. Whipple and Fritz Zwicky.
    The collection also includes several photographs; their presence is noted in the container list and on the folders.


    The collection is organized in three series:
    • Box 1: Jupiter Research Box 2: Other Research
    • Box 3: Correspondence
    The research series are organized alphabetically by folder title; the correspondence is organized alphabetically by correspondent name.

    Indexing Terms

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


    Humason, Milton L. (Milton La Salle), 1891-1972.
    Nicholson, Seth B. (Seth Barnes), 1891-1963.
    Carnegie Institution of Washington.
    Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories -- History -- Sources.
    Mount Wilson Observatory -- History -- Sources.
    Astronomers -- United States -- Archives.
    Astronomical observatories -- California -- Wilson, Mount (Mountain)
    Astronomy -- Photographs.
    Astronomy -- Research.
    Astronomy -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
    Icarus (Asteroid)
    Jupiter (Planet) -- Observations.
    Jupiter (Planet) -- Satellites.
    Pluto (Dwarf planet)
    Venus (Planet)


    Letters (correspondence) -- United States -- 20th century.
    Photographs -- United States -- 20th century.
    Research (document genres) -- United States -- 20th century.

    Additional Contributors

    Abetti, Giorgio, 1882-1982.
    Aitken, Robert Grant, 1864-1951.
    Ashbrook, Joseph, d. 1980.
    Bowen, Ira Sprague, 1898-1973.
    Einarsson, Sturla.
    Federer, Charles, 1909-.
    Herget, Paul, 1908-.
    Herrick, Samuel, 1911-1974.
    Jacobsen, Theodor S.
    Kourganoff, V. (Vladimir), 1912-.
    Kiepenheuer, K. O. (Karl Otto)
    Kuiper, Gerard P. (Gerard Peter), 1905-1973.
    Luyten, Willem Jacob, 1899-1994.
    Minkowski, Rudolf, 1895-.
    Öhman, Yngve, 1903-.
    Oort, Jan Hendrik.
    Pease, F. G. (Francis Gladheim), b. 1881.
    Pickering, William H. (William Henry), b. 1858.
    Roemer, Elizabeth, 1929-.
    Shapley, Harlow, 1885-1972.
    Struve, Otto, 1897-1963.
    Vyssotsky, A. N. (Alexander N.), b. 1888.
    Whipple, Fred L. (Fred Lawrence), 1906-2004.
    Zwicky, F. (Fritz), 1898-1974.
    Seares, Frederick Hanley, 1873-, recipient.
    Astronomical Society of the Pacific, recipient.

    Indexing: Added Entries and Subjects

    Indexing: Added Entries
    Astronomical Society of the Pacific
    • Addressee of Otto Struve, 1897-1963 letter (1951, July 5). Box 3 (49).
    • Addressee of Alan Tower Waterman, 1892-1967 letter (1953, Mar. 25). Box 3 (53).
    Kuiper, Gerard P. (Gerard Peter), 1905-1973
    • Author of letter to Frederick Hanley Seares, 1873- (1938, July 7). Box 2 (2).
    Seares, Frederick Hanley, 1873-
    • Addressee of Gerard P. (Gerard Peter) Kuiper, 1905-1973 letter (1938, July 7). Box 2 (2).
    Indexing: Subjects
    Humason, Milton L. (Milton La Salle), 1891-1972
    • Subject in Seth B. (Seth Barnes) Nicholson, 1891-1963. Note re: Pluto Image (1919). Box 2 (6).
    • Subject in Ira Sprague Bowen, 1898-1973 letters (1946-1960). Box 3 (9).