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Finding Aid for the Helen Wright Collection on George Ellery Hale 1887-1972
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing History
  • Biography
  • Chronology
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Helen Wright Collection on George Ellery Hale,
    Date (inclusive): 1887-1972
    Collection number: 10175-MS
    Creator: Wright, Helen, 1914- ; Hale, George E., 1868-1938
    Extent: 6 linear feet
    Repository: California Institute of Technology, Caltech Archives
    Pasadena, California 91125
    Abstract: The working papers, correspondence, publications, photos and biographical materials of George E. Hale (1868-1938) form the collection known as the Helen Wright Collection on George Ellery Hale in the Archives of the California Institute of Technology. Not only was Hale the foremost solar astronomer of his day, but he was also exceedingly energetic in the organization and promotion of the enterprise of science, both at home and abroad. The materials in the collection reflect both aspects of his career, as well as his other interests and personal life.
    Physical location: California Institute of Technology, Institute Archives
    Language of Material:
    Languages represented in the collection:
    English French German


    The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Helen Wright Collection on George Ellery Hale, 10175-MS, Caltech Archives, California Institute of Technology.

    Acquisition Information

    Papers were compiled by Helen Wright, largely through transcription and the collection of published sources. The were acquired from Christine Shirley, June 4, 1998.

    Processing History

    Processed by Kevin C. Knox, Caltech Archives Staff, August 17, 2006
    Some material transferred to the Caltech Archives rare book collection. No attempt has been made to correlate the remaining materials with their original location.


    The daughter of George Ellery Hale's colleague, Frederick Wright, Helen Wright was born in 1914. Following the death of George Ellery Hale in 1938, the National Academy of Sciences urged that a comprehensive biography be written. However, it was not until 1951 that Helen Wright was commisioned to pen the work. Although she worked industriously on the project, the biography was not completed until 1966. Six years later, she co-authored The Legacy of George Ellery Hale.
    Born in Chicago in 1868, George Ellery Hale received his B.S. from M. I. T. in 1890. Active in the development of astrophysics, he quickly established a distinguished scientific reputation for his invention of the spectroheliograph. He made important contributions to the study of solar phenomena, organized and co-edited the Astrophysical Journal, and was the leading figure in the design, funding and construction of the Kenwood, Yerkes, Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories.
    Hale was also exceedingly energetic in the organization and promotion of the enterprise of science, both at home and abroad. In the United States he played a highly influential role in the National Academy of Sciences. He revivified the Academy almost single-handedly by organizing the National Research Council, obtaining substantial endowment for the NAS, and establishing the critically important National Research Council Fellowships. A founder of the International Union of Cooperation in Solar Research, Foreign Secretary of the National Academy of Sciences, and a frequent delegate to the International Association of Academies, he became deeply involved in the international relations of science before the First World War. Instrumental in the establishment of the International Research Council after the war, he was president of its successor, the International Council of Scientific Unions from 1931 to 1934.
    Hale settled in Pasadena, California in 1904 to assume the duties of Director of the newly established Mount Wilson Observatory and became deeply involved in the educational and cultural affairs of the area. Among his most important efforts were the creation and development of the California Institute of Technology and the Huntington Library.


    1868 Birth
    1889 enters MIT
    1890 appointed director of Kenwood Astrophysical Observatory
    1891 appointed professor at Beloit College
    1893-1894 Berlin
    1904 Mount Wilson Observatory established
    1904 Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
    1908 60 in. Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson
    1917 100 in. Hooker telescope
    1920 California Institute of Technology established
    1923 retires from Mount Wilson Observatory
    1932 Copley Medal
    1938 Death

    Scope and Content

    The material from the Helen Wright collection was gathered by Wright over two decades from locations worldwide. Although most of material can be found either on the microfilm version of the Hale collection or in the Hale Papers that are housed in the Caltech Archives and Huntington Library, the collection is unique pricipally because the materials are arranged differently. Wright organized the papers according to topic in accordance with the structure of her biography while she also transcribed most of the hand-written correspondence. For these reasons, scholars researching the work of Hale may find the collection very helpful.
    The collection is organized into the following series:
    • Series 1. Original Correspondence and Documents
    • Series 2. Correspondence and Documents assembled by Helen Wright
    • Series 3. Organizations
    • Series 4. Publications
    • Series 5. Biographical

    Related Material

    The Papers of George Ellery Hale
    The Papers of Robert A. Millikan
    Records of the Palomar Observatory
    Records of the Astronomy Department

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Brashear, John Alfred, 1840-1920
    Carnegie, Andrew, 1835-1919
    Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955
    Larmour, Joseph, Sir, 1857-1942
    Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953
    Noyes, Arthur A. (Arthur Amos), 1866-1936
    Rutherford, Ernest, 1871-1937
    Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924