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Struve (Otto) Papers
BANC MSS 81/35 c  
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  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biographical Sketch
  • Scope and Content

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: The Bancroft Library
    Title: Otto Struve papers
    Creator: Struve, Otto, 1897-1963
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 81/35 c
    Physical Description: 5 Linear Feet Number of containers: (4 cartons); Linear feet: 5.0
    Date (inclusive): 1837-1966
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1953-1956)
    Abstract: Correspondence, most of it prior to Struve's service in the Dept. of Astronomy, University of California, biographical materials, bibliographies of his writings, photographs, and some papers relating to various members of the Struve family. Also includes materials concerning his interest and activity in astronomy while at U.C. Berkeley and the International Astronomical Union.
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Language of Material: English


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library 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

    Otto Struve papers, BANC MSS 81/35 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Biographical Sketch

    Otto Struve (August 12, 1897-April 6, 1963) was an influential astronomer, professor, and observatory director who specialized in stellar spectroscopy and the study of double stars. Struve's research achievements, administrative talents, and active promotion of international cooperation greatly influenced the development astronomy in the 20th century.
    Born in Kharkov, Russia (now the Ukraine) to Gustav Wilhelm Ludwig and Elisabeth (Grohmann) von Struve, Otto Struve was descended from a family of noted astronomers. His great-grandfather, Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve was the director of the Imperial Observatory at Pulkovo, Russia, and was a pioneer in the study of double stars. Otto Struve's grandfather, Otto Wilhelm Struve, succeeded Friedrich as director of the Pulkovo Observatory. Otto's father was director of the observatory and dean of the faculty at the University of Kharkov.
    Struve attended high school in Kharkov (graduating in 1916), spent a year at the Michael Artillery School in Petrograd, and received his diploma in 1919 from the University of Kharkov, where he specialized in astronomy. He served as a lieutenant of field artillery in the Imperial Russian Army from 1916 to 1918, and in 1919-20 fought in the White Russian Army in the Bolshevik Revolution, where he was wounded in action. When the opposition to the Communists collapsed, Struve moved to Turkey as a refugee where he worked odd jobs until he was invited by Edwin Frost to come to the United States and join the staff of the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory in 1921. The Yerkes Observatory boasted one of the largest telescopes in the world at the time. Struve began his work at the University of Chicago as an assistant in stellar spectroscopy while concurrently working for his Ph.D. degree, which he received in 1923. His thesis was entitled A Study of Spectroscopic Binaries of Short Period. In May 1925 Struve married Mary Martha Lanning. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1927.
    Upon attaining his doctorate he immediately began his teaching career at the University of Chicago, first as an instructor in astronomy (1924-26), then an assistant professor (1926-30), associate professor (1930-32), and finally a full professor (1932). In 1939 he founded and directed the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory (where a telescope is named for him). In 1950 he moved to the University of California, Berkeley and became chairman of the Department of Astronomy and director of the Leuschner Observatory. In 1959 he took a leave of absence to assume the first directorship of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia (where he also encouraged the first search for extraterrestrial intelligence). He held this position until his retirement in 1962. While at Berkeley Struve initiated the establishment of the campus computer center and was also largely responsible for the creation of the radio astronomy laboratory.
    Among the many honors Struve received over the years were the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Isaac Newton medal of the Royal Astronomical Society of London for 1944, the Order of the Crown, rank of Chevalier (Belgium), and the Catherine Bruce gold medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for 1948. In 1936 he was chosen to represent the American Astronomical Society in the division of physical sciences of the National Research Council, and he served as chairman of the advisory committee on astronomy to the Office of Naval Research. Struve also received honorary doctorates from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland (1939), the University of Copenhagen (1946), and the University of Liege (1949).
    Struve was president of the American Astronomical Society from 1946 to 1949. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, International Astronomical Union, the American Physical Society, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Academy of Sciences of Denmark (honorary), the Societe Astronomique de France, and the Astronomische Gesellschaft. He also was a corresponding member of the Societe Royale des Sciences de Liege, of the Haarlem (Holland) Society of Sciences, and a foreign associate member of the Royal Astronomical Society of London. Struve also belonged to the national honorary scientific fraternity, Sigma Xi. As a frequent contributor to astronomy periodicals Struve published over 900 articles and several books and he was editor of the Astrophysical Journal from 1933 to 1947.

    Scope and Content

    Ukrainian born Otto Struve (1897-1963) was an influential astronomer, professor, and observatory director who specialized in stellar spectroscopy, and the study of double stars. He directed the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory before moving to the University of California, Berkeley in 1950 where he was named chair of the University's Astronomy Department. The collection consists of correspondence reflecting Struve's various roles as observatory director, astronomy professor, researcher, administrator and editor. Also included are biographical materials, bibliography, photographs, and papers relating to various members of the Struve family. Notable correspondents contained in this collection include Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Bart Jan Bok, Theodore Dunham, William W. Morgan, Gerard P. Kuiper, and J. Robert Oppenheimer.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Struve, Otto, 1897-1963