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Henrietta Hill Swope Papers: Finding Aid
mssSwope 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 Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Henrietta Hill Swope Papers
    Dates (inclusive): 1923-1979
    Collection Number: mssSwope papers
    Creator: Swope, Henrietta Hill, 1902-
    Extent: Approximately 2,400 items in 10 boxes and 1 oversize folder
    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 contains the papers of American astronomer Henrietta Swope (1902-1980), who spent most of her career developing techniques to measure distances in space.
    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]. Henrietta Hill Swope Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Deposit Carnegie Institution of Washington, 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.

    Biographical Note

    Henrietta Hill Swope (1902-1980), the daughter of General Electric president Gerard Swope and the niece of journalist Herbert Bayard Swope, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in October 1902 and raised in Ossining, New York, where she began stargazing in her backyard. After receiving her A.B. in mathematics from Barnard College and her master's degree from Radcliffe, she joined the staff of Dr. Harlow Shapley at the Harvard University Observatory. Swope spent most of her career developing techniques to measure distances in space. During WWII, Swope worked on radar experiments at MIT and at the Navy's Hydrographic Office. After which she spent 16 years refining the cepheid measuring system at the Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories in California. In 1962 she announced that the distance between the Milky Way and Andromeda, our nearest galactic neighbor, is 2.2 million light years. In 1962 she donated funds to the Carnegie Institute of Washington towards the construction of the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, which now contains a 40-inch telescope named in her honor. She was awarded the Annie Jump Cannon Prize from the American Astronomy Society in 1968. She died in Pasadena, California in November 1980.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains correspondence (Parts 1 and 2), which has been grouped together alphabetically by correspondent. The correspondence includes letters from a variety of astronomers from around the world as well as general astronomy questions from members of the public. The correspondence also deals with women in astronomy and in the Beverly T. Lynds folder is a list of women members of the Astronomical Association of America. The majority of the letters written by Swope are retained copies. The arrangement of her astronomical working papers, however, mirrors that of the collection when it was obtained by the Huntington. The folder titles for the working papers are, for the most part, those of Henrietta Swope herself. The majority of the working papers deal with Swope's research and work on the Milky Way, M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), variable stars, cepheids, Magellanic Clouds, and the Draco System (these folders include notes, photographs and charts.) There are also four black and white photographs that may be of Swope receiving the Annie Jump Cannon Prize in 1968 and several miscellaneous manuscripts, reprints, articles by Swope and others, journals, bulletins, notes, pieces of ephemera and several hundred IBM cards. Notable participants include: Helmut Abt, Gonzalo Alcaino, Joseph Ashbrook, Robert Atkinson, Walter Baade, Horace W. Babcock, Ludwig Biermann, Bart J. Bok, Ira Sprague Bowen, Frederick Brasch, Laszlo Detre, Armin Deutsch, David H. DeVorkin, Laurence Fredrick, Cecilia and Sergei Gaposchkin, Helen Gilberts, Otto Heckmann, Arthur and Helen Hogg, Roberta Humphreys, Alfred H. Joy, Zdenek Kopal, Gerald E. Kron, Arlo U. Landolt, William Liller, Beverly T. Lynds, George C. McVittie, Donald H. Menzel, Delo Mook, Jan Hendrick Oort, L. Plaut, George Preston, Vera Rubin, Allan Sandage, Jan Schilt, T. Schmidt-Kaler, Martin Schwarzschild, Harlow Shapley, Elske Smith, Hyron Spinrad, Sidney Van den Bergh, Alexander Vyssotsky, Merle F. Walker, Sir Richard Woolley, American Institute of Physics, Astronomical Journal, Popular Astronomy, Royal Astronomical Society and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.


    The Swope Papers have not yet been fully organized. The correspondence has been grouped together alphabetically by correspondent. The arrangement of her astronomical working papers, however, mirrors that of the collection when it was obtained by the Huntington. The folder titles for the working papers are, for the most part, those of Henrietta Swope herself.

    Indexing Terms

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


    Baade, Walter, 1893-1960.
    Swope, Henrietta Hill, 1902-.
    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.
    RR Lyrae stars.
    Variable stars.
    Women astronomers -- United States -- Archives.
    Andromeda Galaxy.
    Magellanic Clouds.
    Milky Way.


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

    Alternate Authors

    Abt, Helmut A.
    Alcaino, Gonzalo, 1936-
    Ashbrook, Joseph, 1918-1980.
    Atkinson, Robert d'Escourt, 1898-1982.
    Baade, Walter, 1893-1960.
    Babcock, Horace W.
    Biermann, Ludwig, 1907-1986.
    Bok, Bart J. (Bart Jan), 1906-1983.
    Bowen, Ira Sprague, 1898-1973.
    Brasch, Frederick E. (Frederick Edward), 1875-1967.
    Detre, László.
    Deutsch, Armin J. (Armin Joseph), 1918-
    DeVorkin, David H., 1944-
    Fredrick, Laurence W.
    Payne-Gaposchkin, Cecilia, 1900-1979.
    Gaposchkin, Sergei, 1898-
    Gilberts, Helen, 1909-
    Heckmann, Otto, 1901-
    Hoag, Arthur Allen, 1921-1999.
    Hogg, Helen.
    Humphreys, Roberta M.
    Joy, Alfred H. (Alfred Harrison), 1882-1973.
    Kopal, Zdeněk, 1914-1993.
    Kron, Gerald E.
    Landolt, Arlo U. (Arlo Udell), 1935-
    Liller, William, 1927-
    Lynds, Beverly T.
    McVittie, George C. (George Cunliffe)
    Menzel, Donald H. (Donald Howard), 1901-1976.
    Mook, Delo E., 1942-
    Oort, Jan Hendrik.
    Plaut, L.
    Preston, George Worrall, 1930-
    Rubin, Vera C., 1928-
    Sandage, Allan.
    Schilt, Jan, 1893-
    Schmidt-Kaler, Th. (Theodor), 1930-
    Schwarzschild, Martin.
    Shapley, Harlow, 1885-1972.
    Smith, Elske v. P. (Elske van Panhuys), 1929-
    Spinrad, Hyron, 1934-
    Van den Bergh, Sidney, 1929-
    Vyssotsky, A. N. (Alexander N.), 1888-
    Walker, Merle F.
    Woolley, Richard van der Riet, addressee.
    Corp Author American Institute of Physics.
    Carnegie Institution of Washington.
    Popular astronomy.
    Royal Astronomical Society.
    Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
    Astronomical journal.