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Series II: Correspondence of Harold Jacoby, 1888-1913
At a Glance
This collection is arranged in 5 series.
This collection contains the records generated by the founding members of the modern astronomy department at Columbia University. The bulk of the collection is comprised of the correspondence of Professor John K. Rees along with the correspondence and writings of Professor Harold Jacoby. The records also include financial reports, departmental reports, curriculum outlines, student reports, and observatory ledgers. A few photographs and technical drawings of telescopes are included with the correspondence. The collection provides insight into many aspects of the department including: procuring donor support to build the observatories, the growth of the department as it went from the School of Mines to the School of Pure Sciences, the central role of the observatory within the department, contemporary astronomical events of interest to the scholarly community, and the professional input sought in regard to the construction of the observatories. Furthermore, the collection highlights public interest in the observatory and in the field of astronomy in New York City at the turn of the century.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Department of Astronomy Records; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Source of acquisition--Dept. of Astronomy. Method of acquisition--gift.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers processed Gwyn Hervochon 7/2008. Finding aid written Gwyn Hervochon 8/2009.
Box 7 was added by Joanna Rios, November 2021.
2009-11-17 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
2021-11-09 Added Box 7 (JR)
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
The records within this collection begin with the recruitment of J.K Rees to Columbia College as Director of the Observatory in 1881. A graduate of Columbia in 1875, Rees left his position at Washington University in St. Louis as Professor of Math and Astronomy and joined the faculty of the School of Mines at Columbia. He took charge of the newly founded Summer School of Geodesy and taught courses in astronomy and geodesy throughout the academic year. At the urging of his fellow professors of the School of Mines to President Barnard in 1883, Rees was promoted to the position of Professor in 1884 and to the title of Professor of Practical Astronomy and Geodesy in 1892. In addition to his contributions at Columbia, Rees was an active member of many professional societies throughout his career.
As Director of the Observatory from 1881-1902, Rees oversaw the construction of the first observatory at Columbia and lead the astronomy department through significant transitional phases both in academic structuring and in physical location. When Rees began his work at Columbia, the college was located in mid-town Manhattan and the School of Mines at the corner of 4th Avenue and 49th Street. Soon after the construction of the Latitude Observatory between 1881 and 1883, the college began to outgrow its limited campus size. As Columbia College developed into Columbia University, the campus was relocated to Morningside Heights and Rees was once again in the position of building another observatory at the new location. Simultaneously, the astronomy department moved from a department within the School of Mines to the School of Pure Science. A Faculty of Pure Sciences was established in 1892 with 13 professors and adjunct professors spanning 10 departments. The faculty grew quickly over the next four years and officially moved to its Morningside Heights location on October 4, 1897.
A student and protégée of Rees, Harold Jacoby was hired as the Assistant in the Observatory in 1888, as Instructor in Astronomy in 1890, and was promoted to the Faculty of Pure Sciences in 1896. As successor to Rees, Jacoby lead the department and continued working to rebuild an observatory at the new location. The Wilde Observatory was constructed between 1906 and 1907 on the corner of 120th Street and Broadway.
Use of the Wilde Observatory was essentially replaced in 1927 by the Rutherford Observatory. Still in use today, the Rutherford Observatory is located on the roof of Pupin Hall at 550 W 120th Street and hosts regular public outreach programs.