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Fred Lawrence Whipple Collection

Identifier: MC-26


  • 1956 - 2007


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research in the Archives & Special Collections reading room. Handling guidelines and use restrictions will be communicated and enforced by archives staff members.

Conditions Governing Use

This material may be protected under U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code) which governs the making of photocopies or reproductions of copyrighted materials. You may use the digitized material for private study, scholarship, or research. Though the University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives and Special Collections has physical ownership of the material in its collections, in some cases we may not own the copyright to the material. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in our collections.


1 Linear Feet (1 box.)

Biographical / Historical

Fred Lawrence Whipple (b. November 5, 1906, d. August 30, 2004) was an eminent astronomer of the 20th century, but further, he was a pioneer in the development of the global and United States space programs. His personal writings about both astronomy and space are documented in his Collected Contributions. During the early days of the space age, he had close working relations with Wernher von Braun, Willy Ley, and other space pioneers. Thus historical material from and on Fred L. Whipple deserves a place in a space archive beside collections for von Braun, Ley, and others. During the period when global space programs were evolving, Fred Whipple was a professor of astronomy at Harvard University and the Director of the Astrophysical Observatory of the Smithsonian Institution (SAO). At this time, the Astrophysical Observatory was located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the premises of Harvard Observatory. The research and support teams that Whipple assembled and directed at SAO were major participants in many early space science and technology developments. These advances were disseminated promptly in a Special Report Series that spanned the period he was director of SAO (1955 to 1973). Particularly, the evolution of artificial satellite orbit theory and orbit determination from observations is well captured initially in the SAO Special Reports. Prompt dissemination was necessary due to the frantic pace of the early space activities. Of course these topics were later documented in archival journals and books.

Several of the scientific interests of Fred Whipple evolved from conventional astronomical subjects into important space-age topics. Notable subjects of this type were comets, meteors, meteorites, the atmosphere of the Earth, and solar system science in general.

Recognizing the relationship between Fred Whipple and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, this collection assembles historical materials both on Fred as an individual and also from SAO during his tenure as Director. However, many scientific papers and books published by SAO personnel are not included in the collection, as these can be found in traditional scientific indices.

Excerpt from Fred L. Whipple Colletion Legacy Finding Aid

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Charles Lundquist, 2006.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, and competing priorities. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections as they are acquired and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.
Megan Sullivan, Andrew Tucker
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives & Special Collections Repository

M. Louis Salmon Library
301 Sparkman Drive
Huntsville, AL 35899 Alabama 35899 United States of America