Menzel, Donald Howard
Harvard University Archives
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
43.3 cubic feet in 129 containers
Donald Howard Menzel (1901-1976) taught astronomy at Harvard, and was director of the Harvard College Observatory from 1952 to 1966. According to the National Academy of Sciences' Biographical Memoir, "Menzel was one of the first practitioners of theoretical astrophysics in the United States and pioneered the application of quantum mechanics to astronomical spectroscopy." His academic career began at the University of Denver, where he earned AB and MA degrees. He earned his Ph.D. at Princeton. He first came to Harvard when Harlow Shapley employed him as a research assistant for three summers while he was studying at Princeton. He taught briefly at the University of Iowa and Ohio State until he received an appointment at Lick Observatory. He came to Harvard in 1932. World War II interrupted his teaching and research. He spent a year in administrative duties and teaching cryptanalysis, then joined the U.S. Navy. After the war, he returned to Harvard. In 1952, he began as acting director of the Harvard College Observatory, becoming permanent director after two years. Under his leadership, Harvard forged a relationship with the Smithsonian Institution, which lead to the establishment of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Papers pertain mostly to Menzel's professional activities and scientific reasearch and writing, with some personal and Harvard related material. Includes correspondence with societies (International Astronomical Union, International Scientific Radio Union), U.S. Navy and Air Force, publishers, and various individuals, such as prominent scientists and students. Of particular interest is his correspondence with John F. Kennedy (1959-1963) regarding a variety of scientific and political concerns. Other related material includes proposals, contracts and reports concerning cryptanalysis, solar and other research for the U.S. government and corporations; reports, photographs, and engineering drawings for the Harvard College Observatory; and financial and other reports, blueprints, policy manuals and organization charts from various Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy projects. Writing files include manuscripts, notes and scientific data, outlines and related correspondence for scientific and popular works. Also manuscript of autobiography and his creative writings and drawings. Personal material includes photographs, scrapbooks, transcript of U.S. Air Force security hearing board in 1950. Related publications and reference material also available in repository.