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Walter S. Adams Papers: Finding Aid
mssAdams papers  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
This collection chiefly consists of the administrative, scientific, and personal correspondence of astronomer and Mount Wilson Observatory Director Walter S. Adams (1876-1956), spanning the years 1921 to 1956, and including his work during World War II. There is also material from Adams' retirement years and his astronomical work. The World War II materials reflect the secret work of Adams and the Observatory staff for the United States government to help create prisms and optics for various types of binoculars and gun sights; the staff also assisted with aerial and naval defense and attack strategy.
Background
Walter S. Adams (1876-1956) was one of the original staff members of the Mount Wilson Solar Observatory when it was formed in 1904. He became assistant to George Ellery Hale in 1917 and Director of the Observatory in 1923, a position he held until his retirement in 1946. His primary interest was the study of stellar spectra. He worked on solar spectroscopy and co-discovered a relationship between the relative intensities of certain spectral lines and the absolute magnitude of a star. He was able to demonstrate that spectra could be used to determine whether a star was a giant or a dwarf. In 1915 he began a study of the companion of Sirius and found that despite a size only slightly larger than the Earth, the surface of the star was brighter per unit area than the Sun and it was about as massive. Such a star later came to be known as a white dwarf. Along with Theodore Dunham, he discovered the strong presence of carbon dioxide in the infrared spectrum of Venus. Adams continued his research at the Hale Solar Laboratory until his death in Pasadena, California, on May 11, 1956.
Extent
Approximately 35,000 items in 109 boxes
Restrictions
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.
Availability
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.