Finding Aid for the Ira Sprague Bowen Papers 1916-1961

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Descriptive Summary

Title: Ira Sprague Bowen Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1916-1961
Collection number: 10007-MS
Creator: Bowen, Ira Sprague 1898-1973
Extent: 2.5 linear feet
Repository: California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives
Pasadena, California 91125
Abstract: Ira Sprague Bowen: 1898-1973. Astrophysicist; Director, Mt. Wilson Observatory, 1946-1964; Professor of Physics, Caltech 1926-45. Much of his physics research was concerned with studies of spectral lines and spectroscopy; in the 1930s his interests turned more to astronomy and astrophysics and he devised many new instruments and techniques for observational astronomy. Papers include correspondence (ca. 1933-47), notebooks (many from his years at University of Chicago, 1916-21), articles, speeches, and photographs.
Physical location: Archives, California Institute of Technology.
Language of Material:
Languages represented in the collection:
English

Access

The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access.

Publication Rights

Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Caltech Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and, unless explicitly stated otherwise, is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Ira Sprague Bowen Papers, 10007-MS, Caltech Archives, California Institute of Technology.

Biography

One of the most distinguished astrophysicists of the twentieth century, Ira Sprague Bowen made fundamental contributions to the analysis of atomic spectra, the physics of gaseous nebulae and practical optics. Born in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1898, he graduated from Oberlin College in 1919 before entering the University of Chicago. There, he studied with Albert Michelson who infused in Bowen a love of optics. He also met Robert A. Millikan, who invited him to the California Institute of Technology in 1921.
By 1926 Bowen had received his doctorate from the institute and was appointed an assistant professor at Caltech. Soon after he made his first outstanding discovery: the identification of the so-called nebulium lines in the spectra of gaseous nebulae. The following decade, Bowen built an innovative device, called an image slicer, which placed the spectra of successive strips across an extended object, side by side upon a photographic plate. This invention enormously increased the efficiency of observations of gaseous nebulae and he received international attention when he provided an explanation for lines appearing in the spectra of planetary nebulae. During World War II he participated in the Caltech ordnance rocket project, developing the use of high-speed cameras in rocket design. Following the Second World War, he continued to research nebulae in collaboration with Rudolf Minkowski and published many significant papers on the subject.
Upon the retirement of Walter Adams, Bowen assumed the directorship of the Mount Wilson Observatory and, in 1948, the combined Mt. Wilson and Palomar venture. Despite his administrative duties, he continued to make significant contributions to optics, even following his retirement in 1964.
Bowen received many honors. He was a Gold Medallist and Halley lecturer of the Royal Astronomical Society. Among the other medals he received were the Ives (Optical Society of America), Draper (National Academy of Sciences), Potts (Franklin Institute), Rumford (American Academy of Arts and Sciences) and Bruce (Astronomical Society of the Pacific). He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Indian Academy of Sciences.

Scope and Content

Papers, 1916-1961. More than half of this collection is comprised of class notes (primarily physics) made by Bowen between 1916 and 1920 at the University of Chicago. Also included is a small amount of correspondence (primarily 1920-1945); manuscript articles and speeches; and biographical material.
The collection is organized into the following series:
  • Series 1. Correspondence
  • Series 2. Manuscripts
  • Series 3. Biographical

Related Material

Records of the Palomar Observatory

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.

Subjects

California Institute of Technology
Mount Wilson Observatory
Palomar Observatory
Michelson, Albert Abraham, 1852-1931
Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953
Minkowski, Rudolf, 1895-1976
Astronomy
Astrophysics
Spectrometry


Container List

 

Series 1.  Correspondence

Box 1, Folder 1

A Miscellaneous

Scope and Content Note

  • Adams, Walter S.ca. 1946
  • American Russian Institute of Southern California1935
Box 1, Folder 2

Boyce, Joseph C. 1933-1935, undated, 1941

Box 1, Folder 3

Bush, Vannevar 1941-1942, 1945, 1947

Box 1, Folder 4

B Miscellaneous

Scope and Content Note

  • Barrett, Edward C. 1939
  • Birge, Raymond T.1941
Box 1, Folder 5

DuBridge, Lee A. 1961

Box 1, Folder 6

Edlen, Bengt 1937-1939, 1941

Box 1, Folder 7

E-F Miscellaneous

Scope and Content Note

  • Eisenhart, L.P.1940
  • Frazer, John1945
  • Frerichs, R.1933
  • Frost, Edwin B.1927
Box 1, Folder 8

G-K Miscellaneous

Scope and Content Note

  • Gilbert, W. M.1945
  • Hale, George Ellery1927
  • Haskins, Caryl P.1962, undated
  • King, Arthur S.1943
  • Kriel, Jacob F., Jr.1940
Box 1, Folder 9

Kraus, Edward H. 1941, 1945

Box 1, Folder 10

McMath, Robert R. 1944-1945

Box 1, Folder 11

Menzel, Donald H. 1933-1935

Box 1, Folder 12

Millikan, Robert A. 1921-1923, 1928, 1931

Box 1, Folder 13

M-N Miscellaneous

Scope and Content Note

  • Merrill, Paul W.1943
  • Moody, Seth E.1946
  • Morgan, Thomas Hunt1928
  • My, Tai-ze1945
Box 1, Folder 13.1

Russell, Henry Norris 1934, 1939, 1945

Box 1, Folder 14

R-T Miscellaneous

Scope and Content Note

  • Ruddock, A. B.1957
  • Shane, C. D.1945
  • Sitterly, Charlotte Moore1939
  • Sproul, Robert G.1937, 1945
  • Stoner, Edmund G.1924
  • Stoy, R. H.1934-1935
  • Swings, P.1941-1943
  • Tate, John T.1927
  • Tiffany & Co.1935
Box 1, Folder 14.1

Wright, W. H. 1934, 1937-1939

Box 1, Folder 15

Wyse, Art B. 1938-1940

 

Series 2.  Manuscripts

Box 1, Folder 16

Research, Miscellaneous Documents 1940, 1945

Box 1, Folder 17

Miscellaneous Exams undated

Box 1, Folder 18

Speeches

Scope and Content Note

  • The Telescope at Workundated
  • Mr. Wilson Observatoryundated
  • Astronomy in a Changing Worldundated
  • Millikan Statements re: Ira Bownundated
  • The 200-Inch Cameraundated
Box 1, Folder 19

Articles

Scope and Content Note

  • The Origin of the Nebulum Spectrumundated
  • Telescopesundated
  • Some New Tools of the Astronomerundated
  • The 200-Inch Telescope at Workundated
  • The First Decade of Observation with the Hale 200-Inch Telescopeundated
  • The Palomar Observatoryundated
  • Research Narrativesundated
Box 1, Folder 20

"A Very High Altitude Survey of the Effect of Latitude Upon Cosmic-Ray Intensities and an Attempt at a General Interpretation of Cosmic-Ray Phenomena" by I. S. Bowen, R. A. Millikan and H. Victor Neher 1934

 

Series 3.  Biographical

Box 1, Folder 21

Biographical Material undated

Box 1, Folder 22

Honors undated

Box 1, Folder 23

New Stories undated

Box 1, Folder 24

Magazines, Press Releases undated

Box 1, Folder 25

Photos undated

Box 2, Folder 1

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Miscellaneous Topics in Physics ca. 1919-1921

Box 2, Folder 2

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Miscellaneous Topics in Physics ca. 1919-1921

Box 2, Folder 3

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Miscellaneous Topics in Physics ca. 1919-1921

Box 2, Folder 4

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Miscellaneous Topics in Physics ca. 1919-1921

Box 2, Folder 5

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Math ca. 1919-1921

Box 2, Folder 6

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Math 172 ca. 1919-1921

Box 2, Folder 7

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Physics Oct 1916-May 1917

Box 2, Folder 8

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Physics 75 ca. 1919-1921

Box 2, Folder 9

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Extension Division Correspondence. Study Department Elementary Physics ca. 1919-1921

Box 3, Folder 1

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Theoretical Physics. A. A. Michelson: Vol. 1 Mechanics and Wave Motion Oct-Dec 1919

Box 3, Folder 2

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Theoretical Physics. A. A. Michelson: Vol. 2 Mechanics and Wave Motion Oct-Dec 1919

Box 3, Folder 3

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Theoretical Physics. A. A. Michelson: Vol. 3 Mechanics and Wave Motion. Electro-Magnetic Theory of Light Oct-Dec 1919

Box 3, Folder 4

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Theoretical Physics. A. A. Michelson: Vol. 4 Mechanics and Wave Motion. Electro-Magnetic Theory of Light Jan-Mar 1920

Box 3, Folder 5

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Theoretical Physics. A. A. Michelson: Vol. 5 Electro-Magnetic Theory of Light Jan-Mar 1920

Box 3, Folder 6

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Theoretical Physics. A. A. Michelson: Volume 6 Electricity and Magnetism Mar-Jun 1920

Box 3, Folder 7

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Theoretical Physics. A. A. Michelson: Volume 7 Electricity and Magnetism ca. 1920-1921

Box 3, Folder 8

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Differential Equations ca. 1919-1921

Box 3, Folder 9

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Electron Theory Physics 53 ca. 1919-1921

Box 3, Folder 10

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Electricity Sound and Light ca. 1919-1921

Box 4, Folder 1

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Problems on Mechanics. Molecular Physics and Heat ca. 1919-1921

Box 4, Folder 2

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Analytic Mechanics ca. 1919-1921

Box 4, Folder 3

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Thermodynamics ca. 1919-1921

Box 4, Folder 4

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Thermodynamics ca. 1919-1921

Box 4, Folder 5

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: R. A. Millikan. Thermodynamics ca. 1919-1921

Box 4, Folder 6

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: A. C. Lunn. Vector Analysis and Applications, Vol. 1 Oct-Dec 1917

Box 4, Folder 7

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: A. C. Lunn. Vector Analysis and Applications, Vol. 2 Electro-magnetic Theory ca. 1919-1921

Box 4, Folder 8

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: A. C. Lunn. Vector Analysis and Appliations, Vol. 3 Electro-magnetic Theory ca. 1919-1921

Box 4, Folder 9

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Quanta Theory ca. 1921

Box 4, Folder 10

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: A. A. Michelson. Physics Optics Oct-Dec 1920

Box 4, Folder 11

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: A. A. Michelson. Physics Optics Oct-Dec 1920

Box 5, Folder 1

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: E. J. Moore and R. A. Millikan. Kinetic Theory of Gases Feb-Jun 1919

Box 5, Folder 2

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Physics 62 ca. 1919-1921

Box 5, Folder 3

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Chemistry Notes, Vol. 1 1919

Box 5, Folder 4

Notebooks from the University of Chicago: Chemistry Notes, Vol. 2 1919

Box 5, Folder 5

Reprints 1924-1950