Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
Collection Title: Otto Struve papers,
Date (inclusive): 1837-1966
Date (bulk): (bulk 1953-1956)
Collection Number: BANC MSS 81/35 c
Struve, Otto, 1897-1963
Number of containers: 4 cartons
Linear feet: 5.0
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Abstract: Correspondence, most of it prior to Struve's service in the Dept. of Astronomy, University of California, biographical materials,
bibliographies of his writings, photographs, and some papers relating to various members of the Struve family. Also includes
materials concerning his interest and activity in astronomy while at U.C. Berkeley and the International Astronomical Union.
Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts
must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft
Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which
must also be obtained by the reader.
Otto Struve papers, BANC MSS 81/35 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Otto Struve (August 12, 1897-April 6, 1963) was an influential astronomer, professor, and observatory director who specialized
in stellar spectroscopy and the study of double stars. Struve's research achievements, administrative talents, and active
promotion of international cooperation greatly influenced the development astronomy in the 20th century.
Born in Kharkov, Russia (now the Ukraine) to Gustav Wilhelm Ludwig and Elisabeth (Grohmann) von Struve, Otto Struve was descended
from a family of noted astronomers. His great-grandfather, Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve was the director of the Imperial
Observatory at Pulkovo, Russia, and was a pioneer in the study of double stars. Otto Struve's grandfather, Otto Wilhelm Struve,
succeeded Friedrich as director of the Pulkovo Observatory. Otto's father was director of the observatory and dean of the
faculty at the University of Kharkov.
Struve attended high school in Kharkov (graduating in 1916), spent a year at the Michael Artillery School in Petrograd, and
received his diploma in 1919 from the University of Kharkov, where he specialized in astronomy. He served as a lieutenant
of field artillery in the Imperial Russian Army from 1916 to 1918, and in 1919-20 fought in the White Russian Army in the
Bolshevik Revolution, where he was wounded in action. When the opposition to the Communists collapsed, Struve moved to Turkey
as a refugee where he worked odd jobs until he was invited by Edwin Frost to come to the United States and join the staff
of the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory in 1921. The Yerkes Observatory boasted one of the largest telescopes in
the world at the time. Struve began his work at the University of Chicago as an assistant in stellar spectroscopy while concurrently
working for his Ph.D. degree, which he received in 1923. His thesis was entitled
A Study of Spectroscopic Binaries of Short Period. In May 1925 Struve married Mary Martha Lanning. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1927.
Upon attaining his doctorate he immediately began his teaching career at the University of Chicago, first as an instructor
in astronomy (1924-26), then an assistant professor (1926-30), associate professor (1930-32), and finally a full professor
(1932). In 1939 he founded and directed the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory (where a telescope is named for him).
In 1950 he moved to the University of California, Berkeley and became chairman of the Department of Astronomy and director
of the Leuschner Observatory. In 1959 he took a leave of absence to assume the first directorship of the National Radio Astronomy
Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia (where he also encouraged the first search for extraterrestrial intelligence). He
held this position until his retirement in 1962. While at Berkeley Struve initiated the establishment of the campus computer
center and was also largely responsible for the creation of the radio astronomy laboratory.
Among the many honors Struve received over the years were the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Isaac Newton medal of the Royal Astronomical
Society of London for 1944, the Order of the Crown, rank of Chevalier (Belgium), and the Catherine Bruce gold medal of the
Astronomical Society of the Pacific for 1948. In 1936 he was chosen to represent the American Astronomical Society in the
division of physical sciences of the National Research Council, and he served as chairman of the advisory committee on astronomy
to the Office of Naval Research. Struve also received honorary doctorates from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland
(1939), the University of Copenhagen (1946), and the University of Liege (1949).
Struve was president of the American Astronomical Society from 1946 to 1949. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences,
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, International Astronomical Union, the American
Physical Society, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Academy of Sciences of Denmark (honorary), the Societe Astronomique
de France, and the Astronomische Gesellschaft. He also was a corresponding member of the Societe Royale des Sciences de Liege,
of the Haarlem (Holland) Society of Sciences, and a foreign associate member of the Royal Astronomical Society of London.
Struve also belonged to the national honorary scientific fraternity, Sigma Xi. As a frequent contributor to astronomy periodicals
Struve published over 900 articles and several books and he was editor of the Astrophysical Journal from 1933 to 1947.
Scope and Content
Ukrainian born Otto Struve (1897-1963) was an influential astronomer, professor, and observatory director who specialized
in stellar spectroscopy, and the study of double stars. He directed the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory before
moving to the University of California, Berkeley in 1950 where he was named chair of the University's Astronomy Department.
The collection consists of correspondence reflecting Struve's various roles as observatory director, astronomy professor,
researcher, administrator and editor. Also included are biographical materials, bibliography, photographs, and papers relating
to various members of the Struve family. Notable correspondents contained in this collection include Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar,
Bart Jan Bok, Theodore Dunham, William W. Morgan, Gerard P. Kuiper, and J. Robert Oppenheimer.