University Library

Special Collections & Archives

Lick Observatory

Lick Observatory, aerial view from the east

Lick Observatory: aerial view from the east. Lick Observatory Records, Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz

 

Lick Observatory, located on Mount Hamilton in Santa Clara County, California, was completed in 1888 and remains an active research facility to this day. It is home to the Great Refractor, the largest refracting telescope in the world at the time of its completion in 1888. Known as the first residential mountaintop observatory, it continues to host students and astronomers from eight UC astronomy campuses and two national laboratories, as well as visitors from all over the world. Lick Observatory is part of the University of California Observatories system, administratively based at the UC Santa Cruz campus. 

Lick Observatory Records

36-inch refractor, the "Great Lick Refractor"Special Collections hosts the Lick Observatory Records, as well as the papers of several astronomers associated with the Observatory. These collections form the Archives of Lick Observatory, which includes records from about 1870 to the mid-twentieth century describing the founding construction and operation of the observatory and documenting all aspects of the early astronomical ambitions and achievements of its founders. View the finding aids for the following series of the Lick Observatory Records:

The Archives' extensive collection of historical photographs includes portraits of astronomers, telescope and lens makers and other prominent scientists, scenes of life at the observatory on Mount Hamilton, instruments, and documentation of expeditions. See many of these photographs in the Lick Observatory Records Digital Archive.

 

Image: 36-inch refractor, the "Great Lick Refractor", undated. Lick Observatory Records. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

Lick Observatory astronomer collections

 Ensenada Eclipse Expedition, September 1923: observers at eclipse camp, led by W. H. Wright. Seated, left to right: Ambrose Swasey, Mrs. Elizabeth Campbell, W.W. Campbell, Mrs. Edna Leib Wright, W.H. Wright, Joseph H. Moore. Standing: Joseph Pearce, Hamilton Jeffers, Z.A. Merfield, Robert Trumpler, Grace Leib (later Grace Hubble), Willem Luyten, William F. Meyer, Allen H. Babcock, E. Percival Lewis.

Our collections include the papers of many Lick astronomers as part of the Archives of Lick Observatory, including:

  • C.D. Shane and Mary Lea Shane, Lick Observatory director from 1945-1958, and key figure in development of the Lick Observatory archives, respectively
  • Julie Vinter Hansen, a Danish female astronomer who earned a Martin Kellogg fellowship to work at Lick Observatory studying double stars during World War II
  • Hamilton Moore Jeffers, known for his work in positional astronomy, his use of the Meridian Circle, and his contributions to the observatory’s Index Catalogue of Visual Double Stars
  • James E. Keeler, who was the first to observe the gap in Saturn's rings with the Great Refractor in early 1888, and the observatory's director from 1898 until his death in 1900
  • Russell Tracy Crawford, one of the first Lick fellowship awardees in 1897, and known for his work in theoretical astronomy and his observations and computations of comet orbits
  • Donald Osterbrock, Lick Observatory director, historian of science, and astronomer known for his study of the birth of stars and gaseous nebulae
  • William H. Wright, Lick Observatory director known for his work on radial velocity of stars in our galaxy
  • Richard Hawley Tucker, who oversaw the study of precise star positions using the Meridian Circle at Lick Observatory, and led observation expeditions in Argentina
  • Gerald E. Kron, known for advancing the study of stellar populations and interstellar reddening through measuring the photometry of variable stars, stars of extreme luminosity, and star clusters
  • Stanislaus Vasilevskis, who supervised Lick Observatory's proper-motion study, which involved taking multiple series of thousands of photographs of the northern sky and measuring the movements of more than 300,000 stars in the Milky Way galaxy
  • Nicholas U. Mayall, who while at Lick worked on a 20-year project with astronomers at Mount Wilson and Mount Palomar on the big-bang concept of the beginning of the universe, and also studied Pluto and galaxy movement
  • Sandra Faber, Astronomer and Professor Emerita of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz

 

Scrapbook page showing photographs of Russian expedition, 1914

 

 

 

Also available in our holdings are the papers of Elizabeth Ballard Campbell (wife of Lick Observatory director William Wallace Campbell) and family, which include Mrs. Campbell's diary entries of many of the Lick expeditions to study solar eclipses around the world. Photographs are also included of the expeditions to India (1898), Spain (1905), Flint Island (1908), Russia (1914), Washington (1918), and Australia (1922).

 

 

 

 

Image (top): Ensenada Eclipse Expedition, September 1923: observers at eclipse camp, led by W. H. Wright. Seated, left to right: Ambrose Swasey, Mrs. Elizabeth Campbell, W.W. Campbell, Mrs. Edna Leib Wright, W.H. Wright, Joseph H. Moore. Standing: Joseph Pearce, Hamilton Jeffers, Z.A. Merfield, Robert Trumpler, Grace Leib (later Grace Hubble), Willem Luyten, William F. Meyer, Allen H. Babcock, E. Percival Lewis. Lick Observatory Records. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

Image (bottom): Page from Elizabeth Ballard Campbell's photograph scrapbook of Russian eclipse expedition, circa 1914. Elizabeth Ballard Campbell family papers. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

History of Lick Observatory

Several publications made by and about Lick Observatory are cataloged separately in our holdings in Special Collections, and are available to request through Cruzcat. Here is a selection of notable materials:

 

For more information on the history of Lick Observatory, consult the Lick History series of the Lick Observatory Records collection.

Lick Observatory Library holdings

Special Collections holdings on the history of astronomy, including many pre-1850 editions, originated from the collection of the Lick Observatory Library on Mount Hamilton. Its Horoscope of Hanns Hannibal Hütter von Hütterhofen written by Johannes Kepler in the late 1500s is one unique example.

Other selections include: 

 

To view a selected list of published materials from the Lick Observatory Library now available in UCSC Special Collections, click this link.

 

 

Image: Lick Observatory, Main Building: interior view of the south end of the library. Lick Observatory Records, Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.