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Cannon, Annie Jump, 1863-1941.  Papers of Annie Jump Cannon : an inventory

Harvard University Archives


Harvard University

©President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2014

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUGFP 125
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Cannon, Annie Jump, 1863-1941
Title: Papers of Annie Jump Cannon, 1863-1978
Quantity: 12 cubic feet (35 boxes and 4 folders)
Abstract: The collection documents both the personal and professional life of Annie Jump Cannon, the first astronomer to systematically classify the stars.  It contains diaries, autobiographical writings, correspondence, manuscripts, and photographs, relating to her life and career.

Inventory update

This document updated 2016 October 14.

Biography of Annie Jump Cannon

Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941) was the first astronomer to systematically classify the stars. She classified stars according to their stellar spectra using a procedure set up by Williamina Fleming. She is credited with classifying 400,000 stellar bodies and discovering more than 300 variable stars, 5 novae, and one spectroscopic binary.
After earning a B.S. at Wellesley College in 1884, she spent the next ten years both at home and travelling abroad. She returned to Wellesley in 1894 for graduate study in mathematics, physics, and astronomy. She became interested in stellar spectra while studying under Professor Sarah Whiting. In 1895, Cannon began her study of astronomy at Radcliffe College, joining the Harvard College Observatory staff in 1897.
She spent the rest of her life in the Harvard College Observatory. In 1897 she was a research assistant under Professor E. C. Pickering. She became Curator of Astronomical Photographs in 1911, and in 1940, just two years before her retirement, she was finally awarded the rank of professor as the William Cranch Bond Astronomer.
She published the nine-volume Henry Draper Catalog, containing information about 225,000 stars, and supplemented by the Henry Draper Extension. The catalog is still accepted as an international standard. She received many honors and awards, including a D.Sc. from Oxford University, making her the first woman to receive an honorary degree from that institution.

Scope and Contents of Collection

The papers of Annie Jump Cannon document both her personal and professional activities. They contain diaries, autobiographical writings, correspondence, manuscripts of writings and speeches, notes, photographs, and memorabilia (including scrapbooks, guest books, autograph books, clippings, diplomas, and ephemera). This collection also includes papers of Margaret Mayall about Annie Jump Cannon.

Access to Collection:

Open for research

Provenance and Custodial History Information:

Margaret Mayall, Cannon's assistant, inherited the correspondence, photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia of Annie Jump Cannon. Her involvement with this collection is therefore significant. Many of the folders were created by Mayall. These folders are identified by the abbreviation MM or MWM at the end of the folder title. In addition, Mayall contributed some of her own papers about Cannon. These papers are in the series, Correspondence and Other Papers About Annie Jump Cannon.
Acquisition Information Gift of Margaret Mayall.  Accession 11689, 17 May 1989 and accession 11723, 9 June 1989.

Related Materials

General folder about Annie Jump Cannon (HUGB-C 145.50) and Reprints of publications by Annie Jump Cannon (HUGB-C 145.72) in the Harvard University Archives. See also publications by and about Annie Jump Cannon cataloged in Harvard's on-line integrated library system.

List of Abbreviations

Abbreviations for People

Abbreviations for Societies

Abbreviations for Journals and Publications

Series Descriptions and folder lists

Selected Search Terms

These papers have been indexed in the International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics and Allied Sciences (ICOS) using the following terms.  Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.
Cannon, Annie Jump, 1863-1941.
Mayall, Margaret W. (Margaret Walton).
Mayall, Margaret W. (Margaret Walton), correspondent.
Harvard College Observatory.
Harvard University.
Harvard University Faculty.
Wellesley College -- Students.
Harvard University -- Astronomy.
Women astronomers -- Archives.
Glass plate negatives.
Lantern slides.
Photographic prints.