Agency history, 1890-

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  • Abbot, C. G (Charles Greeley) 1872-1973
  • Aldrich, Loyal Blaine 1884-1965
  • Field, George B. 1929-
  • Shapiro, Irwin I
  • Whipple, Fred L (Fred Lawrence) 1906-2004
  • Child, Robert C
  • Alcock, Charles
  • McCarthy, Michael C
  • Kewley, Lisa J


Agency History


  • This is an agency history. It does not describe actual records. The Smithsonian Institution Archives uses these histories as brief accounts of the origin, development, and functions of an office or administrative unit to set that unit in its historical context. To find information on record holdings, please double-click the highlighted field "Creator/Author", which will open on a brief view of relevant records.
  • Guide to the Smithsonian Archives, 1996
  • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, About, History, Directors,, accessed September 8, 2021.
  • Smithsonian Institution, Newsdesk, News Release, "Lisa Kewley Named Director of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian", March 14, 2022,, accessed March 16, 2022
  • The founder and first Director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (the Astrophysical Observatory until about 1955) was Samuel P. Langley, the Smithsonian's third Secretary, who created the office in 1890. The observatory was an early center for the study of astrophysics. In 1893 Robert C. Child was appointed an Assistant on the staff. From 1894 to 1896 he was Aid, Acting in Charge. Charles G. Abbot joined the staff as an Aid in 1895 and succeeded Child as Aid, Acting in Charge, in 1896. Langley died in 1906 and was succeeded by Abbot, 1907-1944. Loyal B. Aldrich served as Director, 1944-1955. In that year the Observatory moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to operate in conjunction with the Harvard College Observatory and was directed by Fred L. Whipple, 1955-1973. In 1973 the two observatories created the Center for Astrophysics, directed by George B. Field, 1973-1983, and by Irwin Shapiro, 1983-2004. Following Shapiro, Charles Alcock was Director from 2004-2022; with Michael C. McCarthy serving as interim director, February-June 2022. Lisa J. Kewley was named Director in March 2022 and will begin her tenure in July 2022.
  • For a history of the larger creating unit, refer to "Forms part of " above.

Repository Loc.

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520


  • 1890
  • 1890-


  • Observatories
  • Astrophysics


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00170

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