SAO Station Atop Mount Whitney

ID: SIA2008-3163

Creator: Unknown

Form/Genre: Photographic print

Date: 1909

Citation: Smithsonian Institution Annual Report for the Year 1909

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Atop Mount Whitney, California, 14,502 feet above sea level, the new Smithsonian Institution Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) stone and steel shelter completed for the use of scientific observers who desired to avail themselves of the unusually favorable atmospheric conditions on that summit. Observation equipment can be seen on the rocky terrain, and a man stands to the right of the shelter. Located within the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range of Sequoia National Park, Mt. Whitney is situated on the east side of the Great Western Divide.


  • Abbot, C. G (Charles Greeley) b. 1872
  • Langley, S. P (Samuel Pierpont) 1834-1906
  • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • Hodgkins Fund and Medal


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


Plate 3, Smithsonian Institution Annual Report for the Year 1909, opposite p.66. In 1909, using a grant from the Thomas George Hodgkins Fund, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory erected a shelter atop Mount Whitney, California, for astrophysical researchers. Smithsonian Secretary Samuel Pierpont Langley (1834-1906) had been at the site in 1881 and deemed it the best location in the country for meteorological and atmospheric observations. SAO Director (1906-1918) Charles Greeley Abbot, later fifth Secretary of the Smithsonian from 1928-1944, began observations at the site in 1909 and secured the construction of the stone building. Abbot worked with W. W. Campbell, director of the Lick Observatory, in completing the field station. Lick Observatory is part of the University of California Observatories of the University of California on Mt. Hamilton, California.

Contained within

Smithsonian Institution Annual Report for the Year 1909

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,



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  • Mountains
  • Observatories
  • Landscapes
  • Astrophysics
  • Architecture
  • Observatory equipment
  • Atmosphere
  • Observing stations
  • Mt. Whitney, California
  • Observing (field) stations
  • Astronomy
  • Meteorology
  • Buildings
  • Atmosphere--Research


  • Whitney, Mount (Calif.)
  • California


  • Photographic print
  • Landscape

ID Number


Physical description

Number of Images: 1; Color: Black and white; Size: 8 1/2w x 5 1/4 h; Type of Image: Landscape; Medium: Photographic print

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