Albert A. Michelson, 1852-1931.
Albert A. Michelson, 1852-1931.

Guide to the Albert A. Michelson Collection, 1803-1989

MS 347

A collection in the
Special Collections & Archives Department,
Nimitz Library

Naval Academy Seal

United States Naval Academy
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5029

Prepared by: Emily Close Hubbard
Funding Provided by USNA Class of 1956

May 2003

Descriptive Summary

The Albert A. Michelson Collection was transferred to the Nimitz Library by the Michelson Museum, Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, California on May 16, 1977.
63.25 linear feet.
Access to the Albert A. Michelson Collection is unrestricted.
The Albert A. Michelson Collection is the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information
Preferred Citation:
Albert A. Michelson Collection, MS 347
Special Collections & Archives Department
Nimitz Library
United States Naval Academy

Biographical Chronology

1852 Born in Strelno, Prussia on December 19th
1855 Parents moved to the United States
1869 Graduated, San Francisco High School
1873 Graduated, U.S. Naval Academy
1875-1879 Instructor, Physics and Chemistry, U.S. Naval Academy
1877 Married Margaret Heminway
First Velocity of Light Experiment, U.S. Naval Academy (measured at 300,140+/- 480km/second)
1878 Author, “Measurement of Velocity of Light”
1879 Velocity of Light Experiment, U.S. Naval Academy (measured at 299,910 +/- 50km/second)
1879-1880 Nautical Almanac Office, Washington, D. C.
1880-1882 Performed first ether-drift experiment for which he invents interferometer
1880 Student, University of Berlin, Germany
1881 Resigned commission in U.S. Navy
Student, University of Heidelberg, Germany
1882 Student, College de France & Ecole Polytechnique
Velocity of Light Experiment, Case Institute (measured at 299,853+/-60 km/second—accepted as standard for 45 years)
1883-1889 Professor of Physics, Case School of Applied Science, Cleveland, Ohio
1886 Honorary PhD, Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio
1887 Honorary PhD, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey
Vice President, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Invented the Michelson Interferometer
Michelson-Morley Ether Drift Experiment
1889 Awarded Count Rumford Medal
1889-1892 Professor and Head, Department of Physics, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts
1890-1891 Measured the diameter of a satellite of Jupiter at Harvard and Lick Observatories
1891-1919 Designed optical range finders for Bureau of Ordnance
1892 Member, Bureau International des Poids and Measures
1892-1929 Professor and Head, Department of Physics, University of Chicago
1893 Discovered a light wave in the red ray of cadmium, used as the standard length until 1960
1895-1900 Commander, 1st Battalion, Illinois Naval Reserve
1895 Begins ruling engine for diffraction gratings
1897 Honorary Member, Cambridge Philosophical Society, London
Member, International Committee on Weights and Measures (Represented the U.S. Government)
ca. 1898 Invention of the Harmonic Analyzer with S.W. Stratton
1898 Honorary Member, Societe Scientifique “Antonio Alzte,” Mexico
Divorced Margaret Heminway Michelson
Invented echelon spectroscope
1899 Honorary D.Sc, University of Cambridge, London
Lecturer, Lowell Institute, Boston, Massachusetts
Married Edna Stanton, Lake Forest, Illinois
1900 Awarded Grand Prix, Paris Exposition for the Harmonic Analyzer
1901 President, American Physical Society
Honorary LL.D., Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
1902 Member, American Philosophical Society
1902-1903 Member, Societie Francaise de Physique, Bureau International des Poids, et Measures
1903 Honorary Member, Sociedad Astronomica, Mexico
Author, Light Waves and their Uses
1904 Awarded, Matteucci Medal Society Italiana, Rome
1906 Honorary Fellow, Physical Society of London
Honorary LL.D., University of Pennsylvania
1907 Awarded Nobel Prize in Physics, Swedish Academy of Science
Awarded Copley Medal, Royal Society, London
1909 Honorary PhD, University of Leipzig, Germany
1910-1911 President, American Association for the Advancement of Science
1911 Honorary PhD, The Royal Frederik’s University, Kristiana
Exchange Professor University of Gottingen, Germany (Summer)
1912 Awarded, Elliott Cresson Medal, Franklin Institute
1913-1919 Determination of the Rigidity and Elasticity of the Earth
1916 Awarded, Draper Medal
1918-1922 Enrolled in United States Naval Reserve Force
1918-1919 Active duty with the Bureau of Ordnance as scientific consultant
1919 Promoted to rank of Commander, USNRF
1920 Measured the diameter of Alpha Orinis, Betelgeuse (the first measurement of a star)
Exchange Professor, University of Paris, France
Foreign Associate French Academy
1921 Honorary LL.D. McGill University, Montreal, Canada
1922 Honorary Member, Societe Francasie de Physique, France
1925 Awarded, La Medaglia Mattencci, Rome
1925-1927 Velocity of Light Experiment, Mount Wilson (Michelson’s most accurate reading of 299,796+/-4km/second)
“Distinguished Service” Professor of Physics, University of Chicago
1927 President, National Academy of Science
Author, Studies in Optics
1929 Elected Life Member, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Completed another ether-drift experiment at Mount Wilson, with Dayton Miller
1929-1933 Velocity of Light in a vacuum tube, Irvine Ranch (measured at 299,744+/-11km/second--completed by his associates F.G. Pease and F. Pearson after his death)
1930 Retired and moved to California
1931 Died, Pasadena, California, May 9th


Albert A. Michelson, USNA Class of 1873, was one of the giants in the scientific world of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first American scientist to win a Nobel Prize (for Physics, in 1907), he had an illustrious career that included teaching and research positions at the Naval Academy, the Case School of Applied Science, Clark University, and the University of Chicago. (For details about Michelson’s life, see the Chronology in this Guide.)

The Michelson Collection came to the Naval Academy in 1977, but for many years it lacked a finding aid and satisfactory organization. The plan to reorganize the collection and provide a guide to it emerged several years ago. Ms. Alice Creighton, then Head of the Library’s Special Collections & Archives Division, first proposed the plan, and the Naval Academy Alumni Association helped the Library establish contact with members of the Class of 1956. Captain James M. Van Metre, USN, Retired, and his classmates in the 1956 USNA graduating class generously provided the funding that transformed the plan into reality.

In 2002, Dr. Jennifer A. Bryan, the current Head of our Special Collections & Archives Division, developed the project plan and hired an archivist to reorganize the collection and prepare the finding aid. Emily Close Hubbard, a member of the staff at the Maryland Historical Society, came on board in August 2002 as the project archivist on a part-time basis. Over the ensuing months, Ms. Hubbard reorganized and described the collection of this pre-eminent American scientist and Naval Academy alumnus.

Richard Hume Werking
Librarian, Associate Dean for Information, & Professor of History
U.S. Naval Academy

Scope and Content Note

The Albert A. Michelson Collection contains correspondence, legal documents, publications, papers of Albert A. Michelson, Dorothy Michelson Livingston, and others, files and publications of the Michelson Museum, awards, honors and dedications, photographs, audio-visual materials, and artistic and musical works. All of these collection components were either created by Albert A. Michelson or relate directly to his life and career. The majority of the collection consists of photocopies of originals, though there are a number of significant original copies. This collection spans the years 1803-1989; however, the greater part of the collection falls in the range from 1861 to 1965.

Albert A. Michelson was a notable physicist and teacher who was the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1907. Michelson has been recognized as a pioneer in his scientific endeavors to measure the velocity of light, ether drift, length of the standard meter, angular diameters of stars, and rigidity of the earth. In addition to his experimental contributions to physics, spectroscopy, metrology, astronomy, and geophysics, Michelson invented instruments, such as the interferometer, the harmonic analyzer, the echelon spectroscope, and ruling engines, all of which continue to influence science today.

The collection documents Michelson’s long career, but also includes materials relevant to Michelson that were created before and after his lifetime. The majority of the collection was transferred to the Naval Academy by the Michelson Museum of the Naval Weapons Center, in China Lake, California, in May 1977. An additional collection of papers created by Dorothy Michelson Livingston, Michelson’s daughter, was donated by her in 1989 and incorporated into the existing collection. The curator of the Michelson Museum, D. Theodore McAllister, accumulated a varied and comprehensive collection of materials by and about Michelson. The strengths of the collection are therefore exhibited by not only the extensive documentation of Michelson’s career but also a variety of media, from manuscripts to films. The collection’s main weakness is a lack of original material.

The bulk of the collection is represented by the series containing different types of publications, the papers of Dorothy Michelson Livingston, the Michelson Museum files and photographs. These larger sections of the collection contribute to the comprehensive character of the entire collection, as do the works in the Michelson Publications series and the Correspondence series. The books and periodicals in the Michelson Publications series represent all of Michelson’s published works. Furthermore, the materials in the Publications series encompass most of the published pieces about Michelson. Most of the original material in the collection is within the Scientific Papers of Michelson series, which contains many of Michelson’s notebooks, manuscripts, and lab notes along with the Artistic and Musical Works series, which reveal Michelson’s more personal passion for art and music.

The materials within each series have been arranged chronologically. Items have been housed in acid-free folders and boxes, or, if appropriate, have remained unboxed. In addition, original materials in folders have been further encapsulated in Mylar sleeves or acid-free envelopes.

Related Collections

Additional information pertaining to Michelson's career and personal life can be found in Albert A. Michelson: A Virtual Tour of a Life in Science.

Series Descriptions

The Albert A. Michelson Collection consists of eleven major series:

1.) Correspondence 2.) Legal Documents 3.) Michelson Publications 4.) Publications 5.) Scientific Papers 6.) Dorothy Michelson Livingston Papers 7.) Michelson Museum 8.)Awards, Honors, and Dedications 9.) Photographs 10.) Audio-Visual Materials, and 11.) Art and Musical Works. The papers in this collection range from 1803 to 1989.

Each series is arranged chronologically. All undated material comes after dated material. Bound books are housed directly on the shelves, followed by Oversize (OS) boxes and unboxed OS materials.

Series I. CORRESPONDENCE, 1869-1974 and n.d. (Boxes 1-2, 14 folders)

This series contains personal and professional correspondence for Michelson and for others. The correspondence within this series is both incoming and outgoing. The series is divided into the two subseries entitled “Michelson” and “General.” The “Michelson” subseries is comprised of Michelson’s incoming and outgoing correspondence, while the “General” subseries contains incoming and outgoing correspondence for people other than Michelson, but who are often related to him or his work. The bulk of the correspondence falls between 1891 and 1931.

Subseries 1: Michelson, 1869-1931 (Box 1, Folders 1-9; Box 2, Folder 1)

Nearly all of the correspondence in this subseries is related to Michelson’s most significant experiments, such as the measurement of the velocity of light, the ether-drift experiments, stellar interferometry and measurement, and the instruments utilized in these trials. Other subjects include the money needed to conduct experiments, professional activities, and letters related to Michelson’s U.S. Naval Academy examination and his tour of duty in World War I. There are twenty-nine original letters that are mainly from professional scientific organizations to Michelson, recognizing him as a member at some level. Correspondents besides Michelson include Simon Newcomb, E.S. Holden, George E. Hale, Edwin B. Frost and Elmer A. Sperry. See also Series VI: Dorothy Michelson Livingston Papers, and Appendix C, a guide to this series.

Subseries 2: General, 1869-1974; n.d. (Box 2, Folders 2-5)

Correspondence among Michelson’s colleagues constitute the greater part of this subseries. The subjects of the earlier letters concern Michelson’s experiments, publications, instruments, such as the range-finder and the telemeter, and his failing health in 1928. Letters in the latter part of the chronological sequence document recollections of Michelson by his colleagues, friends and family, including his daughter Beatrice and his second wife Edna Stanton Michelson. Some of these letters are addressed to Michelson’s daughter Dorothy Michelson Livingston as a part of her research for the biography of her father, as well as a few letters related to Michelson, addressed to the Michelson Museum in China Lake, California. Other letters include a letter certifying Michelson’s naturalization as a U.S. citizen on September 14, 1880 and correspondence containing Swedish commemorative stamps for the 1907 Nobel laureates, one of whom is Michelson.

Series II. LEGAL DOCUMENTS, c.1850-1948 (Box 2, Folders 6-7)

Most of the materials in this series are photocopies of patents for various instruments created by Michelson. There are copies of two different patents for an optical telemeter (1891; 1919), two patents for a range-finder (1909; 1912), and a patent for an optical range finder (1919). Official birth records for Albert A. Michelson, the divorce papers of Michelson and his first wife Margaret Heminway Michelson, and the marriage papers of Michelson and his second wife Edna Stanton Michelson are included in this series as well. Other legal documents consist of the death certificates for Albert A. Michelson, for his father Samuel Michelson, and for his brother Charles Michelson. In addition, there is a certified copy of Albert A. Michelson’s last will and testament.

Series III. MICHELSON PUBLICATIONS, 1878-1965 (Boxes 3-8, 95 folders)

This series represents a complete compilation of Michelson’s published works. Published pieces in the form of books and periodical articles comprise the two subseries within this series. Many of Michelson’s most important experiments and discoveries are reflected in his publications. His work was so far-reaching and influential, that many of his books and articles were published in several countries. This series consequently contains versions of both his books and articles in languages such as French and German.

Subseries 1: Books, 1894-1964 (Located directly on shelves and in Box 3, Folders 1-8; Box 4, Folders 1-2)

Michelson published three books throughout his career: Determination Experimentale de la Valuer du Metre en Longueurs d’Ondes Lumineuses (1894), Light Waves and their Uses (1903), and Studies in Optics (1927). There are photocopies of Valuer du Metre, Lichten und Ihre Anwendungen, the 1911 German version of Light Waves and their Uses, as well as a 1912 and a 1934 English to Russian translation of the same. Additionally, there is an original hardcover copy of Light Waves and their Uses (1903), a hardcover copy of Study in Optics (1927), and a paperback copy of the 1962 edition of Study in Optics. In 1964, Honeywell, Inc. published Michelson’s notes on his first velocity of light experiment, entitled Velocity of Light.

Subseries 2: Periodical Articles, 1878-1970 and n.d. (Box 4, Folders 3-16; Boxes 5-7; Box 8, Folders 1-4)

Over 75 articles and lectures, both authored and co-authored by Michelson, were printed in scholarly journals, government publications, and the organs of national and international science organizations and associations. Some of the periodicals that prolifically published Michelson’s articles were the American Journal of Science and Arts, the American Association for the Advancement of Philosophical Magazine. The subjects of the articles, such as the velocity of light, the relative motion of the earth and the ether, the measurement of light waves, the broadening of spectral lines, theories about and sources of x-rays, spectroscopic methods, and the measurement of the rigidity of the earth, were often an explication of Michelson’s own experiments. Each folder in this subseries contains the first publication of an article as well as the subsequent publications of that same article, as well as any reference published about that particular article. In order to facilitate research, the folders are in chronological order according to the first date of publication, and the article title is written on each folder. If there was a publication year only, that article was placed at the front of the folder as the first article. The original materials in this subseries are in the form of the entire periodical in which an article was published.

Series IV. PUBLICATIONS, 1819-1985 and n.d. (Boxes 8-26, 121 Folders)

The various types of publications in this series have been separated into subseries, which consist of titled books, book excerpts, periodical articles, newspaper articles, miscel-laneous resource extracts, and other. This series is an extensive collection of materials written about Michelson and his career.

Subseries 1: Books, 1871-1979 (Located directly on shelves; Box 8, Folders 5-13)

Writers other than Michelson authored the books in this subseries. There are both original paperback and hardbound books, which are housed directly on the shelves, as well as photocopies of books, which are housed in boxes. The subjects of these publications, which are related directly to Michelson and his work, include light, optics, relativity, astronomy, spectroscopy, interferometry, the history of science, the history of the Navy Rocket Program and of the Naval Ordnance Test Station-Inyokern, Michelson, Albert Einstein, and Robert Millikan. The books are arranged in alphabetical order according to author. The following is a list of the books within this series with notes:

Barnett, Lincoln. The Universe and Dr. Einstein, forward by Albert Einstein. New York: Mentor, 1960. 128 pp. [paperback]

Born, Max, and Emil Wolf, with contributions by A.B. Bhatia, P.C. Clemmow, D. Gabor, A.R. Stokes, A.M. Taylor, P.A. Wayman and W.L. Wilcock. Principles of Optics. New York: Pergamon Press, 1959. 803 pp. [hardbound]

Bell, Robert V. Bell: Alexander Graham Bell and the Conquest of Solitude. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1973. 564 pp. [hardbound]

Burlingame, Roger. Scientists Behind the Inventors. New York: The Hearst Corporation, 1960. 128 pp. [paperback] (Donated by Regina A. Moory, Sept. 30, 1970)

Christesco, Stefan. La Lumiere relative et l’Experience de Michelson. Paris: F. Alcan, 1923. 49 pp. (x-642) [photocopy]

Christman, Albert B. Sailors, Scientists and Rockets: Origins of the Navy Rocket Program and of the Naval Ordnance Test Station, Inyokern. (History of the Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California, Vol. I). 303 pp. (Signed by the author to Nimitz Library) [hardbound]

Clark University. Clark University 1889-1899 Decennial Celebration. Worcester, Mass.: Printed for the University, 1899. 566 pp. (poor condition) [hardbound]

Clerke, Agnes M. A Popular History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century. Edinburgh: A. & C. Black, 1887, second edition. 502 pp. [hardbound]

Cochrane, Rexmond. Measures for Progress: A History of the National Bureau of Standards. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966. 703 pp. [hardbound]

Cohen, I. Bernard. Roemer and the First Determination of the Velocity of Light. New York: Burndy Library, 1944. 63 pp. (x-186) [photocopy]

Coleman, James A. Relativity for the Layman: A Simplified Account of the History, Theory, and Proofs of Relativity. New York: Signet, 1962. 127 pp. (Donated by Regina A. Moory, Sept. 30, 1970) [paperback]

Connes, Janine (Mme.). Spectroscopic Studies Using Fourier Transformations, translated by Czerna A. Flanagan, Research Dept. NOTS, NOTS Technical Publication 3157, January, 1963. 172 pp. [paperback]

Drude, Paul. The Theory of Optics, translated by C. Riborg Mann and Robert A. Millikan. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1920. 546 pp.

Dupree, A. Hunter. Science in the Federal Government: A History of Policies and Activities to 1940. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1957. 460 pp. [hardbound]

Dyson, J. Interferometry as a Measuring Tool. Brighton, England: The Machinery Publishing Co., 1970. 206 pp.

Froome, K.D., and L. Essen. The Velocity of Light and Radio Waves. London: Academic Press, 1969. 157 pp. [hardbound]

Gerrard-Gough, J.D. and Albert B. Christman. History of the Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California. Volume 2: The Grand Experiment at Inyokern. Washington: Naval History Division, 1978. xxi, 433 pp. [hardbound]

Grant, Robert. History of Physical Astronomy from the Earliest Ages to the Middle of the Nineteenth Century. Comprehending a Detailed Account of the Establishment of the Theory of Gravitation by Newton, and its Development by his Successors; with an Exposition of the Progress of Research on all the Other Subjects of Celestial Physics. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1852. 638 pp. (Donated by the Hale Observatories Library from the private collection of the late Ira S. Bowen, June 8, 1973.)

Green, George D.Sc. and John T. Lloyd, B.Sc., F. Inst. S. T. Kelvin’s Instruments and the Kelvin Museum. University of Glasgow, 1970. 68 pp. [paperback]

Haswell, Chas. H. Engineers’ and Mechanics’ Pocket-Book. 27th edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1871. 663 pp. (x-563) [leather binding]

Hughes, Thomas Parke. Elmer Sperry: Inventor and Engineer. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1971. 348 pp. [hardbound]

Jaffe, Bernard. Men of Science in America: The Story of American Science Told through the Lives and Achievements of Twenty Outstanding Men from Earliest Colonial Times to the Present Day. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1958. 715 pp. [hardbound]

Jaffe, Bernard. Michelson and the Speed of Light. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1960. 197 pp. (x-166) [paperback]

Jenkins, Francis A., and Harvey E. White. Fundamentals of Physical Optics. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1937. 457 pp. [hardbound]

Johnston, Marjorie, ed. The Cosmos of Arthur Holly Compton, with an introduction by Vannevar Bush. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967. 468 pp. and Index. [hardbound]

Lagemann, Robert T. Physical Science: Origins and Principles. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1963.

Lemon, Harvey B., and Fitz-Hugh Marshall. The Demonstration Laboratory of Physics at the University of Chicago. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1939. 127 pp. (x-118) [photocopy]

Lemon, Harvey Brace, Ph.D. From Galileo to the Nuclear Age: An Introduction to Physics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1946. 451 pp. [hardbound]

Levy, Harriet Lane. 920 O’Farrell Street. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1947. vi, 273 pp. (x-612) [photocopy]

Livingston, Dorothy Michelson. The Master of Light: A Biography of Albert A. Michelson. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973. 376 pp. [hardbound]

Lorentz, H.A. A. Einstein, H. Minkowski, and H. Weyl, with notes by A. Sommerfeld. The Principle of Relativity, translated by W. Perett and G.B.

Jeffrey. Dover Publications reprint, no date, of the Methun publication in 1923. 216 pp. [paperback]

Melchior, Paul. The Earth Tides. London: Pergamon Press, 1966. 455 pp. [hardbound]

Millikan, Robert A. The Autobiography of Robert A. Millikan. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1950. 311 pp. [hardbound]

Monk, George S. Light: Principles and Experiments, second edition. New York: Dover, 1963. 489 pp. [paperback]

Morello, Theodore, ed. The Hall Fame for Great Americans at New York University. Revised Edition. New York: New York University, 1962 and 1967. 210 pp.

Moulton, Forest Ray. Astronomy. New York: The Macmillian Co., 1931. 549 pp. (Donated by Capt. Lawrence Wainwright, USN.) [hardbound]

National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council. Drawing and Working Quartz Fibers, 3rd ed., by T.J. O’Donnell. Washington, D.C., NAS, 1968. Nuclear Science Series. (In ink “To Mr. D.T. McAlister/with my compliments/Thomas J. O’Donnell” on title page)(x-59)

Newcomb, Simon, Dir. Astronomical Papers Prepared for the Use of the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac. Vol. 1. Washington: Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, 1882. xiv, 487 pp.

Newton, Isaac (Sir). Opticks, forward by Albert Einstein, introduction by Sir Edmund Whittaker, preface by I. Bernard Cohen, table of contents prepared by Duane H.D. Roller. New York: Dover Publications, 1952. 406 pp. [paperback]

Picard, Emile. Les Theories de l’Optique et l’Oeuvre d’Hippolyte Fizeau. Paris: Gauthier-Villars, [n.d.]. 64 pp. (x-569)

Picone, Mauro. L’Accademia Nazionale Dei Lincei, seconda edizione. Tipografia del Senato, Roma, 1966. 67 pp. [paperback]

Preston, Thomas. The Theory of Light. London: Macmillan, 1895, second edition. 574 pp. [hardbound]

Preston, Thomas. The Theory of Light, edited by William Edward Thrift. London: Macmillan, 1912, fourth edition. London: Macmillan, 1912. 618 pp. [hardbound]

Reingold, Nathan, ed. Science in Nineteenth-Century America: A Documentary History. New York: Hill and Wang, 1964. [hardbound]

Roberts, Elliot. Deep Sea, High Mountain. Boston, Toronto: Little, Brown & Co., 1961. 275 pp. [hardbound]

Russell, Bertrand. The ABC of Relativity. New York: Signet, 1962. 144 pp. [paperback]

Sanders, J.H. Velocity of Light. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1965. 144 pp. [paperback]

Sheldon, H. Horton, Ph.D. Space, Time, and Relativity: The Einstein Universe. New York: The University Society, 1932. 104 pp. (Donated by Kenneth H. Robinson, August 4, 1971) [hardbound]

Smith, Grant H. The History of Comstock Lode: 1850-1920, The University of Nevada Bulletin, Vol. XXXVII, No. 3 (July 1, 1943), Published by the Nevada Bureau of Mines in reprint, 1970. 305 pp. [paperback]

Steel, W.H. Interferometry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967. 271 pp. [hardbound]

Steinmatz, Charles Proteus. Four Lectures on Relativity and Space. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1923. 126 pp. [photocopy]

Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, the Nobel Committees, Stockholm. List of the Nobel Prize Winners. Uppsala, SRAS, 1964. 10 pp.; also excerpts from the Code of Statutes of the Nobel Foundation, 1 p.; and form for “Nomination for the Award of the 1969 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.” (x-564)

Swenson, Jr., Loyd S. The Ethereal Aether: A History of the Michelson-Morley Aether-Drift Experiments, 1880-1930. Dissertation, The Claremont Graduate School, 1962. 430 pp. [paperback of microfilm photocopies]

Swenson, Jr., Loyd S. The Ethereal Aether: A History of the Michelson-Morley- Miller Aether-Drift Experiments, 1880-1930. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972. 361 pp. [hardbound]

Swenson, Jr., Loyd S. Genesis of Relativity: Einstein in Context. New York: Burt Franklin & Co., 1979. xv, 266 pp. [hardbound]

U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. A Manual of the Harmonic Analysis and Prediction of Tides, by Paul Schureman. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1924. (Special Publication No. 98) v, 416 pp. (x-547)

Van Auken, Wilbur R. Notes on a Half Century of United States Naval Ordnance 1880-1930. Washington, D.C.: George Banta Publishing Co., 1939. vii, 56 pp. (x-505)

Whewell, William. History of the Inductive Sciences, from the Earliest to the Present Time, Vol. I. New York: Appleton and Co., 1890, third edition. 566 pp. (Donated by the Hale Observatory from the private collections of the late Ira S. Bowen, June 8, 1973) [hardbound]

Williams, W. Ewart. Applications of Interferometry with a preface by O.W. Richardson. London: Methuen & Co., 1961. 104 pp. [hardbound]

Williams, Howard R. Edward Williams Morley: His Influence on Science in America. Easton, Pa.: Chemical Education Publishing Co., 1957. 282 pp. [hardbound]

Wilson, John H. Albert A. Michelson: America’s First Prize Physicist. New York: Julian Messner, 1960. 190 pp. (Donated by Nora Turner lent to Roland Burks, January 17, 1973) [hardbound]

Wood, Richard Coke. Murphys Queen of the Sierra. Angels Camp, California: Calaveras Californian, 1948. [viii], 88 pp. (x-373)

Wood, Robert W. Physical Optics. New York: Macmillan, 1914. 705 pp. [hardbound]

Wood, Robert W. Physical Optics, third edition. New York: Macmillan Co., 1934. 846 pp. [hardbound]

Wright, Helen. Explorer of the Universe: A Biography of the George Ellery Hale with an introduction by Dr. Ira S. Bowen. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1966. 480 pp. [hardbound]

Wright, Helen, Joan N. Warnow, and Charles Weiner, eds. The Legacy of George Ellery Hale: Evolution of Astronomy and Scientific Institutions, in Pictures and Documents. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1972. 293 pp. [hardbound]

Subseries 2: Book Excerpts, 1887-1976 and n.d. (Boxes 9-12)

Materials in this subseries are excerpts from books, and are not copies of the books in their entirety. All of the excerpts are in the form of photocopies and concern the topics of Michelson’s life and career, and related subjects. There are excerpts from the biographies of some of Michelson’s contemporaries, like Brashear, Compton, Bell, Sperry, Morley, and Einstein in particular mention Michelson and his career. The history of the U.S. Naval Academy, naval history in the context of Michelson’s tour of duty in World War I, information on the Nobel Prize and the Nobel Foundation, and scientific professional organizations are some of the more common topics covered in these excerpts. There are also subjects such as astronomy, astrophysics, light, optics, interferometry, physics, relativity, mechanics, mathematics, and computers, that are more directly related to the scientific field of physics.

Subseries 3: Periodical Articles, 1819-1976 (Boxes 13-23; Box 24, Folders 1-5)

Periodical articles written by those other than Michelson constitute the largest part of the collection. There are pieces published in different types of periodicals such as proceedings, annual reports, bulletins, minutes, though the majority of the articles in this subseries were published in scholarly journals. A number of these journals focus on certain areas of science, such as physics, optics, and astrophysics, while other journals represent the publications of organizations committed to these fields, like the Journal of the Optical Society of America and Publications of the American Astronomical Society. The articles throughout the subseries cover a range of topics, which relate to Michelson’s life and his research. More specifically, the articles include biographical information about Michelson, discussions on his instruments and experiments, and particular aspects of science on which Michelson concentrated most. Many of the authors were Michelson’s predecessors and contemporaries, such as Fizeau, Foucault, Picard, Cornu, Hale, Rowland, Newcomb, Millikan, Gale, Miller, Pease, Shankland, and O’Donnell. The original materials in this subseries are in the form of the entire periodical in which an article was published.

Subseries 4: Newspaper Articles, 1868-1973 (Box 24, Folders 6-8; OS Box 5)

This subseries covers almost a century of published articles in major local and national newspapers. Michelson is the subject of nearly all of these articles, which detail milestones in his career, his experiments, scientific topics he studied, his death, as well as lectures about his work and honors awarded to him. About one third of the articles are original copies, and the remaining articles are photocopies.

Subseries 5: Miscellaneous Resource Excerpts, 1861-1974 and n.d. (Box 25; Box 26, Folders 1-3)

The materials in this subseries are excerpts from various resources, such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, college registers, and yearbooks. Since these excerpts are reference sources in nature and are not necessarily periodically published, they were placed in a distinct subseries of this series. The excerpts, all of which are photocopies, convey essential facts about Michelson’s life and accomplishments. Some of the titles of these references include U.S. Naval Academy Registers, the Clark University Registers, Encyclopaedia Brittanica, the Dictionary of American Biography, and A Dictionary of Applied Physics.

Subseries 6: Other, 1901-1985 and n.d. (Box 26, Folders 4-6)

This is a small subseries that contains other types of publications, such as pamphlets, and therefore could not be placed in the other subsets of this series. Most of the materials recount Michelson’s career, and consist of original copies published by the U.S. Naval Ordnance Test Station and other scientific institutions.

Series V. SCIENTIFIC PAPERS, 1868-1973 and n.d. (Boxes 26-33, 35 folders)

There are a variety of items in this collection that constitute unpublished materials which have been placed together under this series. The papers are arranged into two subseries titled “Michelson” and “General.” The Michelson subseries includes scientific notes and other handwritten materials created by Michelson. Most of the materials are originals in the Michelson subseries, which enhance the entire collection. The General subseries contains similar scientific materials, created by people other than Michelson, which relate to Michelson’s experiments, lectures, and life.

Subseries 1: Michelson, 1880-1926; n.d. (Box 27, Folder 7; Box 28, Folders 1-5; OS Box 5)

This subseries contains Michelson’s own notebooks, notes, and manuscripts, or drafts that would later become published pieces. His notebooks primarily contain data records, lecture notes, sketches, and diagrams directly related to his research and experiments. They also contain more personal information such as addresses, travel notes, to-do lists, and accounts. Since many of the materials are unpublished notes and notebooks, about one third of the subseries can not be dated.

Subseries 2: General, 1868-1973; n.d. (Box 28, Folder 6; Boxes 29-33; OS Box 5)

Although the papers in this subseries were created by a number of people besides Michelson, Michelson’s long time assistant F.G. Pease created the majority of them. Pease compiled survey notebooks and packets containing data cards, sketches, manuscripts and notes on various experiments. The most significant papers in this subseries are perhaps the notebooks containing the calculations and sketches from the velocity of light experiment completed by F.G. Pease and F. Pearson after Michelson’s death. Michelson started this experiment, assisted by Pease and Pearson, shortly before he died. There are also observations records, notes, and sketches created by other scientists such as Newcomb and Holcombe, as well as materials such as speeches, student notebooks from Michelson’s classes, research papers and typewritten manuscripts. In addition, this subseries contains biographical and genealogical information about Michelson, a packet of “Michelsonia,” and an interview transcript of R.S. Shankland.

Series VI. DOROTHY MICHELSON LIVINGSTON PAPERS, 1803-1989 and n.d. (Boxes 34-46)

The papers in this series were donated as a collection to the Nimitz Library of the U.S. Naval Academy by Dorothy Michelson Livingston on December 11, 1989, and subsequently added to the larger collection transferred by the Michelson Museum. Livingston largely compiled her own correspondence, articles, biographical information, booklets, interviews, speeches, photographs, an alphabetical compilation of Michelson’s correspondence, as well as her own notes, related to the life and career of her father. These research materials were the basis of her biography of Michelson, titled Master of Light: A Biography of Albert A. Michelson, published in 1973. The files are in the sameorder arranged by Livingston, and the materials within each of the original folders have been grouped together in new folders. Moreover, the original folder titles have also been retained, even if some are incomplete. The date range written on each folder includes both the publication dates of items in the folder as well as creation dates the other materials. See also the guide to these papers in Appendix C: Papers and Research Materials on the Life and Career of Albert Abraham Michelson (1852-1931). There are 72 file topics in this series that correspond directly with this appendix, and the file number for each topic is written on the top right corner of each folder within this series in order to facilitate research.

Series VII. MICHELSON MUSEUM, n.d. (Boxes 47-67; OS Boxes 4, 6, 7)

Materials in this series are both the files of the long-time curator, D. Theodore McAllister, and three pamphlets about the Michelson Museum and Michelson himself published by the museum. Therefore this series is divided into two subseries titled “Curator’s Files” and “Publications.” For the purposes of continuity and maintaining original order, the “Curator’s Files” have been kept as McAllister had arranged them. The contents of this series were part of the transferred materials from the Michelson Museum to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1977.

Subseries 1: Curator’s Files, (Boxes 47-67; OS Boxes 4, 6, 7)

D. T. McAllister became the first official curator of the Michelson Museum circa 1963, at what is now the Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, California. The Museum was eventually born out of vast interest in the memorabilia and objects displayed as a part of the Michelson Laboratory dedication in May 1948. The purpose of the Museum was to assist scholars, collaborate with exhibits at other institutions, develop the collection, and recognize the achievements of Michelson as an accomplished U.S. Naval Academy graduate and Naval officer. It was decided in 1973 to discontinue the Museum operations and transfer the collection to the U.S. Naval Academy. The transfer officially took place on May 16, 1977.

The files of the curator comprise one of the largest sections of the collection and consist of materials that McAllister collected during his tenure. All of the materials are related to his position as curator and his efforts to develop the collection. Included in this subseries are papers created and collected by McAllister, such as correspondence, forms, notes, donor information, exhibit information, periodicals, library circulation cards, journal articles, newspaper clippings, photographs, brochures, and receipts. About half of these files were further categorized by McAllister into Correspondence, Hall of Fame of Great Americans, Michelson Family, Optical Society of America (OSA) Exhibit, and People Related to Michelson and the Michelson Museum.

The remaining files in this subseries are simply titled “Curator’s Files,” since McAllister did not, for the most part, indicate any specific topics for these folders. Due to the nature and arrangement of this material, there is currently neither an imposed order, except for the subset titled “Exhibit Materials,” nor a guide to these files. This subdivision was created for the abundant exhibit layout sheets, cards, mounting boards, and photograph and document reproductions that were made particularly for the museum exhibits. Many of these items are housed in Oversize (OS) boxes or are unboxed. D.T. McAllister developed an inclusive collection by and about Michelson. McAllister explains the methodology he used for the growth of this collection in Appendix D: Collecting Archives for the History of Science, an article that he wrote, published in the The American Archivist in October 1969.

Subseries 2: Publications, 1966-1970 (Box 64, Folders 4-6)

The three pamphlets published by the Michelson Museum are informative references about Michelson and the museum itself. The following is a list of these publications:

McAllister, D.T., ed. Albert Abraham Michelson: The Man who Taught a World to Measure, 1970.

McAllister, D.T., ed. The Albert A. Michelson Nobel Prize and Lecture, 1966.

Plum, William. The Michelson Museum. Reprinted from the American Journal of Physics, Vol. 22, No.4 (April 1954)

Series VIII. AWARDS, HONORS, AND DEDICATIONS, 1893-1961 (Box 67, Folders 7-9; OS Box 5; Unboxed)

This series is comprised of materials that represent Michelson’s many honors and recognitions that he received both throughout his life and posthumously. Michelson received 16 medals, including the Nobel medal in 1907, at least 10 honorary degrees, over 25 memberships to scientific societies, and numerous other awards and honors, including a bust at the New York University Hall of Fame for Great Americans. A number of these papers certify Michelson’s many honorary memberships to international professional organizations, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science. There are also ephemera items such as programs, commemorative leaflets, and addresses related to the dedications of the Copley medal, the Michelson Laboratory, and the Albert Abraham Elementary School. Many of the materials in this series are original.

Series IX. PHOTOGRAPHS, (Boxes 68-94; OS Boxes 1-3)

This is the largest series of the collection and contains mostly photographic copies of Michelson, people and places related to his upbringing and personal life, people with whom he worked, his instruments, and the laboratories and observatories where he worked, and other related topics. In addition to Oversized (OS) boxes, there are two framed items. See also the card catalog in the workroom of the Special Collections & Archives Division for a detailed inventory of this series.

Series X. AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS, c.1917-1973; n.d. (Unboxed)

There are filmstrips, film reels, cassette tapes, and an empty mailing box for film transport in this series. The six filmstrips contain 1917 earth-tide photographic records. One cassette tape is titled “Unveiling of the Bust of Albert Abraham Michelson at the Hall of Fame at NYU” with an additional note that states “21 Oct. 1973 copied from tapes 1A82A borrowed from Freda T. Hliddal curator and copied by Roland Burks for the Michelson Museum May 1974 dtm.” The other cassette tape is entitled “Men and Ideas: Michelson; Individualized Science Level A” produced by the University of Pittsburgh in 1972, and there is a film reel housed in a red plastic case by the same name. In terms of films there is one black and white positive print containing “(Sound) U of C Speech, (Silent) Garden) and check of Equipment-Speed of Light,” one duplicate negative, two black and white prints, and four color prints of a film titled “Three Glimpses of Albert Abraham Michelson at the Peak of his Career” with a note stating “Documentary Film TMP 197, 16mm, sound, 8 min. Michelson Museum U.S. Naval Ordnance Test Station China Lake, California,” and one original, one duplicate negative, and two copy prints (Copy Print No.5 and No.6) of the film with the following writing; “Albert Abraham Michelson with some of his grandchildren and other members of the family-from an intermediate negative of the original motion picture footage taken in 1929 by his daughter Madeline Michelson Mueller and donated by her letter of 7 April 1973 to the Michelson Museum Naval Weapons Center China Lake, California.” This film has also been restored and placed onto a DVD, which is available in the Audio-Visual Collection of the Library.

Series XI. ARTISTIC AND MUSICAL WORKS, 1926-1930; n.d. (OS Box 5)

Michelson’s interest in art and music began during his undergraduate years at the Naval Academy. By the time he graduated, Michelson excelled not only in optics but also in both drawing and at the violin. Throughout his career, his interest in art continued, as he began to see a correlation among optics, light, color, and painting. Michelson’s appreciation of light and art can be seen through his watercolor paintings. There are three original watercolor paintings in this series completed by Michelson, one of which is signed by him, in addition to one original pencil sketch. Two of the watercolors are depictions of the Altadena, California landscape, while the other is of a diffraction pattern created by an aperture and a telescope. There is also a copy of a one page music score composed by Michelson entitled “Grandpa’s Lullaby.”

Appendix A: X-Series Abstracts

The previous curator of the Michelson Museum assigned a number to most of the individual items in the collection, which he collectively titled the “X-Series.” He then created abstracts for the material in this “X-Series.” This appendix is the complete list of abstracts for the “X-series.” This appendix, however, does not represent the entirety of the collection.

The abstracts are in numerical order and contain a short summary of the contents of the item. There is also information on the provenance included in this appendix. It appears that the materials are listed in order of acquisition. For example, the number x-1 was the first item acquired for the collection. In order to facilitate research, a cross-reference was created, Appendix B, which reflects the chronological order of the collection within each series.

Appendix B: Cross-Reference List of X-Numbers within Each Series

Original materials are noted as such (orig) in parentheses following the x-number and the phrase “copy neg” denotes that there is a copy negative of that item. The letters “OS” indicate that the item is housed with the oversized material. There are also items included in this list that were once assigned a Case number in lieu of an x-number. An example of a Case number is “Case 5, Item 22(a).” Some items assigned Case numbers are also abstracted in Appendix A. If the collection item was never assigned an x-number or a Case number, then these items are not listed in Appendix B but can be found within the collection.

Appendix C: “Listing of Dorothy Michelson Livingston Papers and Research Materials on the Life and Career of Albert Abraham Michelson (1852-1931)”

Dorothy Michelson Livingston, Michelson’s daughter, wrote a biography of her father titled Master of Light: A Biography of Albert A. Michelson, which was published by Scribner’s in 1973. Series VI: Dorothy Michelson Livingston Papers is a compilation of Livingston’s notes and correspondence related to the research for this biography, which she donated to the Academy along with this appendix in 1989. The appendix is a guide to the papers in Series VI, which follow the order of the appendix. There are 72 file topics in this series that correspond directly with this appendix, and the file number for each topic is written on the top right corner of folder within this series.

Appendix D: “Collecting Archives for the History of Science,” by D. Theodore McAllister. Reprinted from The American Archivist, Volume 32, Number 4, October 1969.

This article was written by the former curator of the Michelson Museum at the Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, California. McAllister explains the methods and reasons for the way in which he developed the Michelson collection for the Museum. This appendix is not only provides a foundation for the nature of the collection, but also complements the Curator’s Files subseries within the series of the Michelson Museum.

Appendix E: “Albert A. Michelson, Dean of American Optics–Life, Contributions to Science, and Influence on Modern-Day Physics” by Jean M. Bennett, D. Theodore McAllister, and Georgia M. Cabe. Reprinted from Applied Optics, Volume 12, October 1973.

This article is a concise source about Michelson and his career. The authors go into some detail with respect to Michelson’s contributions in specific areas of science. It is therefore a helpful resource for both the general researcher and scientist alike.

Arrangement Note

Folder titles equate to Series titles in this collection, with only the first folder of each series listed in the container list. X-Series accession forms are housed in the first folder of each series.

Container List

Box Folder  
1 1 Correspondence-Michelson
2 2 Correspondence-General
2 6 Legal Documents
3 1 Michelson Publications-Books
4 3 Michelson Publications-Periodical Articles
8 5 Publications-Books
9 1 Publications-Book Excerpts
13 1 Publications-Periodical Articles
24 6 Publications-Newspaper Articles
25 1 Publications-Miscellaneous Resource Excerpts
26 4 Publications-Other
26 7 Scientific Papers-Michelson
28 6 Scientific Papers-General
34 1 Dorothy Michelson Livingston Papers
47 1 Michelson Museum-Curator’s Files
67 4 Michelson Museum-Publications
67 7 Awards, Honors, and Dedications
68 Photographs: A-C
69 Photographs: D-K
70 Photographs: M-Michelson, Albert Abraham
71 Photographs: Michelson, Albert Abraham
72 Photographs: Michelson, Albert Abraham [MAA]-MAA-Experiments-Ether Drift
73 Photographs: Exp.-Ether Drift-Clearing, Ill.-MAA-Exp.-Metallic Coloring in Birds
74 Photographs: MAA-Exp.-Stellar Interferometry-MAA-Exp.-Velocity of Light-Irvine
75 Photographs: MAA-Exp.-Velocity of Light-Models-MAA-Instruments
76 Photographs: MAA-Instruments-MAA-Instruments-Etalon
77 Photographs: MAA-Ins.-Ether Drift Experiment-Models-MAA-Ins.-Interferometer-Accessories
78 Photographs: MAA-Instruments-Interferometer, Angular-MAA-Instruments-Microscope Stand
79 Photographs: MAA-Instruments-Mirror
80 Photographs: MAA-Instruments-Mirror-MAA-Instruments-Ruling Engine
81 Photographs: MAA-Ins.-Ruling Engine-Accessories-MAA-Ins.-Ruling Engine-Stopping Mech.
82 Photographs: MAA-Instruments-Slit-MAA-Instruments-Tuning Fork
83 Photographs: MAA-Ins.-Velocity of Light Display-MAA-Medals-Matteucci
84 Photographs: MAA-Medals-Michelson Laboratory Ded.-MAA Medals and Nobel Prize Diploma Disp.
85 Photographs: MAA-Nobel Prize Diploma-Michelson Laboratory
86 Photographs: Michelson Laboratory-Dedication
87 Photographs: Michelson Laboratory-Dedication
88 Photographs: Michelson Laboratory-Dedication
89 Photographs: Michelson Laboratory-Dedication-Michelson Museum
90 Photographs: Michelson Museum
91 Photographs: Mount Wilson Solar Observatory-O’Donnell, Thomas Joseph, 1892-1974
92 Photographs: Optical Society of America Anniversary-Thompson, Louis Ten Eyck, 1891-1978
93 Photographs: Tide Predictors-Zarem, Abe Mordecai, 1917-
94 Photographs: Assorted photographs
1-3[OS] Photographs
4[OS] Michelson Museum-Curator’s Files
5[OS] Michelson Publications-Periodical Articles
5[OS] Publications-Newspaper Articles
5[OS] Scientific Papers-Michelson
5[OS] Scientific Papers-General
5[OS] Awards, Honors, and Dedications
5[OS] Artistic and Musical Works
6-7[OS] Michelson Museum-Curator’s Files
Unboxed Michelson Publications-Books
Unboxed Publications-Books
Unboxed Awards, Honors, and Dedications
Unboxed Audio-Visual Materials