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Stephen Alexander Collection

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Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Alexander, Stephen, 1806-1883

Stephen Alexander was an astronomer, a mathematician, an author, and an educator, under whose influence astronomy first developed as a separate discipline at Princeton University. He graduated with honors from Union College at the age of eighteen. A cousin and also a brother-in-law of Joseph Henry, he collaborated with Henry in his scientific investigations at Albany Academy and accompanied him to Princeton in 1832. Appointed tutor in mathematics in 1833 and professor of astronomy in 1840, Alexander's association with Princeton continued for fifty years. He gave Princeton's first discrete course in astronomy and the College's first astronomy building, the Halsted Observatory, was built through his influence and from his plans. He studied the atmospheres of Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter, and led expeditions for the Coast and Geodetic Survey and the National Academy of Sciences to observe solar eclipses. He was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1859 and was chosen as one of the original fifty members of the National Academy of Sciences in 1862.

The collection chiefly consists of correspondence between Alexander and John S. Hart, Joseph Henry, Alexander Dallas Bache, Benjamin F. Joslin, Francis Baily, Charles Babbage, de Rothenburg, James Challis, John T. Nixon, Caleb Smith Green, and William S. Stryker. The collection also contains a journal of a sea voyage, dated June 28 to August 6, 1860; an 1839 certificate of membership to the American Philosophical Society, signed by Bache; a receipt of funds from Stephen W. Woodbridge, treasurer of the Nassau Hall Bible Society; and handwritten notes of an address before the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.

Some items were acquired from the estate of Ellen J. and Caroline M. Alexander; and some were purchased from dealers. Various AM.

Finding aid written by James Flannery on January 10, 2006. Folder Inventory added by Hilde Creager (2015) in 2012.

No appraisal information is available.

Publisher
Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Date
2006
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Collection Inventory

Letter from Charles Babbage, 1855 November 13. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

5 Letters from Alexander Dallas Bache (Superintendent of the US Coast Guard Survey), 1860. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

A report of the total eclipse of the sun on July 18, 1860 with this are observations of the eclipse as reported by Frederick P. Barnard, President of Columbia University (1864-1889), Augustus W. Smith, et al.

Physical Description

1 folder

Certificate of membership in the American Philosophical Society, signed by Alexander Dallas Bache (Secretary), 1839 October 18. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from Francis Baily, 1842 May 31. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from James Challis, 1856 February 4. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from De Rothenburg, 1856 October 10. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from Caleb Smith Green, 1882 July 15. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Caleb Smith was a Trustee at PU (1872-1891). Letter is in answer to Green's criticism of Alexander's financial expenditures, explaining in detail his personal and family expenses.

Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from John S. Hart, 1864 October 24. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from Joseph Henry, 1837 August 19. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from Joseph Henry discussing experiments, 1837 August 30. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from Joseph Henry discussing experiments (2), 1875 August 28. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letters from Benjamin Joslin, 1827-1831. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter to John T. Nixon, 1876 December 28. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Where Alexander writes frankly of his financial situation which compels him to sell his library and hopes that PU can purchase it for the Observatory.

Physical Description

1 folder

Letter to John T. Nixon regarding the Observatory and equipment needed, 1876 December 29. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter to William S. Stryker seeking to be put in communication with the NY Elevated Rail Road Co., 1878 July 11. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter to William S. Stryker thanking Stryker for his reply to the July 11th letter, 1878 July 16. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Thank you note from E.H. Weber, 1855 November 24. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Receipt of funds from Stephen B. Woodbridge who was treasurer of the Nassau Hall Bible Society, 1841 September 27. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Journal of a sea voyage by Alexander, 1860 June 28-August 6. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Address before the American Association for the Advancement of Science at its Thirteenth Meeting held in Springfield, MA, 1859 August. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Diplomas and Awards, 1839-1863. 1 box.
Physical Description

1 box

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