Bart Bok papers

MS 403
Lagoon Nebula, 1978

Photograph of Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8) taken by Royal Observatory Edinburgh, 1978.

Collection area: History of Science

Collection dates: 1928-1983

About this collection

The Bart Bok papers (1928-1983) document his astronomical research, instruction and administration at Harvard University, the Australian National University and the University of Arizona and associated observatories. The collection includes materials on galactic structure and dynamics and interstellar matter, with particular emphasis on the following topics: The Milky Way, Dark Nebula, Star Formation, Spiral Structure of the Galaxy, Star Clouds of Magellan and Radio Astronomy. The material includes biographical information, personal communications and professional correspondence with renowned colleagues throughout the world, research notes and notebooks that include international observational data, professional and public lectures, instruction and subject files, as well as publications and photographs. Please note that dates listed reflect the subject content of the material.

Historical background

Bart Bok (1906-1983) was an accomplished astronomer, educator and administrator. Born in Hoorn, Holland in 1906, he studied at the University of Leiden and the University of Groningen, where he earned a Ph.D. in 1932. He married astronomer Priscilla Fairfield Bok, Ph.D. (1896-1975), in 1929, and had two children. He served as R.W. Willson Fellow in Astronomy at Harvard University from 1927-1929, Professor of Astronomy at this same institution from 1933-1957, and Associate Director of the Harvard Observatory from 1946-1952. Dr. Bok and his family lived in Canberra, Australia, from 1957-1966, where he served as the Director of the Mount Stromlo Observatory and Professor of Astronomy at the Australian National University. Dr. Bok was appointed as Director of the Steward Observatory and Head of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona from 1966-1970, where he served as Professor of Astronomy until his retirement in 1974. He was Professor Emeritus of Astronomy at the University of Arizona from 1974-1983.

Dr. Bok focused his research primarily on galactic structure and dynamics and stellar and interstellar matter. He was a recognized authority on The Milky Way and contributed significantly to galactic astronomy by emphasizing the importance and applications of radio astronomy. Particular areas of interest included the following: Dark Nebulae, Star Formation, Spiral Structure of the Galaxy, and Star Clouds of Magellan. His numerous publications on these subjects attest to a long and prolific research and writing career. Dr. Bok was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1939 and as an associate of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1971. In addition to his work as a research scientist and academic instructor, Dr. Bok was dedicated to educating the public, including youth audiences, through popular lectures in astronomy. He and his wife, Priscilla Fairfield Bok, also shared an interest in promoting careers in astronomy for women.

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