Biography and History

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.

Source: From the finding aid for C1004

  • Princeton Scientific Expeditions Collection. 1834-1995 (inclusive), 1834-1930 (bulk).

    Call Number: AC012

    The Princeton Scientific Expeditions Collection brings together original materials from the university archives that document the work of various scientific expeditions conducted under the aegis of Princeton University and its corporate predecessors. The connection with the university ranges from enterprises duly authorized in the trustees' minutes to expeditionary tasks that happen to have been carried out by members of the university faculty, often with little official notice of Princeton as an institution.

  • Lecture Notes Collection. 1772-1990 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC052

    This collection contains over 600 sets of student notes taken from lectures given by members of Princeton's faculty. They represent the broad range of courses taught at Princeton University (known as the College of New Jersey prior to 1896) and include the works of numerous famous faculty and students.

  • Stephen Alexander Collection. 1827-1882 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1004

    Consists primarily of correspondence of nineteenth-century American astronomer Stephen Alexander.