Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Spitzer, Lyman, 1914-1997
Lyman Spitzer Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1936-1997 (mostly 1960-1979)
72 boxes, 2 items, and 30.6 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-72


Princeton professor of astronomy (1947-1982), chairman of the Dept. of Astrophysical Sciences, and director of the Princeton University Observatory, Lyman Spitzer was also primarily responsible for founding the University's Plasma Physics Laboratory. His papers include design studies, technical plans and programs, various reports, correspondence, notes, and observations relating to his involvement in the development of the study of space astronomy at Princeton.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of selected papers of Spitzer. Included are design studies, technical plans and programs, various reports, correspondence, notes, and observations relating to Spitzer's involvement in the development of the study of space astronomy at Princeton. The papers primarily concern space telescopes and the design of the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO-3), the COPERNICUS satellite, which was launched by NASA in 1972. Also present are lectures, articles, and studies concerning interstellar matter, stellar atmospheres, ionized gases (plasma), and underwater sound research, as well as correspondence with fellow scientists, students, the American Astronomical Society, and other scientific societies. Included in additional papers is a letter, dated 1 November 1962, from John A. Wheeler, thanking Spitzer for his work on the first hydrogen bomb ten years earlier.

Collection Creator Biography:

Spitzer, Lyman, 1914-1997

Lyman Spitzer was born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1914. Educated at Phillips Academy, Yale University, and Cambridge, he received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1938. During World War II he participated in underwater warfare research. In 1947 he was appointed chairman of the Astrophysics Department at Princeton University, beginning a long and fruitful tenure. In 1952 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He was primarily responsible for the creation of the Plasma Physics Laboratory at Princeton University.

In his theoretical work, Professor Spitzer focused on the formation of stars from interstellar matter. His work in this area, with its concern with ionized gases, led him into the area of plasma physics. Spitzer was one of the first to point out that a magnetic field might be used to control plasma in a laboratory environment. In the area of observatory astronomy, Spitzer helped push forward the use of telescopes in satellites, and was an early advocate of the Hubble Telescope. He wrote several books, including Physics of Ionized Gases (1962), Dynamical Evolution of Globular Clusters (1987), and Searching Between the Stars (1982), a collection of lectures. He died in 1997.

Collection History


Gift of the author. Prepared by Matthew Robb '1994. Research files transferred from the Astronomy Department. Files transferred from the Office of the Provost. Files of correspondence transferred from Spitzer's old office.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Matthew Robb, Class of 1994 and Gena Bursan in 1991 and 2000. Finding aid written by Matthew Robb, Class of 1994 and Gena Bursan in 1991 and 2000.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Lyman Spitzer Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-72