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Collection Overview

Alexander, Stephen, 1806-1883
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Stephen Alexander Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
2 boxes and 0.8 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-2


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

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

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.

Collection Creator Biography:

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.

Collection History


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

Custodial History

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.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

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

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

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:

Stephen Alexander Collection; 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 1-2