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S. W. Burnham and Edward Emerson Barnard photographs

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS P 723

Scope and Contents

Contains glass plate photographs taken by S. W. Burnham and Edward Emerson Barnard. There are also some plates for which the photographer is not known. Some of the glass plates are photographic negatives and others are transparencies. The subjects include telescopes, observatories, the moon, stars, and some photographs of a volcanic eruption. Dated approximately 1880-1919.


  • approximately 1880-1919


Conditions Governing Access

Access is restricted. Items kept in cold storage; access requires 24 hours advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to use material from this collection must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services at

Biographical / Historical

Edward Emerson Barnard was born December 16, 1857 in Nashville, Tennessee to Reuben and Elizabeth Jane Haywood Barnard. He had very little formal schooling before being sent to work in the photograph studio of John H. Van Stavoren. He discovered his first comet in 1881 and would go on to discover a total of 16 new coments and three recovered periodic comets throughout his career. Because of his comet discoveries, he received a fellowship to Vanderbilt University in 1883, and he stayed there until 1888 when he moved to the Lick Observatory as a staff astronomer. He made a number of discoveries during his time at Lick, including more comets and a satellite of Jupiter before his research shifted to the Milky Way, particularly dark spots he observed. He moved to the Yerkes Observatory at the University of Chicago in 1895, where he continued to study the Milky Way, taking more than 500 photographic plates in less than a year to document his discoveries. He received a number of awards throughout his career, including being awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1897. He also received an honorary doctorate from Vanderbilt University. He married Rhoda Calvert in 1881. Barnard died February 7, 1923 in Williams Bay, Wisconsin.

Biographical / Historical

S. W. Burnham was born Sherburne Wesley Burnham to Roswell O. and Marinda Foote Burnham in Thetford, Vermont on December 12, 1838. By 1866, he had moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he worked as a court reporter. He would continue to earn his living working in a court throughout his life, choosing to do his astronomical work in his off hours. Burnham became affiliated with various observatories, including the Dearborn Observatory, the Washburn Observatory at the University of Wisconsin, and the Lick Observatory. In 1897, he was appointed a professor of practical astronomy at the University of Chicago and began working at their new 40-in refractor telescope. His primary research concern was the discovery and cataloging of double stars--he discovered more than 1000 pairs throughout his career. Burnham never received any formal higher education, but he was awarded an honorary master of arts by Yale University in 1878 and an honorary doctorate by Northwestern University in 1915. In 1894, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. Burnham married Mary Cleland in 1868 and they would go on to have six children. He died March 11, 1921 in Chicago, Illinois.


1 box (0.5 linear ft.)

3 folders (0.2 linear ft.)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602.

Custodial History

These items were donated to Special Collections by Dick O. Hallsey.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donation; Dick O. Hallsey.


Photographs (Photograph Archives).

Related Materials

These items are part of the Photographs Archive.

Processing Information

Processed; Anne Ashton; November 2022. Updated finding aid for DACS compliance and accuracy. This includes identifying the glass plates as having been taken by S. W. Burnham and Edward Emerson Barnard and updating the title accordingly. Glass plates rehoused for preservation.

Register of S. W. Burnham and Edward Emerson Barnard photographs
Under Revision
Abe Austin
2012 March 21
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States