Benjamin Boss

The following is an autobiography of Benjamin Boss written May 25, 1949. The manuscript can be found in the Papers of Benjamin Boss, Box #3, Folder #10.

Professor Benjamin Boss, Director of the Dudley Observatory, was born January 9, 1880, the son of Professor Lewis Boss and Helen M. Boss. His schooling was accomplished at the Albany Academy and at Harvard University where he graduated in 1901. After working at the Dudley Observatory until 1905, he spent a year at the U. S. Naval Observatory at Washington and then became Director of the U.S. Naval Observatory at Tutuila, Samoa from 1906-1908. While at Samoa, he journeyed to Flint Island to observe the total solar eclipse of 1908. His next position was that of secretary of the Department of Meridian Astrometry of the Carnegie Institution of Washington which he held from 1908-12, then becoming acting director until 1915 and director from 1915-1938. He has been Director of the Dudley Observatory since 1915. In 1912 he became editor of the Astronomical Journal, the oldest technical astronomical periodical in the U.S., turning it over to the American Astronomical Society in 1941.

Professor Boss was principally interested in positional astronomy specializing in the positions and motions of the stars. The results of his research are published in a number of papers in the Astronomical Journal, dealing with a variety of problems. An early discovery was the presence of the Perseus Cluster, a group of stars moving in unison through space. In a paper discussing the general trend of motion of the stars he showed that they exhibit a preference to move toward points progressively scattered along a certain region of the Milky Way according to progression in their development, as exhibited by changes in their spectral type. A similar treatment of the direction toward which the Sun is moving, as derived from groupings of stars according to their state of development, showed a similar scattering long a line paralleling the Milky Way in the region of the constellations Hercules and Lyra. Treating the relationship between the candle power of the stars and their motions, arranged according to their state of development, it appeared that there is an increase in the speed of the star with increase in candle power and that concentration of the stars toward the Milky Way decreases with decrease in candle power and with progression in development. Professor Boss investigating the space motions of stars discovered that the larger motions tend to fan out toward one hemisphere of the sky. Another paper presented evidence in favor of the presence of obscuring matter in the Hyades, Praesepe and Pleidaes star clusters. He made the first attempt to systematize the distances of the stars as derived at several observatories. In an article dealing with similarities in the variations of some astronomical and geophysical phenomena he advance the idea that they might be attributed to a variable rotation of the earth. His major publications were the Albany Catalogue of 20,811 stars, the San Luis Catalogue of 15,333 stars and the General Catalogue of 33, 342 stars. The latter, representing many years of labor, and published in five volumes, gives the standard positions and motions of stars derived from all available star catalogues dating from 1755 to 1925.

The Papers of Benjamin Boss, 1910-1949

The Papers of Benjamin Boss were established as a separate collection from the institutional archives as they contain material created by Boss outside his employment at the Observatory and also materials related to Boss’ relationship with the American Astronomical Society. These papers were found among the institutional archives of the Observatory. Researchers should also review the Records of the Dudley Observatory and the Records of the Astronomical Journal for additional materials on Benjamin Boss.

Restrictions: None. Manuscripts cannot be used for publication without regard for common law literary rights, copyright laws, and laws pertaining to libel.

Content Note

The Papers of Benjamin Boss include correspondence, observational data, journals, a ledger and a manuscript. They have been arranged chronologically into series identified by form. The papers before processing were in no recognizable order. This arrangement has been initiated at the discretion of the processing archivist.

Container List

51History of the Dudley Observatory (1 of 4)c. 1968

Box # Folder # Form Folder Title
1 1 Correspondence U.S. Naval Station, Tutuila, Samoa. 1905-1908.
2 Observational Data Samoa. 1906-1910.
3 Journal “Meridian Observations.” 1906.
4 Journal “Meridian Observations.” 1906.
5 Journal “Meridian Observations.” 1906.
6 Journal “Meridian Observations.” 1906.
7 Journal “Meridian Observations.” 1907.
2 1 Journal “Meridian Observations.” 1907.
2 Journal “Meridian Observations.” 1907.
3 Journal “Meridian Observations.” 1907.
4 Journal “Meridian Observations.” 1907.
5 Journal “Meridian Observations.” 1907.
6 Journal “Meridian Observations.” 1907.
3 1 Journal “Meridian Observations.” 1907.
2 Journal “Instrumental Constants.” 1906.
3 Journal “Instrumental Constants.” 1906.
4 Ledger American Astronomical Society Treasurer’s Records. 1915-1927.
5 Instruction for typing Re: General Catalog c. 1936.
6 Correspondence with Carnegie Institution Re: General Catalog (1 of 3) 1936-39.
7 Correspondence with Carnegie Institution Re: General Catalog (2 of 3) 1936-39.
8 Correspondence with Carnegie Institution Re: General Catalog (3 of 3) 1936-39.
9 Resolution [Manufacturers & Farmers’ Bank] 1941.
10 Manuscript Autobiography. 1949.
11 Reports 1956-61.
12 Notebook Stars, Clusters, Nebulae
13 Cartoon 1934
14 Photographs [N/A]
4 Observational Data/Reductions Samoa. 1907.
5 1 History of the Dudley Observatory (1 of 4) c. 1968
2 History of the Dudley Observatory (2 of 4) c. 1968
3 History of the Dudley Observatory (3 of 4) c. 1968
4 History of the Dudley Observatory (4 of 4) c. 1968
5 Christmas lists, misc. manuscript pages c. 1969
6 Boss History appendices [Trustee list with update] c. 1979.
7 William Hutchinson Sketches of Kansas Pioneer Experience [father-in-law of B. Boss].
8 William Hutchinson Obituaries.