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Georgetown University Observatory

This guide highlights primary and secondary sources available in the Georgetown University Archives for research on the Observatory

Writings about the Observatory

The items listed below are available for use in the Georgetown University Archives. GUA items do not circulate; request them for use in the Booth Family Center via the Aeon request system.


University Archives Reference Files


University Archives staff maintain reference files on a variety of subjects related to Georgetown University history, including on the Observatory. These files contain photocopies of newspaper and magazine articles, brochures, and other documents found in the University Archives collection. They are intended to provide a starting point for research rather than to offer exhaustive coverage of any subject but they can often provide the answers to basic informational questions. In addition to files on the Observatory itself, the University Archives also maintains reference files on its founder Father James Curley, S.J., as well as several of its directors such as Fathers John Hagen, Paul A. McNally, and Francis J. Heyden and visiting astronomers such as Fathers Benedict Sestini and Angelo Secchi.


Essays on the Observatory


  • Beginnings and End of a Jesuit Observatory (1841-1972) by Francis J. Heyden, S.J.
  • The New Georgetown College Observatory by Francis J. Heyden. S.J., undated
  • Astronomy at Georgetown College by Francis J. Heyden, S.J. undated 
  • “Observatory Hill: A History” by Martin S. Quigley, reprinted from the Georgetown College Journal, December 1938
  • “Is this the Observatory?” by Francis Heyden S.J. Alumni Magazine, fall 1947
  • “The Georgetown University Observatory” by Francis X. Quinn, S.J.  Woodstock Letters, November 1959
  • “The Georgetown Observatory: A Room with a View,” Georgetown magazine, fall 1987


Mentions in Georgetown University Histories


  • Curran, Robert Emmett. A history of Georgetown University.  Washington, D.C. : Georgetown University Press, 2010 

    A three volume set, this is the most comprehensive University history. Volume 1 covers 1789-1889, volume 2 covers 1889-1964, and volume 3 covers 1964-1989. Look in the index for terms such as Observatory, astronomy, as well as the names of the Observatory directors and staff.


  • Shea, John Gilmary. Memorial of the first centenary of Georgetown College, D.C., comprising a history of Georgetown University.  Washington, D.C., New York, Pub. for the College by P.F. Collier, 1891

    This book was published to celebrate Georgetown’s 100th anniversary. It lacks a back-of-the-book index or footnotes. Its contents are arranged chronologically, with each of its chapters covering the term of one Georgetown president. Chapter 19 covers the founding of the Observatory and includes line drawings of the exterior of the Observatory and of Father T. Meredith Jenkins, S.J.


  • Durkin, Joseph T.  Georgetown University: the middle years, 1840-1900. Washington, Georgetown University Press, 1963

    This publication was published to coincide with the University’s 175th anniversary. Its narrative  continues from the point at which Father Daley’s 1957 publication (see above) stops. It includes detailed footnotes. Check the index for Observatory.



  • Nevils, W. Coleman. Miniatures of Georgetown, 1634-1934; tercentennial causeries.  Washington, D.C., Georgetown University Press, 1934

    This work was published by Father Nevils towards the end of his presidency. He served as University President from 1928-1935 and his association with Georgetown began in 1918 when he was appointed Dean of the College of Arts and Science. His book contains detailed and colorful stories about aspects of the University’s history but has no footnotes or bibliography. Check the index for Astronomical Observatory.


Articles in GU publications


  • Georgetown College Journal

The Georgetown College Journal was the first printed newspaper produced by Georgetown students. It first appears in 1872. A monthly publication, it is a combination of student newspaper, literary publication, and alumni bulletin. The printing of letters and reminiscences from “Old Boys” extends its coverage of campus life and events back to the 1860s and even earlier.

Physical volumes are available for use in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections; request them via the Aeon request system.

Digitized issues from 1872 to 1920 can be browsed and searched via DigitalGeorgetown. The Date Created facet in blue on the right side of the screen (scroll down to see it) can be used to limit to a particular time period. To search for the reference(s) to the Observatory within any issue which appears on a list of search results: click on the title in blue, then click on the blue ViewOpen link at the top of the screen, then hold down the control and f keys on the keyboard at the same time, and enter the search term Observatory in the box which appears in the top right corner. 


  • Ye Domesday Book (yearbook)

The main Georgetown University yearbook is Ye Domesday Booke, which was first produced in 1901. Digitized volumes from 1901-2011 can be browsed and searched via DigitalGeorgetownNote that no yearbooks were produced in 1903, 1906, 1907, 1945, and 1946 and that many of the pre-World War I yearbooks were produced by Law students with coverage limited to that school. Physical volumes from 1901-2017 are available for use in the University Archives.


  • The Hoya, 1920-present

Georgetown’s best known student newspaper, The Hoya was first published in 1920. Digitized issues from 1920-1999can be browsed and searched via DigitalGeorgetown. See the DigitalGeorgetown search tips above. Physical copies from 1920 to the present are available for use in the University Archives. Request them via the Aeon request system. Note that there is no index for the physical volumes. Issues from 1998 onward can be searched on The Hoya’s website. The search box is found under the About Us tab at the top of the landing page.


  • Alumni Magazine, 1948-1968

The Georgetown University Alumni Association produced an Alumni Magazine between 1948 and 1968. In addition to news about on-campus happenings and Alumni Association events, this publication contains class notes and other references to former Georgetown students. It has been digitized in its entirety and can be browsed and searched via DigitalGeorgetown. See the DigitalGeorgetown search tips above. Physical volumes are available for use in the University Archives. Request them via the Aeon request system.


  • Georgetown Voice, 2001-present

Issues from 2001 onward can be searched on the Voice’s web site. The search icon is found at the top right of the landing page. Physical copies from 1969 to present are available for use in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections. Request them via the Aeon request systemNote that there is no index for the physical volumes.


Articles in the Washington Post


The Washington Post provides surprisingly detailed coverage of happenings on campus, particularly in the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries. It includes articles on athletics and other student activities such as plays and debates, as well as naming graduates in its annual coverage of the University’s commencement ceremony. The Georgetown University Library offers digital access to the Post’s historic archives (scroll down and select that publication from the list) which cover the period 1877 through 1994. Note that this access is available ON-SITE to all. OFF-SITE access is limited to those who can authenticate using their GU netids. If you do not have a GU netid, you cannot access the Post archives from off-campus.


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