Olin J. Eggen and the Eggen Archives

Eggen Archives Finding Aid

Olin J. Eggen, 1919-1998

Olin J. Eggen, 1919-1998

Source: Eggen Archives


Olin J. Eggen was one of the most influential observational astronomers of his time. Born July 9, 1919 on a farm in Rock County, Wisconsin, Eggen received a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1940. After serving in World War Two as Scientific Liason to the Office of Strategic Services, he returned to the University of Wisconsin and earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy for his work with Joel Stebbins on the light curves of Algol and 44 ι Bootis.

Eggen spent the next 50 years observing at numerous institutions around the world. Over that time he held the positions of Associate Astronomer at Lick Observatory (1948-1956), Chief Asssistant Astronomer at Royal Greenwich Observatory (1956-1961), Professor at the California Institute of Technolog and staff member at Mt. Wilson Observatory (1961-1966), Director of Mount Stromlo Observatory and Professor at Australian National Observatory (1966-1977), and Staff Astronomer at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (1977-1998).

Eggen's professional memberships and honors include the American Astronomical Society's (AAS) Russell Lectureship (1985), AAS membership, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society (vice president 1961-1962), Pawsey Memorial Lectureship of the Australian Institute of Physics, member of the Australians Society of Astronomers (president 1971-1972), and member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Many remember Eggen for his collaboration with Lynden-Bell and Sandage on the paper "Evidence from the Motions of Old Stars that the Galaxy Collapsed" (Astrophysical Journal, v.136, 748 (1962)), which astronomers now refer to as ELS.

Photo of Eggen using a telescope

Source: Eggen Archives


A bibliography of Eggen's published papers is available here. This list was compiled through ADS.


The University of Wisconsin-Madison retains a collection Eggen's personal papers and correspondence. A large part of the archives consists of letters exhanged between Eggen and other astronomers, including Jesse L. Greenstein, Allan R. Sandage, Albert E. Whitford, and Richard van der Riet Woolley. Also included are some of Eggen's unpublished manuscripts, drafts of papers, including a draft of the ELS paper, documents relating to Mount Stromlo Observatory and the founding of the Anglo-Australian Telescope and Observatory, and photographs of Eggen and other astronomers.

The Eggen Archive is held at University Archives in Room 425 Steenbock Library. A finding aid to the archives, compiled by historian of astronomy Jordan D. Marché II, is available here.


“Olin J. Eggen (1919–1998).” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific v.113, pp. 131-135 (2001). Available online at http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/317976

Eggen, Olin J. “Notes from a Life in the Dark.” Annual Reviews of Astronomy and Astrophysics, v. 31 (1993): pp. 1-11. Available online at http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.aa.31.090193.000245

Freeman, Ken C., et al. “Olin Jeuck Eggen, 1919–1998.” Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, v.32, no. 4 (2000): pp. 1661-1662. Available online at http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=2000BAAS...32.1661

Frame, Tom, and Don Faulkner. “The rise and rise of astrophysics: The Eggen years, 1966–1977.” In Stromlo: An Australian Observatory, pp. 159-184. Crows Nest, NSW, Australia: Allen and Unwin, 2003.

Suntzeff, Nicholas. "A Remembrance of Olin J. Eggen." NOAO-NSO Newsletter no. 56 (December 1998).