1935 - present
Biographical or Historical Note
- The Hayden Planetarium opened on October 3, 1935 and provided a physical
space to represent the American Museum of Natural History's recently established
Department of Astronomy. From this beginning, the relationship and identity of
the Astronomy department and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as their staff
members, were interchangeable. In 1999, the Department of Astronomy changed to
the Department of Astrophysics and the Hayden Planetarium began to have distinct
leadership. In 2000, the Hayden Planetarium reopened as part of the Rose Center
for Earth and Space. This record primarily represents the Department of
Astronomy and Hayden Planetarium between the years 1935 and 1999.
The Hayden Planetarium has been a premier exhibition and educational space since
its opening in 1935, acting as the figurehead for the AMNH Department of
Astronomy. From the inception of the Department of Astronomy, there was a desire
for a permanent physical hall for this branch of science (1, 1925, p. 34). Clyde
Fisher, curator in the Education department, was ultimately responsible for the
planning, promotion and design of this project, modeling it in part after the
Adler Planetarium in Chicago (1, 1931 p. 52). On October 3, 1935, the Hayden
Planetarium opened to the public. At this point, the Department of Astronomy
effectively merged with the Hayden Planetarium, with all staff members holding
joint responsibilities for the scientific department and the physical space.
Thus, Fisher would be named the first Curator of the Department of Astronomy and
Hayden Planetarium (1, 1936 p. 38). In 1953 the department name changed to
Department of Astronomy and American Museum-Hayden Planetarium (1, 1953 p.
Although the department scientists have continually conducted research in their
field, because of the nature of the material, the majority of the actual
physical specimens in the Museum collection are meteorological. A close
relationship with the departments relating to the earth sciences was maintained.
The Planetarium's physical space has allowed for a strong educational outreach
program. Besides the popular sky shows and educational programs, the Department
offered celestial navigation courses for service personnel during WWII (1, 1937
p. 7), as well as participating in the 1939 New York World’s Fair (1, 1940 p.
13-14). Public participation was encouraged through the Junior Astronomy Club,
publications such as the Sky magazine, and radio broadcasts from expedition
sites. Expeditionary work largely focused on recording observations of eclipses
(1, 1938 p. 57; 1, 1956 p. 36; 1, 1964 p. 28). Additional research work was
undertaken by the scientists, both individually and collaboratively with other
institutions. The Planetarium was also a continuous space for exhibition of
scientific artifacts and representative artworks. Artists such as Charles
Knight, D. Owen Stephens and Helmut Wimmer contributed to this artistic legacy
of the Hayden Planetarium through permanent and temporary exhibits. These
complemented the continuing sky show programs. The content of these shows and
other programs continued to reflect the current cultural phenomena and
collective public interest as well as evolve technologically throughout the 20th
century. In the 1970s the Perkin Wing was erected which replaced the Copernican
Hall of the Sun with the Guggenheim Space Theater, and added a new Hall of the
Sun exhibit space, a research library and a gift shop (1, 1972, p. 19).
In the mid-1990s plans were made to redesign the Hayden Planetarium space as part
of a larger exhibition hall. Thus the Hayden Planetarium was rebuilt as part of
the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Along with the Hayden Planetarium, the Rose
Center is comprised of the Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway, the
Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Hall of the Universe and the David S. and Ruth L.
Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth, which opened in 1999 (1, 2000 p. 13-14). Along
with the physical changes, there was a shift in departmental focus at this time,
with the Department’s name changing to Astrophysics in 1999 and the creation in
2000 of the parent Division of Physical Sciences, which comprises both
Astrophysics as well as the sibling Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
At this point the administrative and curatorial responsibility for the Hayden
Planetarium was effectively separated from the scientific department. For more
complete historical records of the earlier and later incarnations of the
department, see Department of Astronomy (record ID: amnhc_3000047) and
Department of Astrophysics (record ID: amnhc_3000046).
(1) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York:
American Museum of Natural History, 1934-2006.
(2) American Museum of Natural History. "Scientific Staff," Annual
Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1934-2006. Note years
1948-50, 2004-05 and 2007 to present do not detail staff
(3) Martin, Douglas. "Joseph Chamberlain, 88, Dies; Brough the Stars a
Bit Closer," New York Times (New York, NY), Dec. 11, 2011 Retrieved from
(4) Flint, Peter B. "Thomas D. Nicholson Dies at 68; Led Museum of
Natural History." New York Times (New York, NY), July 12, 1991. Retrieved from
(5) "Franklyn Branley, 86, Advocate of Improving Science Education" New
York Times (New York, NY), May 9, 2002. Retrieved from
(6) Martin, Douglas. "Kenneth Franklin, Astronomer, Dies at 84," New
York Times (New York, NY), June 21, 2007. Retrieved from
(7) NY Newsday, 12 1987 "Top Star-Sketcher Retiring from Hayden
Planetarium," Newsday (New York) 1987. in Helmut K. Wimmer Personal
(8) American Museum of Natural History. Author bio: "Carter Emmart" in
Natural History. Retrieved April 22, 2015 from
(9) American Museum of Natural History, Grapevine 4, no.6
(November/December 1987) In Helmut K. Wimmer Personal File
(10) American Museum of Natural History, Press Release, "Helmut K.
Wimmer" In Helmut K. Wimmer Personal File.
(11) American Museum of Natural History. Program, "Exhibition of
Astronomy Art by Helmut K. Wimmer" In Helmut K. Wimmer Personal
(12) Mordecai-Mark Mac Low Curriculum Vitae [pdf] accessed from
(13) James Webster Curriculum Vitae [pdf] accessed from
(14) American Museum of Natural History. Grapevine (July/August 1990).
In James Webster Personal File.
(15) American Museum of Natural History. "Hayden Planetarium: Staff."
Retreived April 22, 2015 from
(16) American Museum of Natural History. Grapevine, (September/October
1982). In Sandra E. Kitt Personal File.
(17) American Museum of Natural History, Program for "Special
Exhibition of Astronomical Paintings by the Late D. Owen Stephens," Sept, 27
1937. In D. Owen Stephens Personal File.
(18) Fisher, Clyde. "Eclipse in Peru" Natural History40, no. 4
(November 1937). 631-640.
Library of Congress Name Authority File, n82067502
- 1924: The Department of Astronomy was instituted as part of the Division of
Mineralogy, Geology and Geography. (1, 1925 p. xix) Department of Public
Education Curator Clyde Fisher was put ‘in charge’ of the fledgeling
Astronomy department and an Astronomy room was put on exhibition. This
contained paintings and photographs and both anticipated and benefitted
from public interest in astronomical matters due to the upcoming 1925
eclipse. (1, 1925 p. 32-33) Meteorites in the collection were displayed
in other Museum spaces. (1, 1925 p. 33) Descriptive plans, anticipated
costs, and an advisory committee for the erection of an Astronomy Hall
are presented in the Annual Report for the year 1924 (1, 1925, p.
- 1930: Studies were begun for the plans of a building to house a Zeiss
planetarium similar to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. (1, 1931 p. 52)
This planning work would continue into the next year (1, 1932 p.
- 1933: Charles Hayden donates funds for the purchase of a Zeiss Projection Planetarium and Copernican
Planetarium (1, 1934, p. 3; 1935 p. 28, p. 87).
- 1935: On October 3, the Hayden Planetarium opened to the public, with Clyde
Fisher as curator of the Department of Astronomy and Hayden Plantarium.
(1, 1936 p. 38)
- 1936: A celestial navigation course for navigators and aviators was first
offered at the Planetarium in cooperation with the Weems System of
Navigation of Annapolis. (1, 1937 p. 7)
- 1937: Fisher led the Hayden Planetarium-Grace Peruvian Eclipse Expedition
to observe and record the solar eclipse. (1, 1938 p. 57) Workers and
craftsmen were assigned by the WPA to the Department (1, 1938 p. 33-34)
- 1939: The Department of Astronomy contributed to the New York World's Fair.
With cooperation from the Bartol Research Foundation, technical staff
built the Cosmic Ray Counter, a machine which received cosmic ray
impulses that were transmitted to turn on the lights at the Fair. The
machine would also be used at the opening of LaGuardia Airport (1, 1940
- 1942: In response to the wartime need for training, the Hayden Planetarium
entered into a contract with the United States Navy in July of 1942 to
educate 10,000 students of the Midshipmen’s School and to continue
providing other navigation courses. (1, 1943 p. 6-7) William Barton
assumed the role of Department Curator. (2, 1943)
- 1944: Associate Curator Marian Lockwood assumed the role of Acting Curator
after the death of William Barton (2, 1945)
- 1945: Goorge Atwood was appointed Chairman and Curator of the Department.
- 1950: Robert Coles, who had been with the Department since 1941, took over
the Chairmanship. (2, 1951)
- 1953: The name was changed to the Department of Astronomy and the American
Museum-Hayden Planetarium. (1, 1953 p. 71) Joseph Chamberlain became the
General Manager and Chief Astronomer of the Department, (2, 1954) a
title which would change to Chairman and Astronomer in 1956 (2,
- 1955: The Museum sponsored the Ceylon Expedition, which sent a team to
Ceylon to take documentary film footage of the eclipse. Chamberlain
acted as leader of the expedition and Nicholson accompanied as
scientist, along with R.E. Logan and Lee Boltin as photographers. (1,
1956 p. 36)
- 1956: In January and February, Chamberlain and Nicholson contracted with
the Air Force through the Western Electric Company for an expedition to
research and pinpoint the geodetic positions of radar installation sites
in northern Canada. (1, 1956 p. 36)
- 1963: The Quebec Solar Eclipse Expedition was sent by the Museum to observe
the total solar eclipse. Kenneth Franklin acted as leader of the
expedition and Nicholson again acted as expedition scientist. (1, 1964
- 1964: With the naming of Chamberlain as one of the new Assistant Directors
of the Museum, Thomas Nicholson is promoted to the position of Chairman
and Astronomer of the Department. (1, 1964 p. 15)
- 1967 - 1968: After Chamberlain's retirement, Nicholson is appointed Assistant
Dorector of the Museum, and Franklyn Branley steps into the role of
Chairman and Astronomer. (1, 1968 p. 14-15)
- 1969: A new Zeiss VI projector was installed in the Hayden Planetarium. The
Planetarium reopened to the public in October of 1969 after a month
closure for installation of the projector and refurbishment to the Star
Theater. (1, 1970, p. 18-20). In July the Planetarium hosted a
splashdown party for the broadcast of the Apollo 11 moon landing team.
(1, 1970, p. 20)
- 1971: The Guggenheim Space Theater was completed and took the place of the
former Copernican Hall of the Sun. (1, 1972 p. 18) Funding is received
through the Richard S. Perkin Foundation and the Charles Hayden
Foundation to contruct the Perkin Wing, which will house a library,
shop, and the Perkin Hall of the Sun. (1, 1972, p. 19)
- 1972: Branley retired to Astronomer Emeritus, and Kenneth Franklin was
appointed Chairman (1, 1973 p. 17)
- 1974: Mark Chartrand assumes the role of Chairman (1, 1974 p. 15) The
Planetarium began offering nighttime Laserium programs of light display
with music (1, 1975 p. 14)
- 1975: The library and shop of the Perkin Wing open to the public. (1, 1975
- 1976: The Hall of the Sun opened as part of the new Perkins Wing. (1, 1977
- 1980: Chartrand leaves the Museum in October of 1980 and Allan Seltzer is
appointed Acting Manager of the Department (1, 1981 p. 13)
- 1981: William Gutsch is appointed Chairman of the Planetarium. (1, 1982 p.
13) Allen Seltzer travels to Siberia to photograph the solar eclipse (1,
1982 p. 13)
- 1982: A new computer automated system is installed in the Planetarium which
will allow for more complex and dynamic sky shows. (1, 1983 p.
- 1991: An expedition is sent to Hawaii comprised of scientists and artists
to observe eclipses (1, 1991 p. 11; 1992 p. 16)
- 1993: Planetarium Visiting Committee led by J. Richard Gott III reviews and
compiles recommendations for the future of the Hayden Planetarium. (1,
1993 p. 18)
- 1994: Funding is acquired from the Perkin Fund and the City of New York to
obtain and develop advanced computer graphics equipment to enhance the
art and animation displays at the Hayden Planetarium. Utilization of the
Internet to receive and share imagery also commences. (1, 1994 p. 26)
- 1995: In January the Museum announced their plans for the Planetarium and
North Side Project, which would eventually become the Rose Center. These
plans were reviewed and approved favorably of by the New York City
Landmarks Preservation Committee in November. (1, 1996 p. 50) William
Gutsch resigned from his departmental chair. Neil deGrasse Tyson served
as acting chair until being named the inaugural Frederick P. Rose
Director of the Hayden Planetarium. (1, 1996 p. 23) The Mineral Sciences
department is renamed the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
with Edmond Mathez as Department Chairman and Curator. (1, 1996 p.
- 1998: With the University of Washington, the Earth and Planetary Science
staff members participated in the "black smoker" expeditions at the Juan
de Fuca Ridge off the coast of Washington and British Columbia. (1, 1998
p. 30). Samples from these expeditions would be included in the
Gottesman Hall when it opened in 1999. (1, 1999 p. 17)
- 1999: Department of Astrophysics established in July of 1999 in preparation
and anticipation for the opening of the Rose Center. Michael Shara was
appointed Curator-in-Charge of Astrophysics and Mordecai-Mark Mac Low
joined the department staff. (1, 1999 p. 6; 2000 p. 17)
- 1999: Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth opens in June, marking the completion
of the first stage of the Rose Center (1, 1999 p. 6)
- 2000: Establishment of the Division of Physical Sciences, comprised of the
Department of Astrophysics and the Department of Earth and Planetary
Science. James Webster was named the Divisional Chair. The Department of
Astrophysics would retain a strong relationship with the Department of
Exhibition (1, 2000 p. 17) On February 19, the Dorothy and Lewis B.
Cullman Hall of the Universe, the Scales of the Universe, the Harriet
and Robert Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway, and the redesigned Hayden
Planetarium open to the public, which incorporated the new Space
Theater. Along with the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth, these comprise
the new Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and
Space. (1, 2000 p. 13-14)
The Hayden Planetarium is located in the American Museum of Natural
History, which is in New York, N.Y.