A Century of Astronomy at The Thacher School


  • Chris Vyhnall The Thacher School
  • Jon Swift The Thacher School


The Thacher School, George Hale, Mt. Wilson Observatory, Robert Millikan, Edwin Hubble, Summer Science Program (SSP)


The Thacher School has a rich legacy of education and research in astronomy that dates back over a century to correspondence in 1906 between our founder, Sherman Thacher, and the Director of the Mt. Wilson Observatory, George Hale. Nobel prize winning physicist Robert Millikan served on the School’s Board of Trustees and conducted cosmic ray measurements on our campus in 1928. From 1930 to 1941 students and faculty from the School took annual trips to Pasadena to see the 100-inch Hooker telescope at Mt. Wilson and tour the Huntington Library and Caltech. Edwin Hubble gave the commencement address on our campus in 1942 and aluminized the mirror of an 8-inch telescope at the request of one of our students 10 years later. The Summer Science Program (SSP), which brought together some of the nation’s brightest math and science students to participate in an intensive, 6-week immersion in astronomy, operated on our campus for 40 years starting in 1959. A 24-inch astrograph built by Caltech was installed in an observatory building erected on our campus by UCLA in 1965 and was later used for preliminary testing of the UCSD Digicon spectrographs that were eventually installed on the Hubble Space Telescope. In 1999 the School ceased its affiliation with the SSP and the program relocated, leaving behind an empty observatory building. With the recent renovation of our observatory, including the installation of a fully automated 0.7 m telescope and a cooled, back-illuminated CCD camera, the School has recaptured its rich historical legacy and renewed its commitment to student education and research in astronomy.