Expeditions and Discoveries: Sponsored Exploration and Scientific Discovery in the Modern Age Harvard Libraries Expeditions Home Image Info
Panoramic cyanotype, from Papers of Solon Irving Bailey, Harvard University Archives

Harvard College Observatory Expedition: Boyden Station, Arequipa, Peru,

24 inch Bruce dome, HCO Arequipa Peru, LS16 Harvard College Observatory (n.d.), Cambridge, Massachusetts, lantern slide (detail).

24 inch Bruce dome, HCO Arequipa Peru, LS16 Harvard College Observatory (n.d.), lantern slide (detail).

Mappa del Perù por Daniel Barrera, Paris: Imprenta Lemercier, 1871, Harvard Map Collection. Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

The Harvard College Observatory (HCO) appointed Solon I. Bailey to find a site for a new observatory in the southern hemisphere. The goal of the new observatory would be to perform photographic surveys of the sky not visible from HCO’s northern latitude. In 1890, Bailey established the Boyden Station near Arequipa, Peru, and, between 1891 and 1927, astronomers used various telescopes and a meridian photometer to photograph stars in the southern sky and record their physical characteristics.

Women played a significant role in analyzing the data from Arequipa. Noteworthy among them was Henrietta Swan Leavitt who quantified the relationship between the brightness of Cepheid variable stars and their periods. Miss Leavitt’s period–luminosity relation became the yardstick for distance measurement to any galaxy containing Cepheid variables. Annie Jump Cannon classified stars by their spectral characteristics, and she was instrumental in creating the nine-volume Henry Draper Catalogue of visible stars in the entire sky.

Expeditions and Discoveries Resources on the Harvard Observatory Expedition to Peru

Selected Manuscripts and Records in Expeditions and Discoveries

Bailey, Solon I. The Harvard Astronomical Observatory in Peru, [1922]. HUG 1191, Box 1, Folder 10. Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, Mass.
Records of the Harvard College Observatory: Boyden Station, Arequipa, Peru, 1888–1927. UAV 630.110. Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, Mass.
Harvard College Observatory: Records of Boyden Station, 1889–1958. Copies of letters of Assistant L.G. Schultz, Boyden Station, 1909–1910. UAV 630.110.8. Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, Mass.


Cannon, Annie Jump. "Spectra of Bright Southern Stars Photographed with the 13-Inch Boyden Telescope as a Part of the Henry Draper Memorial." Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College 28 (1901): 131–263.
Leavitt, Henrietta Swan. "1777 Variables in the Magellanic Clouds." Annals of Harvard College Observatory 60 (1908): 87–108.
Pickering, Edward C. "Standard Photographic Magnitudes of Bright Stars." Annals of Harvard College Observatory 71 (1917): 1–25.

Harvard Observatory Expedition to Peru Resources at Other Sites

DASCH (Digital Access to a Sky Century @ Harvard)

Harvard Presidents’ Reports

Annual reports of President Charles W. Eliot, between 1889 and 1908, and of President Abbott Lawrence Lowell, between 1909 and 1927, document activities at Boyden Station. Within these reports one may also consult the annual reports from the Director of HCO to the President.


Assorted pieces of equipment from the Boyden Station form part of Harvard’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University.


The following sources were used in writing this page.

Armstrong, Mabel. Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars. Marcola, Ore.: Stone Pine Press, 2008.
Bailey, Solon I. The History and Work of Harvard Observatory, 1839 to 1927: An Outline of the Origin, Development, and Researches of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College Together with Brief Biographies of Its Leading Members. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1931.
Johnson, George. Miss Leavitt’s Stars: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005.
Jones, Bessie Zaban and Lyle Gifford Boyd. The Harvard College Observatory: The First Four Directorships, 1839–1919. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.
Reed, Helen Leah. "Women’s Work at the Harvard Observatory." New England Magazine 6 (1892): 166–176.