A Guide to the David S. Evans Papers, 1391-2004
Astronomer David Stanley Evans was born in Cardiff, Wales, on January 28, 1916. He obtained his bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1937 from Kings College, Cambridge, and his Ph.D. degree in 1941 from Cambridge Observatory, where he was a student of Sir Arthur Eddington. A conscientious objector to World War II, Evans spent the war years working with Kurt Mendelssohn on medical research. During this time Evans also served as scientific editor of Discovery and editor of The Observatory, as well as a research assistant at Oxford's University Observatory from 1938-1946.
Evans moved to Pretoria, South Africa, in 1946 to serve as the second assistant at the Radcliffe Observatory. Beginning in 1952, Evans served as chief assistant and eventually as principal scientific officer at the Royal Observatory in Cape Town, South Africa. While in South Africa, Evans worked on many research activities, including developing a new method to measure stellar angular diameters using lunar occultations.
From 1965-1966, Evans and his family lived in Austin, Texas, where he was the National Science Foundation Senior Visiting Scientist at the University of Texas and McDonald Observatory. Evans and his family moved to Austin permanently in 1968, when he became a professor of astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin.
Evans served as associate director of the university's McDonald Observatory between 1970 and 1981. At the observatory, Evans worked extensively with his students and colleagues to measure the angular diameters of late-type stars. His use of stellar angular diameters to determine the surface brightness of stars was a major scientific contribution. The Barnes-Evans Relation, a significant method used in astronomical measurement, also resulted from this work.
In addition to his work at the Observatory, Evans was a prolific writer. He wrote eight books on astronomy and its history, published many articles in professional journals, and contributed chapters to several books. Among his many books are Teach Yourself Astronomy (1966); Herschel at the Cape (1969); Big and Bright, A History of McDonald Observatory (1986); Under Capricorn, A Study of Southern Hemisphere Astronomy (1988); Lacaille: Astronomer, Traveler (1992); and Harlan’s Globetrotter’s, A Story of An Eclipse (2005). The latter work, written with Karen Winget, chronicled the Mauritania eclipse expedition and was published after Evans’s death.
Evans taught at the University of Texas until his retirement in 1986, when he became a professor emeritus. He died on November 14, 2004 in Austin, Texas. He was survived by his wife Betty Hall Hart, his two sons, and his six grandchildren.
[adapted from "In Memoriam" issued by the University of Texas at Austin's Faculty Council and an obituary issued by the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa]
Creative works, correspondence, printed material, and photographs from 1391-2004 (6 ft., 8 in.) document the professional, academic, and personal activities of astronomer David S. Evans.
The records are arranged in five series: Creative Works (1836-2004 and undated), Professional Activities (1391-2004 and undated), the McDonald Observatory Archive (1933-2000 and undated), Personal (1967-1995 and undated) and Photographic Material (1934-1977 and undated). Approximately a third of the collection is found within Creative Works, where manuscripts, journal articles, correspondence, research notes, and photographs document the many books and academic articles relating to astronomy and its history that Evans authored or co-authored. Many of the records within this series document Evans's long association with the McDonald Observatory. Two of Evans's books concerning the McDonald Observatory -- Big and Bright and Harlan's Globetrotters -- are documented within this series.
The McDonald Observatory Archive series further illuminates the considerable historical and archival interest Evans took in the Observatory. This body of material, which he named the "McDonald Observatory Archive," contains a collection of correspondence, photographs, notes, legal-style documents, minutes, memos, and reports. The majority of the records are related to a 1973 eclipse expedition to Mauritania (1960-1976 and undated), while a smaller amount documents the early history of the Observatory (1933-2000). The McDonald Observatory Archive series is largely arranged according to Evans's original system and includes the records of other members of the McDonald Observatory team.
Some records concerning the McDonald Observatory (1939-2004 and undated) are also included in the Professional Activities series, particularly material covering the observatory's fiftieth anniversary. Records covering other aspects of Evans's professional career, especially material from his role as a professor at the University of Texas, are included in much smaller quantities in the Academia subseries (1973-1988 and undated). The Personal series contains the least material but does cover some aspects of Evans's personal life. Correspondence with his brother and material documenting his educational background and club memberships are included.
Photographic Material, the fifth series, comprises photographs and slides. The photographs include black and white and color prints, negatives, and transparencies. The majority of the photos document the construction and operation of the McDonald Observatory, as well as the Mauritania expedition. Prints of astronomical events, NASA astronauts, field expeditions, other telescopes and observatories, astronomers, equipment, and charts are also included. The slides, used for Evans's lectures, represent graphs, diagrams, astronomers, equipment, and charts. These materials have been separated to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History's Photographic Archive.
Included in the documentation are the astronomers Harlan Smith and Alfred Mikesell.
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David S. Evans Papers, 1391-2004, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Dan Shiman, Susanne Ristow, Sarah Stevens, October 2008. Subsequent revisions were made by Megan Mummey, October 2009.
Detailed Description of the Papers