University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the David S. Evans Papers, 1391-2004

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Evans, David S., 1916-2004
Title: David S. Evans Papers
Dates: 1391-2004
Abstract: 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.
Accession No.: 2007-137; 2007-153
Extent: 6 ft., 8 in.
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Note

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]

Scope and Contents

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.


Access Restrictions

Restricted access.

Use of transparent media restricted. Contact repository for further information.

Artifact requires appointment with artifacts curator. Contact repository for further information.

Use Restrictions

These papers are stored remotely. Advance notice required for retrieval. Contact repository for retrieval.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Evans, David S. -- Archives.
Subjects (Organizations)
McDonald Observatory.
University of Texas at Austin.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

David S. Evans Papers, 1391-2004, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Processing Information

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



2007-137/1 Creative works, 1836-2004 and undated
Teach Yourself Astronomy, 1966-1984 and undated
Herschel at the Cape
1970-1989 and undated
"Southern Hemisphere Astronomy from 1850-1950": Chapter Four from The General History of Astronomy, 1950-1978 and undated
Big and Bright, A History of McDonald Observatory, 1950-2001 and undated
“Astronomy”: Chapter Four from One Hundred Years of Science and Technology in Texas, undated
Under Capricorn, A Study of Southern Hemisphere Astronomy, 1975-1989 and undated
Lacaille: Astronomer, Traveler, 1951-1990 and undated
Harlan's Globetrotters: The Story of An Eclipse
2007-137/2 1977-1990
Items about David Evans, 1984 and undated
Professional activities, 1391-2004 and undated
Correspondence, 1959-1999 and undated
Printed Materials
Graphs, charts, and logs, 1967-1985 and undated
Academic Appointment, 1969-1986
Commendations, honors, and press, 1973-1988 and undated
McDonald Observatory
Assorted, 1939-2004 and undated
50th Anniversary Ceremonies, 1988-1989
2007-137/3 McDonald Observatory Archive, 1933-2000 and undated
Eclipse Expedition 1973
General [correspondence], 1972
Memos, 1972-1973 and undated
Lens Acquisition, 1963-1973 and undated
Lens [telescope and lens], 1960-1972 and undated
Optics, 1963-1972 and undated
Insurance Documents, 1972-1973
Equipment/Shipping/Purchasing/Insurance, 1972-1973 and undated
Building for Expedition, 1972-1973 and undated
Site Survey, 1971-1972 and undated
Discussion of Photo Supplies and Use, 1961-1973 and undated
West African Meteorology, 1972
Story [experiment research], 1972 and undated
Eclipse 1970, undated
7/10/72 Eclipse, 1971-1972 and undated
Eclipse, 1972 and undated
Instructions for 1973 Eclipse, 1965-1973 and undated
Proposals, 1971-1972 and undated
People [general information of expedition members], 1973 and undated
Alfred H. Mikesell Files
General Correspondence, 1972-1973 and undated
Lens, 1972-1973 and undated
Star Fields, 1972-1973 and undated
Boller & Chivens Acutrac III Telescope, 1972 and undated
Personal Notebooks and Memorabilia of Expedition
Dr. Alassane Sy, 1973-1976
2007-153/1 General, 1971-1973 and undated
McDonald Observatory
1970-2000 and undated
Newsletter: “The Comet’s Tale,” 1971-1984 and undated
Personal, 1967-1995 and undated
Correspondence, 1967-1995 and undated
School, 1933-1942 and undated
Personal Associations, 1972-1985 and undated
Visa Documents, 1968 and undated
Assorted, 1942 and undated
Reference Books
Astrophysical Quantities, C.W. Allen, 1973
Pioneers and Performers: Accounts of Hall Ancestors Part II, Lawrence P. Hall, 1982
Einstein: 1912 Manuscript on the Special Theory of Relativity, 1996
The Scientific Temper, Anthony R. Michaelis, 2001
Artifact Collection Lapel pin for the Astronomical Society of South Africa
2007-153/2 Photographic material, 1934-1977 and undated
Photographs, 1934-1977 and undated
2007-137/4 Slides, 1968-1973 and undated