Skip to main content

Alan H. Shapley Papers

Identifier: COU:1452

Scope and Contents

This collection contains 5 boxes of both personal and business papers of Alan H. Shapely. The first box contains his class notes from Harvard in math, geology, physics and chemistry. The second box holds information pertaining to: astronomy, personal notes on solar terrestrial, theory of atomic and molecular spectra and educational material on IGY and “Planet Earth”. Also contained in the second box are a few books on film, which were smuggled overseas during WWII. The third box is comprised of F.A.S. material. The fourth box contains correspondence, various federal investigation reports and scientific newsletters. All newspaper clippings are contained in the fifth box.


  • Creation: 1947 - 1968

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Limited duplication of materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Alan Horace Shapley was born to Harlow and Martha Shapley on March 23, 1919 in Pasadena, California. Harlow Shapley, Alan’s father, was a world-renowned astronomer. He traveled the world and received numerous scientific medals and awards for his accomplishments. Alan emulated his father, becoming a world famous geophysicist. He married Kathryn Malooney on March 10, 1956, together they had a daughter, Carol Louise. The family moved to Boulder in the mid-1950s, residing there until the present.

In 1940 Allan received his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University. A few years after graduation, Shapley became head of the Solar-Ionospheric research department and Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institute of Washington from 1942 to 1946. In 1947 Alan became involved with the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington and then moved to the Boulder, CO department in 1954. Shapley worked at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration where he was the director of the Geophysical Data Center until 1985. He was the chief of CRPL Radio Warning Services from 1947 through 1959 as well as the Chief of the Sun-Earth Relationships section for three years beginning in 1956. He became a research associate at the Harvard Observatory in 1955 and was the assistant Chief of the Radio Propagation Physics division from 1959-1960. In 1960 Allan was involved with the Chief office of CRPL liaison and program development. Alan was the Vice Chairman for the US National Committee International Geophysical Year National Academy of Scientists from 1953-1964. Shapley was the international rapporteur for the world and communications, and a member on the Space Science Board from 1958 until 1961. He was on the Committee for Polar research from 1958 onward. Shapley was also a member on the special committee of International Geophysical Year and International Council of Science Unions from 1954-1958. As well Shapley was a member of the committee for Geophysics beginning in 1958. He was a special member on the committee of International Quiet Sun Years in 1962. Shapley was on the Advisory Committee Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska and also a fellow member of the (A.A.A.S.) American Association for Advancement of Science. Alan was part of the Federation of American Scientists, and the executive officer in Washington from 1948-1953. Alan was involved in the Washington Academy of Sciences, the American Astronomical Society and the American Geophysical Union. He became the Chairman of the Geophysical Monograph Board beginning in 1959. Allen was involved with the International Science Radio Union and was the national committee chairman on the worldwide Ionospheric Soundings Committee as well as the chairman for the International World Days Service.

Alan Shapley and his wife, Kay, made Boulder their home. They were both very active in the community. They were involved with: Historic Boulder, Eco Cycle, the Colorado Music Festival, Columbine Players, Boulder Philharmonic, the Boulder Democratic Party, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Skeptics, the Unitarian Church and Fellowship along with the Foreign Students at the University of Colorado. Alan was the president of the Colorado Music Festival for a few years when the board was beginning its organization. He also helped the formation of the festival’s endowment. Kay Shapley was especially active in local politics and helped in the running of several campaigns by serving as secretary and editor of the Boulder County Democrats.


2.5 linear feet (5 Boxes)

Language of Materials



Alan Shapley was a notable scientist who was best known as the chairman of the International Geophysical Year from 1953-1964. Mr. Shapley was involved in numerous memberships and various scientific organizations and committees. Shapley’s collection contains newspaper clippings, correspondence and information on the postwar years during which scientists were subject to federal harassment. In addition there are F.A.S. secretarial files from 1948-1956 and various other papers dealing with scientific concerns.


This collection is arranged in original order in which we attained it from the donor, with a box level inventory list.

Anna Wagner
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States