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Dr. Thomas Williams research on citizen science and astronomy

Identifier: MS 0946
Finding aid note: This material is stored off-site at the Library Service Center. Please request it by contacting and allow 48 hours retrieval time.

Content Description

Dr. Williams papers include his correspondence, and resources gathered over the period 1983 to 2020. The main thrust of his work was directed at gathering information about and categorizing the status of individuals involved avocationally in astronomy. The resources gathered for these studies include articles from professional journals, newspapers, dictionaries and encyclopedias, and secondary sources involving their scientific activity, discoveries and contribution, their lives, e.g. their employment, and other avocational activities and public engagement bringing astronomy to the public. Of necessity, the studies considered how these individuals organized to learn about the science of astronomy and collect and report their scientific data. Thus, the papers include club periodicals and other material about the organization, activities, and publicity they attracted. The collection includes small amount of information accumulated for the history of astronomical observatories. Correspondence with historians, astronomers, sociologists and contract researchers is included in these papers, as are memoranda of interviews of a few key individuals directly involved in historically important activities. Also included is a limited amount of material on professionalization and the categorization of activities involving both avocational and professional engagement in any subject including science.


  • Creation: 1970 - 2020

Conditions Governing Access

This material is unprocessed as of Oct. 2020, and will be open for research once processed.

Conditions Governing Access

This materials is stored off-site at the Library Service Center. Please request it by contacting and allow 48 hours retrieval time.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish from this material must be facilitated through the Woodson Research Center,

Biographical / Historical

Born in California in 1934, Dr. Williams received his undergraduate education at Arizona State College (now University) in Tempe graduating with a B.S. in Chemistry. He was employed for 36.5 years by Shell Oil Company, serving most of that time in management of chemical plant operations and in headquarters positions in industrial chemicals, lubricants, and refining planning. His final 14 years were as Environmental Conservation Manager for products operations (refineries, chemical plants, marketing and transportation facilities). As an amateur astronomer, Dr. Williams reported his observations of variable stars, comets, lunar and asteroid occultations and solar eclipses to relevant scientific organizations for two decades. As one tool encourage to encourage others to join in scientific observing, he described the history of the scientific contributions of amateur astronomers. After completing a course in the history of astronomy taught by Rice University professor Albert Van Helden it became apparent that the history of amateur contributions to astronomy offered an attractive opportunity to pursue in retirement. He retired at the end of 1992 and entered Rice University as a graduate student in the History Department. after successfully defending his dissertation, Getting Organized-A History of Amateur Astronomy in the United States, he was awarded a PhD in History from Rice University in 2000. After graduation, Dr. Williams served as an editor of the Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers published by Springer in 2007 (second edition-2014); and co-authored with Dr. Michael Saladyga a book, Advancing Variable Star Astronomy, the Centennial History of the American Association of Variable Star Observers published by Cambridge University Press in 2011. He has also authored book chapters and entries in encyclopedias and dictionaries, authored papers and book reviews published in several peer reviewed journals and in popular periodicals and delivered invited and contributed papers at international as well as domestic professional and public meetings.


18 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Dr. Thomas Williams in 2020.

Guide to the Dr. Thomas Williams research on citizen science and astronomy
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Repository Details

Part of the Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas Repository

Fondren Library MS-44, Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston Texas 77005 USA