A Brief History

Founded in 1936 by Charles G. Thompson and Alice Bemis Thompson, the F.A.R. has supported astronomical and astrophysical projects in the United States, Australia and New Zealand through loans and gifts of funds and optical equipment. Theodore Dunham, Jr. served as its Scientific Director from its founding until his death in 1984.

For its first 50 years, the F.A.R. was an operating foundation, purchasing and figuring mirrors, gratings and other equipment which it made available to astronomical projects at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California and the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia, with particular emphasis on spectroscopy. The F.A.R. also studied the use of obsidian for mirrors under a contract with the U.S. Office of Naval Research. Plans were made for Project Canopus, an observatory to be established at the University of Tasmania. Finally, Dr. Dunham designed a 0.3 meter telescope with an unconventional computer-driven alt-alt mounting that was installed in October 1985 on the campus of the University of Chicago. After Dr. Dunham’s death, the F.A.R. augmented its endowment by selling its scientific equipment and began a program of making small grants.


The F.A.R.’s Board of Trustees is composed of five astronomers and a lawyer. To view the current Board visit Officers and Trustees.

Astronomers who have previously served as Trustees have included:

  • Lawrence H. Aller UCLA
  • Stanley J. Czyzak Ohio State University
  • Theodore Dunham, Jr. Scientific Director, F.A.R.
  • Gerald E. Kron U.S. Naval Observatory
  • C.R. O’Dell University of Chicago
  • A.G. Davis PhilipUnion College and Institute for Space Observations
  • Harlan J. Smith University of Texas
  • Arthur R. Upgren Wesleyan University and Yale University
  • George Wallerstein University of Washington
  • Charles A. Whitney Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • K.O. Wright Dominion Astrophysical Observatory

Others who have served as Trustees have included:

  • Robert H. Blair-Smith lawyer
  • Miriam Phillips Dunham
  • Walter Kilham architect
  • Alice Bemis Thompson
  • Charles G. Thompson lawyer
  • George N. Appell social anthropologist

Previous Scientific Advisers have included:

  • H.H. Plaskett, F.R.S. Oxford University
  • Henry Norris Russell Princeton University and Mount Wilson Observatory
  • Walter S. Adams Mount Wilson Observatory
  • Harlow Shapley Harvard College Observatory
  • James G. Baker Harvard College Observatory