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Fox, Philip, 1878-1944



  • Existence: 1878 - 1944


Philip Fox, born on March 7, 1878 in Manhattan, Kansas, was the first director of the Adler Planetarium. He later became director of the Museum of Science and Industry. He also had a distinguished military career, with posts including that of the Commanding Officer of the Army Electronics Training Center at Harvard. Fox died on July 21, 1944 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Fox was born on March 7, 1878 in Manhattan, Kansas, the son of Adjutant General of Kansas, Simeon I. Fox and Esther Butler Fox. He received his B.S. degree from Kansas State College in 1897. In the fall of 1899 he accepted the position of commandant and teacher of mathematics at St. John's Military School, Salina, Kansas, remaining there for two years. In 1901 he was awarded an M.S. by Kansas State College.

In the fall of 1901 he entered Dartmouth College as a senior to study under Edwin Brant Frost and his cousin, Ernest Fox Nicholes, then a professor of physics and later president of Dartmouth. Fox studied at Dartmouth for a year, receiving a second B.S. and remained another year as an assistant in physics.

In 1903 Fox was appointed Carnegie Research Assistant at the Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago where he was to remain for the next six years. In 1905 he married Ethel L. Snow of Chicago and spent a year, on leave from Yerkes, studying at the University of Berlin and the Potsdam Observatory. On his return he resumed his work at Yerkes as instructor in astrophysics.

In 1909, upon the nomination of Henry Crew, Fox was appointed to the position of professor of astronomy and Director of Dearborn Observatory at Northwestern University. He resigned in 1929.

With the organization of the first planetarium in America, the Adler Planetarium and Astronomical Museum, Fox entered a new field of activity as its first director. He lectured and gave demonstrations there and served as master of ceremonies on the occasion of the opening of the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. Fox was director of the Planetarium for eight years and continued for some time later as consultant to the Planetarium. In 1937 Fox was appointed director of the Museum of Science and Industry of Chicago. For three years he was active in furthering the work of the Museum; however, in 1940, owing to a change of policy of the governing board, Fox was suddenly ousted together with several department heads.

Fox began a military career as a young man just out of college. In 1898 he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a private in the Spanish American War, participating in the campaigns against the Moros of the Philippine Islands until October, 1899. He was promoted in the field for heroism in action to the rank of second lieutenant. In 1917, as a reserve officer, Fox was immediately available for service. He served in France for more than two years. He rose to the rank of Major of Infantry and Assistant Chief of Staff of the Seventh Division.

In 1941 Fox was recalled to active duty as a colonel and was assigned to the position of Commanding Officer of Gulf Coast Recreation Areas with headquarters at Mobile, Alabama. In May, 1942, he was transferred to the Signal Corps and designated as Commanding Officer of the Signal Corps Schools at Harvard University. In September of that year, upon the activation of the Army Electronics Training Center at Harvard, he became Commanding Officer of the Center. In September, 1943, he was retired from the army under the age regulations.

Fox published relatively few articles. His major scientific investigations are recorded in the Annals of the Dearborn Observatory (Vol. 1-3, 1915-1935). His association with Hale at Yerkes led Fox to undertake another massive study, The Rotation of the Sun (1921).

Fox was a member of many societies. He served as secretary and then vice-president of section D of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1925-1937. He served as secretary, councillor, and vice-president of the American Astronomical Society, 1912-1923 and 1938 - 1940. He received honorary doctor's degrees from Drake University and from his alma mater, Kansas State College. In 1936 he was decorated with the cross of the Legion d'Honneur of France. His fraternal affiliations included Alpha Delta Phi, Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Beta Kappa, and Sigma Xi.

Fox died on July 21, 1944 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A military funeral service was held in the Harvard Chapel. Interment, with a military escort from Fort Riley, was in Manhattan, Kansas next to his parents.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Dearborn Observatory Records

Identifier: 29/2
Abstract Records of Dearborn Observatory, built in 1865 by the Chicago Astronomical Society and the University of Chicago and in 1889 moved to Northwestern University's Evanston campus. Dearborn Observatory was a significant contributor in the area of double star research. The records consist almost entirely of observational data gathered by astronomers using Dearborn's 18-1/2 inch refracting telescope or its meridian circle, calculations performed on the data, and the results of such...
Dates: 1863-1967

Philip Fox (1878 - 1944) Papers

Identifier: 29/3
Abstract The Philip Fox papers, comprising one box, include correspondence, astronomical notes and calculations, notes and drafts of publications, and lists compiled by Fox of outstanding scientists.The general correspondence covers the years from 1904 to 1941. Of interest are the four letters written in 1909 urging the purchase of the Simon Newcomb Library for the Astronomy Department at Northwestern. The standard equinox correspondence records Fox's interest in 1915 in establishing such a...
Dates: 1904-1941

Additional filters:

Astronomical observatories--United States 1
Astronomy--Study and teaching 1
Solar system--Databases 1
Stars--Observations 1