Fox, Philip, 1878-1944

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Astronomer. Professor of Astronomy, Northwestern University and director, Dearborn Observatory, 1909-1929; director, Adler Planetarium and Astronomical Museum, 1929-1937; director, Museum of Science and Industry, 1937-1942.

From the description of Adler Planetarium and Astronomical Museum of Chicago: an account of the optical planetarium and a brief guide to the museum, 1933. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 81192693

Philip Fox was born on March 7, 1878, in Manhattan, Kansas. He received BS and MS degrees in mathematics from Kansas State University, and a second BS, in physics, from Dartmouth College. He completed graduate studies in astronomy in at the University of Berlin in 1905, and received a PhD in astronomy from the University of Chicago in 1906.

In 1903, Fox joined the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory as a Carnegie Research Assistant and instructor in astrophysics. He became director of Northwestern University's Dearborn Observatory in 1909, and served as chair of the University's Department of Astronomy. In 1929, he was named the first Director of Chicago's Adler Planetarium. He served as Director of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry from 1937-1942.

In addition to his academic career, Fox served in the US Army during the Spanish American War, and the First and Second World Wars, reaching the rank of Colonel in the Army Reserve between the World Wars. He commanded the Army Signal Corps and the Army Electronics Center at Harvard in 1942 and 1943, and taught briefly at Harvard after leaving the army. Fox married Ethel Snow in 1905. The couple had four children. He died on July 21, 1944.

From the guide to the Fox, Philip. Collection, 1905-1933, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

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.

From the guide to the Philip Fox (1878 - 1944) Papers, 1904-1941, (Northwestern University Archives)

Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adler, Max, 1866-1952. person
associatedWith Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum corporateBody
associatedWith American Astronomical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Campbell, William Wallace, 1862-1938. person
associatedWith Dearborn Observatory corporateBody
associatedWith Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, Ill.) corporateBody
associatedWith Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). Dearborn Observatory. corporateBody
correspondedWith Sarton, George, 1884-1956 person
associatedWith Schlesinger, Frank, 1871-1943. person
associatedWith Yerkes Observatory corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Science museums


Birth 1878-03-07

Death 1944-07-21



Ark ID: w6h152gt

SNAC ID: 24459717