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William G. Fastie papers

Identifier: MS-0402

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Scope and Contents

The collection consists of materials relating to Fastie's professional work in optical physics and astrophysics and ranges in date from 1937-1995, with the bulk of the records concentrated in the 1960s-1980s. The earliest records in the collection are Fastie's Optics Notebooks (1937-1938), and the latest records are reprints of scholarly reports (1995). Most of the records pertain to Fastie's career at Johns Hopkins, but there are a few files, notably the series on Dead Projects, and the series on Patents, that reflect some of his work in private industry. Fastie's early work on the Fastie-Ebert Spectrometer is well documented, as well as his rocket- based studies on the aurora borealis. The collection also contains correspondence and reports dealing with various projects for which Fastie served as consultant. Series 2 includes a group of chronological files and photographs which trace his career and some involvement in local nature conservation. Series 9 includes information on Fastie's patents, including a radiation pyrometer, various spectrometry devices and site mechanisms. Series 10 consists of report from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Fastie collaborated with colleagues at their department of Geo- physics, and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. Much of the later material in the collection deals with Fastie's work on the development of the Hubble Space Telescope. Correspondence from his involvement on the Space Telescope Science Working Group is included, as well as his work to bring the Space Telescope Science Institute to Baltimore. Once STScI had been established on Homewood Campus, Fastie served as a consultant to STScI and NASA on the Space Telescope Project. Contracts and correspondence relating to the consultations can be found in Series 2 and 3.


  • Creation: 1937-1997


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

This collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical Note

William (Bill) G. Fastie was born on December 6, 1916 in Baltimore, Maryland. He grew up in West Baltimore, attended Catonsville High School, and graduated in 1933. While working in a grocery store during the Great Depression, Fastie was offered the opportunity to attend free college-level evening classes, where he discovered his interest in physics. Fastie entered the Johns Hopkins University as an undergraduate, but never earned his bachelor's degree. Instead, he was offered a scholarship to study graduate physics at Hopkins. Knowing that the lack of a bachelor's degree would prevent him from receiving a PhD, Fastie began the graduate program in physics in 1937. After working in the program for four years, he was offered a position as a research assistant.

William Fastie worked as a research assistant in the JHU Physics department from 1941- 1945. In 1945 he left to accept a position as Research Physicist with Leeds and Northrup Company. By 1948, Fastie had been promoted to Head of the Physics Research Branch of Leeds and Northrup. It was while he was working for Leeds and Northrup that Fastie made the discovery that a spectrometer was improved with two mirrors instead of one. He later discovered that this spectrometer had been invented previously by Hermann Ebert. The improved device was eventually named the Fastie-Ebert Spectrometer.

Fastie stayed in his position with Leeds and Northrup for three more years, but returned to the Hopkins Physics Department in 1951 as Research Contract Director and Research Scientist. In 1968, Fastie was hired as Adjunct Research professor of Physics. He remained in that position until his retirement in 1996. During his time with Hopkins, Fastie began his Rocket-based studies, and eventually worked on the Hubble Space Telescope.

In 1990, William Fastie was awarded an honorary PhD by the University of Colorado. In 1997, a year after his retirement, Fastie was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. He died at the age of 83 in July, 2000.


16.84 Cubic Feet (12 record center cartons, 1 letter half-size document box, 3 legal size document boxes, 1 legal half-size document box)

Language of Materials



William (Bill) G. Fastie was a physicist born on December 6, 1916 in Baltimore, Maryland. The collection consists of materials relating to Fastie's professional work in optical physics and astrophysics and ranges in date from 1937-1995, with the bulk of the records concentrated in the 1960s-1980s.


The collection was created by William Fastie.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Holly Callahan in March 2001.

William G. Fastie papers
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA