Description: In 1900 the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, then based in Washington, D.C., loaded several railroad cars with scientific equipment and headed to Wadesboro, North Carolina. Scientists had determined that this small town would be the best location in North America for viewing an expected total solar eclipse, and the Smithsonian Solar Eclipse Expedition hoped to capture photographic proof of the solar corona during the event for further study. The team included Smithsonian photographer Thomas Smillie, who headed up the missions photographic component. Smillie rigged cameras to seven telescopes and successfully made eight glass-plate negatives, ranging in size from eleven by fourteen inches to thirty by thirty inches. At the time, Smillies work was considered an amazing photographic and scientific achievement.
Creator/Photographer: Thomas Smillie
Birth Date: 1843
Death Date: 1917
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1843, Thomas William Smillie immigrated to the United States with his family when he five years old. After studying chemistry and medicine at Georgetown University, he took a job as a photographer at the Smithsonian Institution, where he stayed for nearly fifty years until his death in 1917. Smillies duties and accomplishments at the Smithsonian were vast: he documented important events and research trips, photographed the museums installations and specimens, created reproductions for use as printing illustrations, performed chemical experiments for Smithsonian scientific researchers, and later acted as the head and curator of the photography lab. Smillies documentation of each Smithsonian exhibition and installation resulted in an informal record of all of the institutions art and artifacts. In 1913 Smillie mounted an exhibition on the history of photography to showcase the remarkable advancements that had been made in the field but which he feared had already been forgotten.
Medium: Glass plate negative
Dimensions: 7.9" x 5.2"
Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives
Accession number: RU 7005 Box 186 Folder 1