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Zdenek Kopal Papers

Date range: 1935-1993

Medium: Archive

Zdenek Kopal (1914-93) was Professor of Astronomy at Manchester University from 1951 until 1981, during the era of the 'Space Race', the development of satellites and lunar exploration.

Kopal was born in Litomysl in eastern Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and his interest in astronomy developed during adolescence (he published his first paper at the age of sixteen). He taught at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during and after the Second World War, before moving to Manchester in 1951 to take up the new chair of Astronomy.

Kopal developed the Astronomy Department to achieve international status. Originally specialising in astrophysics, Kopal changed direction when he set up the Manchester Lunar Programme, a lunar mapping project established in response to US plans to send a manned mission to the Moon. For several years, Kopal ran this project at the Pic-du-Midi observatory in the Pyrenees, taking thousands of photographs of the Moon, which were then used to compile detailed maps of the Moon's surface. These maps proved vital in the planning of the Apollo landings.

His extensive collection of papers include numerous correspondence files, which reflect Kopal's impressive range of contacts in the international astronomy community, project papers, contracts and photographs relating to the Manchester Lunar Programme and related projects. The archive also includes many of Kopal's research notebooks, numerous drafts of papers and lectures, and offprints of Kopal's articles.

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Catalogue available online via ELGAR


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