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Harry Nelson papers

Identifier: MSS 90

Scope and Contents

This collection has been arranged into five series: Augustana College Athletic Organizations, Augustana College Academic Organizations, Eclipses, Alphabetical Subject Files, and Binder Contents.

The Augustana College Athletic Organizations (1946-1967) series contains mainly minutes and other such organizational records from three separate boards, two of which, (the Athletic Board and the Board of Athletic Control) governed athletics specifically at Augustana College. The third organization represented is the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, (CCIW), which regulates and supervises intercollegiate athletics in those states. The records of the CCIW include the constitution, meeting minutes and other administrative records, as well as eligibility records for several colleges.

The Augustana College Academic Organizations (1933-1949, 1965-1969) series includes records from three different academic organizations, including the Graduate Council, the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, and the Runic Honor Society. The Phi Beta Kappa files are the most extensive, and contain correspondence to and from the society, member handbooks, news clippings, society-sponsored program information, and financial records. The Runic Honor Society records contain news clippings, member information, and correspondence. The Graduate Council file contains only meeting minutes.

The Eclipse (1970, 1972-1974, 1976-1977, 1979-1981, 1983-1984 and 1991) series is arranged chronologically and includes various materials from trips organized by Dr. Nelson on behalf of The Eclipse Chasers Club, a group of eclipse enthusiasts. Each folder contains a variety of materials, including newspaper clippings, correspondence, ephemera, photos and notes. News clippings about some of the eclipse events are also grouped together and filed along with the other materials from each eclipse.

The Subject Files (1959-2006 and Undated) series are a variety of alphabetically arranged personal and professional papers that include a variety of subjects by, about, and of interest to Dr. Nelson. The topics have been collected by Dr. Nelson and each folder contains a variety of materials including photographs, lecture notes, newspaper clippings, correspondence, ephemera and miscellany. News clippings about some of these subjects are also grouped together and filed along with the other materials about the same subject.

The Binder Content (1953-2004 and Undated) series consists of topically arranged materials originating from three-ring binders owned by Dr. Nelson and his wife. This series has been arranged into seven sub-series: personal, correspondence, newspaper clippings, events, ephemera, miscellaneous and photographs.


  • circa 1946-1988


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from Augustana College Special Collections and the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Harry Nelson was born September 21, 1913, in Rockford, Illinois to John and Alma Nelson. Graduating from Rockford High School in 1929 and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Augustana College in 1935. In 1940, he received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and later earned a PhD from the University of Iowa, Iowa City. Dr. Nelson subsequently began his teaching career at Cambridge High School in Cambridge, Illinois and began a career in academia when he accepted a position to join the faculty at Luther College in Wahoo, Nebraska. This position was followed by a professorship at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, Minnesota.

In 1941, Nelson married Lillian Nelson in Princeton, Illinois. He returned to his alma mater, Augustana College, in 1946 and remained a professor there until his retirement in 1988, where he was named Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Astronomy. During his tenure at Augustana, Dr. Nelson was an important figure during the establishment of the John Deere Planetarium, which opened in 1969. He played an integral part in the planning and implementation of a three day space seminar on campus that included a visit from Neil Armstrong. While at Augustana, he served as a guest professor at the University of Indonesia, The University of Iowa, East Tennessee State University [include city/state?] and Northwestern State College in Alva, Oklahoma.

Along with Nelson’s work as a professor and his directing of the planetarium at Augustana College, he served as tour director for the Eclipse Chaser’s Club by leading tours to view eclipses around the world. He served as President for several different organizations, including the Popular Astronomy Club, the Zeta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and the Rock Island Rotary Club. [off campus?] He was also a member of the Math Association of America and the Quad Cities Popular Astronomy Club.

Dr. Harry Nelson died on December 30, 2003 in Davenport, Iowa at age 90.


4 Cubic Feet (/ 10 boxes)

Language of Materials



Harry E. Nelson was born on September 21, 1913, in Rockford, Illinois. He attended Rockford High School, then was admitted to Augustana College. He graduated in 1935 with a bachelor’s degree. He also earned a master’s from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1940, and a doctorate from the University of Iowa in Iowa City in 1950. Nelson taught high school and college math in several Midwestern states until 1946, when he became a faculty member at Augustana College. He taught in the mathematics department until his retirement in 1988. In 1972, he sponsored a three-day seminar at Augustana on space exploration that featured Neil Armstrong. He also helped to establish the John Deere Planetarium and Gamble Observatory in 1969, and served as its director until 1988. Nelson was involved in many clubs and societies, especially related to Augustana College, astronomy, and mathematics. He passed away on February 7, 2004. This collection contains personal and professional correspondence, photographs, lecture notes, newspaper clippings, and ephemera, mostly from Nelson’s time on the Augustana faculty.

Harry Nelson papers, circa 1946-1988.
In Progress
Michelle Richmond
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Repository Details

Part of the Augustana College Special Collections Repository

639 38th Street
Thomas Tredway Library
Rock Island Illinois 61201 United States