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Charles P. Sonett Papers, 1962-2010 (bulk 1973-1997)

MS 520

Collection Summary

Creator: Sonett, Charles P.
Collection Name:Charles P. Sonett Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1962-2010
Bulk Dates: (bulk 1972-19997)
Physical Description:2.5 linear feet
Abstract:The Charles Sonett papers is comprised of the personal and professional papers of nuclear physicist Charles P. Sonett. The bulk of the material relates to his career as an astronomical researcher and administrator at the Department of Planetary Sciences and the Lunar Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona.
Collection Number:MS 520
Language: Materials in English
Repository: University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections
University of Arizona
PO Box 210055
Tucson, AZ 85721-0055
Phone: 520-621-6423
Fax: 520-621-9733

Biographical Note

Charles P. Sonett was born on January 15, 1924 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, of Hungarian parents. When he was a young boy his family moved to Trona California, forty miles southwest of Death Valley. He attended Los Angeles High School and became a member of the LA Amateur Astronomical Society.

Following high school, Sonett attended UCLA and majored in physics. After 2 years of college and the bombing of Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the Army where he was assigned to the 103rd Infantry Division. On March 13, 1945 Sonett stepped on a German mine while on patrol in France, his injuries led to the battlefield amputation of his left leg.

He returned to UCLA in 1946 to continue his undergraduate degree in physics. Sonett ultimately transferred to UC Berkley where he graduated in 1948. In June of that same year he married Virginia Louise Hooten, also a graduate of UC Berkley.

His first job was with the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory at Hunters Point in San Francisco working on satellite planning. After only one year he returned to UCLA and received his masters of arts in 1951 and his doctorate in Nuclear Physics in 1954.

From 1954 through 1960 Dr. Sonett was employed by Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation in the Space Technology Laboratories. He was subsequently employed at NASA Headquarters, as Chief of Sciences, in the Lunar and Planetary Programs from 1960-1962. In 1962 Sonett was chosen as the head of the Space Sciences Division at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. Dr. Sonett remained at Ames Research Center for 11 years. Where he was a pioneer in space exploration and involved in the Pioneer Program, 1958-1969; Explorer Program, 1959-1976; Apollo Program, 1969-1972.

In 1969 he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for significant scientific contribution toward achievement of aeronautical or space exploration goals.

Dr. Sonett was personally selected by Dr. Gerard P. Kuiper to replace him in 1973, as the director of the Lunar Planetary Laboratory (LPL) and the head of the Department of Planetary Science. During his tenure as director, 1973-1977, Sonett built and expanded an internationally recognized research and education program in solar system sciences at the University of Arizona.

Following his resignation as director, Sonett continued to be active in both research and teaching at the Lunar Planetary Laboratory and the Department of Planetary Sciences. In 1990 Dr. Sonett was involved in the Ulysses Program, a joint venture between The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. This mission was the first survey of the Sun's environment in space from its equator to the poles and over a wide range of solar activity conditions.

In 1992 the University of Arizona named Dr. Sonett a Regents’ Professor, the top title for university professors in the state. In 2003 he retired from teaching and research at the university as a Regents’ Professor Emeritus.

On April 30, 2004 the University of Arizona dedicated the Dr. Charles P. Sonett Space Science Building at 1541 E. University Blvd., Tucson, AZ. The building now houses approximately 45 scientists and support staff.

Charles P. Sonett died on September 30, 2011 at the age of 87.

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of the personal and some professional papers of Charles P. Sonett. The bulk of the material consists of his correspondence with other noted astronomers and scientists, during his time at the Lunar Planetary Laboratory and the Department of Planetary Sciences. Other items in the collection are research files, publications/presentation, and subject files.


This collection is organized into 5 series
Series I: Personal Files, 1971-2010
Series II: Correspondence, 1962-1996,
Series III: Research, 1962-1996
Series IV: Publication/Presentations, 1955-1997
Series V: Subject files, 1972-2000



There are no restrictions on this collection.


It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents for the University of Arizona, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.

Related Material

Gerard Peter Kuiper Papers, MS 480; Michael J. Drake Papers, MS 511.

Access Terms

Personal Name(s)
Kuiper, Gerard,1905-1973
Sonett, Charles P.

Corporate Name(s)
United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration--History.
University of Arizona--Department of Planetary Science--History.
University of Arizona--Lunar Planetary Laboratory--History.

Geographic Name(s)
Solar System--Age.

Aeronautics--Research--United States--History.
Climate changes.
Magnetic fields.
Solar Wind--research.

Administrative Information

Credit Line

Charles P. Sonett Papers (MS 520). Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries.

Container List

Series I: Personal files , 1971-2010
11 Personal
Series II: Correspondence , 1962-1996
Organized alphabetically by correspondent, includes both incoming and outgoing mail.
12 A, 1969-1993
13 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), )1972-1982
14 American Geophysical Union (AGU), 1980-1992
15 B, 1969-1996
16 C, 1969-1985
17 D, 1970-1979
18 E, 1969-1984
19 F, 1969-1994
110 G, 1971-1987
111 Gault, Donald E., 1972-1980
112 H, 1969-1984
113 I, 1983
114 J, 1973-1979
115 K, 1969-1992
116 L, 1971-1994
117 M, 1972-1994
118 Michaelis, Anthony, 1975-1994
119 N, 1970-1991
120 NASA, 1962-1988
121 O, 1973
122 P, 1971-1983
123 R, 1972-1989
124 Runcorn, S.K., 1972-1980
125 S, 1965-1994
126 Sagan, Carl, 1975
127 Schubert, G., 1969-1975
128 Suess, Hans E., 1981-1989
129 T, 1969-1988
130 U, 1968-1985
131 V, 1971-1989
132 Vanyan, L.L., 1981-1982
133 W, 1967-1997
134 Unknown, 1978-1993
Series III: Reasearh Files , 1962-1996
Arranged alphabetically by title
21 Explorer 33 - 35 (notes, figures, programs), circa 1962-1972
22 Explorer 33/35, 4-Way, Ames/Goddard (Project Close Encounters), 1979
23 Explorer (Old Spectral Analyses), circa 1966
24 Explorer Tape Programs – note on changes, undated
25 Houston original Plots “Velumes”, undated
26 Impact photographs/frames, undated
27 Impact Experiment notebook (Nova camera), 1980-1982
28 Impact Experiment photographs, undated
29 Pioneer B-Vector sphere plots, 1981
210 Powers/Sigmas, circa 1971, 1981
211 Tree-Ring research, 1976-1978
212 Tree-Ring research, circa 1982-1987
213 Varve Mean Cycles notes, undated
214 Weeli Wooli Scans / Notes, 1984-1985
215 Miscellaneous (charts, figures, graphs, etc.), 1969-1996
Series IV: Publications/Presentations , 1955-1997
Organized chronologincally.
216 Sonett’s Publication list, 1955-1997
217 Articles/presentations by Sonett, 1974-1994
218 Transparencies for the Spring AGU meeting, 1980
219 Elatina (figures, photographs, transparencies), circa 1980’s
220 Figures not needed for Planetary Meeting presentation, circa 1980’s
221 TTau stars and the early heating of protoplanets, December 2, 1991
222 Ulysses mission plasma data transparencies, circa1990’s
223 US-USSR Symposium on the influence of solar activity on climate, November 16-20, 1987
224 Outline for a Lunar Physics book, undated
225 Lunar Plumes, undated
Series V: Subject Files , 1972-2000
226 Two Proposals with Sonett’s involvement, 1972, 1998
227 Manuscripts reviewed by Charles Sonett, 1975-2000
228 Bibliography? 1977-1980
229 Photographs of Varves, undated
Note: Varve is an annual layer of sedimentary material deposited in lakes and fiords by glacial melt waters, consisting of two distinct bands of sediment deposited in summer and winter. Some of the photographs were taken at Port Askaig, Scotland.
230 Unknown rock undated