Sloan Digital Sky Survey: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, 1995

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



Case Study Sector


Until the mid-1990s, the last comprehensive study of a large portion of the cosmos was one undertaken in the 1950s by researchers at the Mount Palomar Observatory. This study remained state-of-the-art for forty years, until the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation moved to fund a new astronomical survey unprecedented in its breadth and depth. This "intergalactic census" would be conducted by the nonprofit Astrophysical Research Consortium, a partnership of research universities and laboratories, including the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, and teams of researchers from Japan, Germany, and elsewhere. Each would provide manpower and funds, as would the federal government. But the project was initiated with Sloan Foundation funding, and, as evidenced by its name, the Foundation would remain its leading supporter.
SDSS is more than a leap forward in human understanding of the cosmos; for in creating a framework "sky partitioning system," SDSS has laid a foundation for the next generation of astronomical research.



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Blog Posts

More on time, value, and time limits

February 19, 2018

A new report applies a theory of time and value in philanthropy to three real cases, to see how a foundation could decide whether to operate with a limited life, based on the amount and kind of value it hopes to create.


Oct 05

Rip Rapson
President and CEO
The Kresge Foundation