In 1890 he was appointed director of the Kenwood Astrophysical Observatory; he was professor of Astrophysics at Beloit College (1891-93; associate professor at the University of Chicago until 1897, and full professor (1897-1905). He was coeditor of Astronomy and Astrophysics in 1892-95 and after 1895 editor of the Astrophysical Journal.
He helped found a number of observatories, including Yerkes Observatory, Mount Wilson Observatory, and the Hale Solar Laboratory. At Mount Wilson, he hired and encouraged Harlow Shapley and Edwin Hubble and did a great deal of fundraising, planning, organizing and promotion of astronomical institutions, societies and journals. Hale also played a central role in developing the California Institute of Technology into a leading research university and in building the Palomar Observatory.
Named after him