Table of Contents

The Importance of John Herschel, and of his correspondence
Repositories Holding Correspondence of John Herschel
The Royal Society Summaries
The Contents of the Calendar
Editorial Method


The Importance of John Herschel, and of his correspondence

Contemporaries of Sir John F. W. Herschel (1792–1871) recognized that he was among the most important figures in nineteenth-century science. Writing during the late 1830s, John Ruskin remarked that through his acquaintance with William Buckland, "I met the leading scientific men of the day, from [John] Herschel downward...."[1] In an obituary notice on Herschel, T. Romney Robinson Lamented: "... British science has sustained a loss greater than any which it has suffered since the death of Newton...."[2] That many of Robinson's contemporaries shared his sentiments is shown by the fact that Herschel was interred next to Newton in Westminster Abbey. The significance of Herschel for nineteenth-century British science is also suggested by the conclusion reached by W. F. Cannon in a study of Herschel's place in nineteenth-century science; after asking what it meant to be scientific in the early Victorian period, Cannon marshaled abundant evidence to support the conclusion that it meant: "be as much like Herschel as possible."[3]

Herschel's reputation among his contemporaries derived not only from the importance of his contributions to science, but also from the breadth of his learning. His most significant achievements were in astronomy, to which area his father, Sir William Herschel, had made very notable contributions. Among the elder Herschel's achievements were the discovery of Uranus, pioneering studies in stellar astronomy, and catalogs of the nebulae and double stars of the northern heavens. John Herschel not only extended his father's studies of the northern heavens, but also published the first detailed study of the stellar and nebular objects of the southern heavens. This was based on four years of intense observation carried out by the younger Herschel at the Cape of Good Hope. John Herschel's Outlines of Astronomy (1849) served for decades as the definitive presentation of that science. In addition, John Herschel made important contributions to mathematics, physics, chemistry, photography, the philosophy of science, and scientific organization. The rebirth of mathematics in Britain is frequently dated from the second decade of the nineteenth century when John Herschel served as founding president of the Analytical Society, which played a major role in introducing continental methods of analysis into Britain. In physics, Herschel contributed not only to electricity but also to optics; his book-length article "Light," published in 1830 in the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, was recognized as a definitive mathematical presentation of the wave theory of light not only in England, but also in France and Germany, where translations were immediately published. His discovery in 1819 of a method of fixing images formed when silver salts are exposed to light was the first of a number of important contributions he made to photochemistry. Herschel's Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1830) continues to be appreciated as a classic in philosophy of science. The range and significance of Herschel's contributions were such that he can with justice be described as Britain's first modern physical scientist.[4]

Because John Herschel began his career carrying the name that his father had made famous, because the son, unlike his autodidact father, was trained at the center of British science, Cambridge University, and because the younger Herschel worked in nearly every area of science, he had almost instant access to the international leadership of science. This opportunity was not lost on Herschel, whose devotion to and diligence in correspondence were remarkable. These and other features of Herschel's life account for the fact that the correspondence of John Herschel constitutes one of the most valuable archives for nineteenth-century science. The single most remarkable aspect of his correspondence is its magnitude; this volume provides summaries of the 14,815 letters to and from Herschel that are currently known. An even more significant feature of the John Herschel correspondence is the importance of his correspondents.

Among Herschel's main correspondents (along with the approximate numbers of surviving letters exchanged with them) were George Airy (1059), Charles Babbage (422), Francis Baily (276), Francis Beaufort (172), David Brewster (61), W. R. Dawes (90), Augustus De Morgan (403), Michael Faraday (63), James David Forbes (89), William Rowan Hamilton (57), John Hind (93), William Lassell (70), Humphrey Lloyd (62), John W. Lubbock (92), Charles Lyell (57), Thomas Maclear (398), Roderick Murchison (113), George Peacock (96), Edward Sabine (528), Adam Sedgwick (45), Richard Sheepshanks (166), William Henry Smyth (182), Mary Somerville (57), James South (90), George Stokes (132), Wilhelm Struve (57), Henry Fox Talbot (130), John Tyndall (60), William Whewell (212), and Thomas Young (43). Some of the smaller collections are also of great interest, e.g., the letters Herschel exchanged with Charles Darwin (9), Maria Edgeworth (15), Carl Friedrich Gauss (23), John Stuart Mill (19), Herbert Spencer (15), and William Thomson (6). These tallies provide evidence that not only was John Herschel involved in most areas of science, but also that he was central to that crucially important group that historians of science have come to call "the Cambridge network."[5] This group has been identified as the source of much of the best of nineteenth-century British science.

The importance of Herschel's correspondence derives not only from its magnitude and range, but also from the fact that some of the individual letters were highly influential. Perhaps the most striking example of this consists of two letters Herschel wrote to Charles Lyell on the question of the origin of species, which letters many Darwin scholars describe as having played a crucial role in Darwin's investigation of that topic.[6]

Another reason why it is so important to provide increased access to Herschel's correspondence is that whereas "life and letters" volumes have been published on nearly all the leading British scientists of the nineteenth century, no such volume has ever treated Herschel. Nor has a comprehensive selected edition of his letters appeared, although Herschel scholarship has been enriched by such volumes as Brian and Nancy Warner's Maclear and Herschel: Letters and Diaries at the Cape of Good Hope 1834– 1838.[7] Many other important documents from Herschel's years at the Cape were made available in the most significant of David Evans's many contributions to Herschel scholarship.[8] Herschel scholarship has also benefitted from a short but substantial biography published by Günther Buttmann: In the Shadow of the Telescope: A Biography of John Herschel.[9] It is hoped that the present Calendar will serve as a guide to the Herschel's extensive correspondence, a large portion of which is now available on microfilm.[10] The Calendar should also serve as a rich source for biographical information on Herschel by allowing scholars to follow for the first time the main lines of Herschel's activities and ideas on an almost day-to-day basis.

Repositories Holding Correspondence of John Herschel

Many persons have contributed to the preservation of this remarkable archive. No one, however, did more in this regard than John Herschel himself, who carefully preserved and arranged nearly all the correspondence he received and made abstracts, drafts, pressed copies, etc., for many of the letters he sent. Moreover, in the period immediately after Herschel's death in 1871, one of Herschel's children, Col. John Herschel, led a major effort to rescue from the ravages of history as many as possible of the letters his father had written and that were consequently in attics or archives of his correspondents. A document written by Col. John Herschel and preserved at the Royal Society describes in some detail the efforts that were then made:

The question, as to a biography of Sir J. Herschel being undertaken, was raised in 1873—soon after my return from India (on furlough) in the summer of that year.

It was decided to restrict operations, at that period, to what was most urgent, viz, the collection of autograph letters in the hands of correspondents and their representatives, and of copies or drafts where such could be found.

The question, as to a biography of Sir J. Herschel being undertaken, This was carried out, with considerable energy and persistence, and at no small cost of time, trouble, and cash, throughout the year 1874; in November of wh year I had to leave England again.

With but few exceptions, letters thus collected were returned, after having been copied,—the copies being invariably compared, word for word, with the originals, & initialled as such. This—the finding, getting, taking verified transcripts of, & finally returning several hundred letters,—represents the bulk of the work effected up to Nov. '74.[11]

Additional documents[12] supply further details concerning these efforts as well as information as to which correspondents were contacted. Very careful comparison of these transcriptions, which number 1648, with their originals (when such still exist) shows that the transcriptions were indeed done with care and accuracy. Moreover, the most momentary glance at these transcriptions reveals that their level of legibility far exceeds that found in the letters written in Herschel's notoriously difficult hand.

Two important if frequently little appreciated points emerge from the above information. First, although Herschel preserved nearly all the letters he received, his correspondents were far less diligent. The result of this is that 9,463 of the letters treated in this volume are letters to John Herschel, whereas only 5,352 are letters from him. From the plausible assumption that Herschel wrote approximately as many letters as he received, one can infer that four thousand or more letters by Herschel were not located in the international search for Herschel letters carried on in conjunction with the preparation of this volume. No doubt many of these letters have been destroyed. The second point relates to the fact that 14,815 separate letters are treated in this volume. This fact might easily lead one to assume that this is the number of items of Herschel correspondence that have been preserved and that have been processed in the research for this volume. In fact, the situation is far otherwise. The reason is that repositories holding Herschel correspondence usually possess not only originals, but also such items as drafts, abstracts, extracts, contemporary transcriptions, and related correspondence, e.g., letters to Herschel's wife or letters sent to a correspondent who then sent the letter to Herschel. Consequently, in preparing this Calendar, it has been necessary to process not 14,815 items of correspondence but probably closer to 19,000 documents. Some of these, e.g., letters sent to correspondents and then forwarded to Herschel, have usually been excluded from consideration. In other cases, e.g., when we have located the original letter, plus an abstract, plus a draft, plus a contemporary transcription, we have listed after the summary all these items along with their locations. In most cases, however, only one or two forms of the letter have been preserved.

Col. John Herschel's efforts, so important to the preservation of his father's correspondence, failed in regard to the finding of a biographer. Seven decades later, in 1944, John Herschel's grandson, the Reverend Sir John Herschel, Bt., donated a very large portion of Herschel's correspondence as well as transcriptions of Herschel's diaries for the years 1834 to 1871 and miscellaneous other materials to the Royal Society. One document published by the Royal Society indicates that this collection contains 10,058 items,[13] but this figure is easily misunderstood if taken to be an indication of the number of original letters held by the Royal Society. On the one hand, this figure neglects the fact that various other archives in the Royal Society contain Herschel letters. On the other hand, this figure seems to be simply a sum of the number of originals plus drafts plus abstracts plus transcriptions that were part of this donation. In any case, by far the largest collection of Herschel letters is preserved at the Royal Society in London.

Large as this donation was, it by no means exhausted the number of John Herschel letters held by the Herschel family. On 3 and 4 March 1958, a sale was held at Sotheby's in London of numerous letters, manuscripts, etc. that had been owned by William, Caroline, or John Herschel, which items were at that time owned by Mrs. E. D. Shorland, niece of Rev. Sir John Herschel. The University of Texas acquired a large portion of the John Herschel items offered in this sale, including 2,555 items of correspondence and the original diaries for 1820 to 1871. Through this action, the University of Texas acquired the second largest collection of Herschel letters.

The third largest collection, preserved in the Royal Greenwich Observatory Archive, which is maintained at Cambridge University, consists of part of John Herschel's correspondence with that most prolific of correspondents George Airy. We have located 607 separate items of correspondence in this archive.

The fourth largest archive is at the Royal Astronomical Society in London. This collection, which includes letters of William and Caroline Herschel, seems to have been donated by the Herschel family. Our research in this archive resulted in the location of 440 separate items of correspondence.[14]

The Herschel family still has in its possession a very significant number of Herschel letters, most being of a personal or family nature. These have not been accessible to the public. Fortunately, we have been allowed to examine and to summarize 383 of these letters.

Despite the large size of these five collections, numerous Herschel letters are preserved in other collections throughout the world. In fact, we have located letters in a total of 73 different repositories, the names of these appearing in this volume's "Provenance List."

The number and importance of the Herschel letters held by the Royal Society as well as some special features of that collection make it useful to provide additional information on that collection, which is also now available on microfilm. The Royal Society, upon receiving the Herschel materials, carefully bound the letters in 28 volumes. Moreover, in the 1950s, a Royal Society librarian R. K. Bluhm prepared a detailed catalog of these letters, which was available at the Royal Society Library but was not published. This catalog has now been edited for publication and is available from University Publications of America.[15] The Royal Society Herschel collection can for convenience be described as consisting of five parts:

Vols. 1–18: Original letters to or from Herschel arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

Vol. 19: Miscellaneous items, including letters that happened not be to included in the earlier volumes.

Vols. 20–4: Transcriptions of letters prepared under the direction of Col. John Herschel.

Vol. 25: Primarily pressed copies of letters by John Herschel.

Vols. 26–8: Miscellaneous items, including additional letters and the transcriptions of the diaries for 1834–71.

The Royal Society Summaries

Of the 14,815 summaries in this volume, 4,971 were prepared (during the 1950s, it seems) by librarians at the Royal Society in London. It appears that these librarians initially set out to summarize all Herschel letters at the Royal Society, preserving these summaries on reference cards carrying the identification mark of the letter. probably because of the immense time and effort this would have required, they terminated this ambitious and valuable project after having summarized most of the letters bound in volumes 1 to 13 of the 28 volumes of Herschel materials in the Royal Society John Herschel collection. Thus the identification marks for summaries prepared at the Royal Society always begin with the letters RS:HS followed by a number from 1 to 13 inclusive. it should not, however, be concluded that all RS:HS items followed by a number between 1 and 13 inclusive were prepared at the Royal Society. In a substantial number of cases, especially those in which the letter was in a foreign language, no summary was prepared. In such cases, the team that prepared this volume has remedied the omission. Moreover, the project team has added the physical description of all letters from volumes 1 through 13, including the designation of the number of pages for each letter. In addition, the project team prepared all summaries of letters not in volumes 1–13 of the Royal Society collection.

Information on how these Royal Society summaries became available provides background for understanding decisions made concerning the form in which the entries were included in this volume. At the time when funding for this project was being negotiated with the National Science Foundation, a representative of the Royal Society Library stated that summaries of all letters in volumes 1–13 in their Herschel collection had already been prepared. This welcome news provided a justification for a reduction in the amount of time and of funding that would be needed for the project. As our project progressed, staff members at the Royal Society Library photocopied for us the cards containing these summaries. It is important to note that the Royal Society retains copyright to these entries.[16]

In preparing these Royal Society summaries for inclusion in this volume, we had to face the issue of how much editing they should receive. Various considerations, the most important being time and funding constraints, pointed toward keeping to a minimum the level of editing applied to them. Consequently, our practice has been to retain essentially their full content, but with some seemingly necessary exceptions. For example, we have corrected all errors evident to us. Moreover, such considerations as consistency in style and economy of space have necessitated that we bring their format closer to that adopted for all other summaries in this volume. For example, we have (silently) made such alterations as substituting "JH" for "John Herschel" or "Herschel" and replaced "Royal Astronomical Society" by "R.A.S." Consistency of style led us to replace British spellings by their American equivalents and to substitute numerous semicolons and periods for the dashes used very liberally by the Royal Society librarians. Another major task resulted from the fact that the Royal Society librarians typically provided only the last names of persons mentioned in summaries. Because of the need to index all summaries for this volume, we have consequently added first names (whenever needed and possible) to the Royal Society summaries. To have applied a heavier level of editing might well have violated the integrity of the summaries prepared at the Royal Society and, in any case, would have involved the expenditure of quantities of time far beyond what had received funding.

The Contents of the Calendar

All items of correspondence treated in this calendar fall into seven categories.

1. Original letters. The great majority of letters summarized in this Calendar are original letters, usually written in the hand of and signed by the sender.

2. Copies of letters. Nearly all these are letters from John Herschel, who sometimes wrote out a copy of an important letter or made a pressed copy of it. Also, as noted above, in the early 1870s, John Herschel's family arranged for the transcription of a large number of letters that he had written. In the vast majority of cases, these copies date from the nineteenth century. Twentieth-century photocopies are not included in this category. Wherever possible, the summaries given in this Calendar are based on examination of the original letter (or a photoduplicate of it) rather than a copy or abstract of it.

3. Published letters. Such letters can take either of two forms. First, these may be letters Herschel sent to journals or newspapers for publication. Usually the original is not preserved. The second type are letters that have been published, e.g., in a "life and letters" volume of one of Herschel's contemporaries, but where we have been unable to determine the location of the original on which the published form was based.

4. Drafts. Drafts treated in this Calendar probably all came directly or indirectly from the pen of John Herschel, who was careful to preserve drafts of his more important letters. These are precious documents not only in those cases where the final letter has been lost, but also in instances where the scholar can compare the draft with the final letter sent so as to see shifts in Herschel's thought.

5. Third-party letters. Repositories holding Herschel correspondence frequently contain letters not written by or sent to Herschel, but that are somehow relevant to him. We have included such items when they shed light on Herschel. One type of letter with this characteristic is a letter directed to Herschel's correspondent but containing information to be shared with Herschel. Another type of letter is written by someone close to Herschel, for example, his wife, and contains important information on Herschel, but the letter itself is directed to another party. Individual judgments (perhaps not always definable or defensible) have had to be made in each such case. In the majority of cases, we have decided against inclusion of the third party letter. Nonetheless, ca. 163 such letters have been included.

6. Memoranda. No hard and fast line can be drawn that separates letters from memoranda, but typically the latter items are shorter than standard letters and are bereft of such formalities as salutations.

7. Letters listed in sales catalogs. When we have seen or been alerted to a Herschel letter appearing in a sale catalog, we have contacted the firm offering the letter, asking to receive a photocopy or a transcription of the letter. In most cases, the vendors have cooperated fully and effectively, thereby allowing us to provide information on letters that might otherwise have disappeared from the world of scholarship.

Editorial Method

Editorial practices for this calendar have been based in large part on those employed by the editors of the widely respected Calendar of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882.[17] This has had a number of advantages, extending both to the present editors and to users of this calendar. The former, in selecting format and methods, have been able to draw productively on the experience of the Darwin editors. Readers, at least those who have worked with the Darwin Calendar, will be aided by this decision because the high level of consistency in the formatting of the two volumes maximizes the ease with which users will work with our format. Differences in the collections of letters of the two scientists and other factors have suggested some departures from the Darwin Calendar format, but such instances have been rare.

Each entry in this Calendar contains the following items: a number assigned by the editors of this volume; the date of the letter; the name of the correspondent, if known; the address of the correspondent if appearing on the letter or envelope or in cases where it could be reasonably conjectured, supplied within square brackets. The summary of the contents of the letter comes next, followed by the physical description and location line. This line begins with a description of the letter as well as information on its number of pages and whether it was written in a foreign language. The location of the letter is then supplied. If the letter has been published, a reference to this publication concludes the entry.

Further information on the editorial practices followed for the parts of the entries is given below.

1. Number. In general, the entries have been numbered from earliest letter to the latest. Thus the earliest known letter has been assigned the number 1. Frequently, more than one letter corresponds to a particular day. In those cases, the letters for that day have been arranged in the alphabetical order of the names of the correspondent. In some instances, even these principles of ordering have proven inadequate; for example, instances have arisen where Herschel and a correspondent exchanged as many as five letters all on the same day. In such cases, efforts have been made to place the letters in the order in which they were written, responses appearing after rather than before the original letter, with the number assigned accordingly.

2. The Date. The date is expressed in the format year, month, day, e.g., 1863-3-27. In cases where one or more elements in the date do not appear in the letter or could not be determined with certainty, the element has been placed in square brackets to indicate its status. If no date could be assigned, this is indicated by the abbreviation "n.d." If the element was not only inferred but also significantly uncertain, it is followed by a question mark. Thus a letter bearing only the date July 15 could be assigned either of the following: [1843]-7-15 or [1843?]-7-15, the latter form indicating that the year is more uncertain than that assigned in the former case. All dates have been given in terms of the Gregorian rather than the Julian calendar. Thus a letter from Russia, where the Gregorian calendar was not instituted until 1917, may bear the date June 2/13. This would be transcribed as June 13. If a letter contains no date but was written in response to an earlier letter dated, say, 1845-9-14, then the undated later letter would be assigned the date [1845-9-14 or later]. Where it is known or conjectured that a letter was written in a particular year or month, but nothing allows the assignment of a day to the letter, the letter is placed with the letters written on the first day of that year or month. Thus a letter known to have been written sometime in 1843 has been treated in terms of placement as if it had been written on 1843-1-1.

3. The name of the correspondent. The name of the correspondent is preceded by a "To" or a "From", the former indicating that the letter was to that correspondent from Herschel, the latter ("From") meaning that the letter was sent from that correspondent to Herschel. The name of the correspondent is given in fairly full form, e.g., George Gabriel Stokes has been used rather than G. G. Stokes. Titles in most cases have not been included, unless meaning required such. Thus such titles as Sir, Rev., Lord, Col., Mr., Mrs., etc., have been omitted. We have departed from this rule in cases where the first name of the correspondent is not known. This has been indicated by inserting a Mr. (or Miss) where the first name would typically be placed. Where one or more elements of the name have been conjectured, this has been indicated by placing that element in square brackets. Where the evidence is significantly less than satisfactory for the conjectured addition, this is expressed by a question mark following the name in square brackets. When we have been essentially sure of the name, even though it may not appear anywhere in the letter, square brackets have not been employed.

4. The address. London street names stand alone (i.e., without the designation London), whereas other street names are followed by the city. Also Collingwood (the name of Herschel's home in Hawkhurst from 1840 on) usually stands alone. In naming cities outside the English-speaking world, the common English language name has been used, e.g., Vienna rather than Wien, Florence rather than Firenze. Where conjectural information has been inserted, square brackets have been employed. If more conjectural or inferential, we have inserted square brackets plus a question mark. If no location can be assigned, the abbreviation n.p. (no place) has been inserted.

5. The summaries. These have been designed to summarize the most significant information in the letter. Space considerations have necessitated the use of various abbreviations, e.g., "JH" for John Herschel and the first letter of the first and of the last name of the correspondent, e.g., in a letter from Charles Babbage, CB would refer the reader to the first line for the full name. Other abbreviations are listed on the page immediately before the first Calendar entries. Where a letter prominently mentions a publication, efforts have been made to provide a reference, sometimes rather cryptic, to that publication. In choosing between a readable or a space-saving telegraphic style, the tendency has been to favor the former. Most of the entries are meant to stand alone, but many will be enriched and clarified by reading adjacent summaries. Cross references (e.g., [see JH's 1842-9-16]) have frequently been provided to assist this process. Much research has been necessitated by the fact that most letters in mentioning a person give only the person's last name. Where that name has been carried over into the summary, efforts have been made to identify the person by assigning a first name. Where these efforts have not succeeded, this is indicated by prefacing the last name by an abbreviations such as Mr., Mrs., Captain, etc. Where the letter exists as, say, an original, a draft, a contemporary transcription, and an abstract, the summary has been based on the original. Quotations are indicated by the use of single quotation marks.

6. Physical description. Provided below are abbreviations, terms, and symbols used on the physical description line.

document (other than letter)
draft of letter
copy of letter
contemporary copy of the letter (e.g., copy kept by sender)
translation of letter (into or from English)
Abstract (of a letter)
autograph (half or more of text in sender's hand)
part autograph (any portion less than half in sender's hand)
signed or initialed by sender
signed with sender's name by an amanuensis
autograph letter signed by sender
letter in hand of amanuensis, signed by sender
contemporary copy in sender's hand, signed by sender
language of described item
incomplete (part(s) of the original document missing)
part(s) of original document destroyed
annotations by recipient
annotations by specified person
lengthy, numerous, or particularly important annotations by recipient
diagram or illustration

An unusually long physical description of a letter might take the form: ALS 4pp (French) inc & damaged diag. This would mean that the item is a letter in the hand of the sender (autograph) and signed by the sender, that the letter is 4 pages long in text length, that it is written in French, is incomplete, damaged, and includes one or more diagrams. In those rare cases where it has been impossible to see the item identified or a photoduplicate of it, the fact that the length of the letter is unknown has been expressed by writing Xpp for the number of pages.

7. Provenance. All materials held by the Royal Society are identified by a mark beginning with the letters RS. The great majority of these begin with RS:HS, meaning that they are part of the Royal Society's Herschel collection, rather than other collections. The provenance identifications for items held by the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas begin with the letter Tx; Royal Astronomical Society materials with RAS; Royal Greenwich Observatory items with RGO. Letters held by John Herschel-Shorland, great great grandson of John Herschel, are identified by beginning with JHS. To find the full name for any provenance identification, see the "Provenance List," which follows this introduction. See Provenance List on the Bibliographies page ». Persons wishing to consult individual letters will no doubt help the librarians holding the letters by supplying as much information as possible about the letter and especially its identification mark.

The atypically long provenance identification for Herschel's letter to Gauss of 1821-2-11 takes the form NSUB Cod.Ms.Gauss 99 (Draft: RS:HS 8.72 & C: 20.111). Using the Provenance List, one can determine that the original for this letter is held at the Niedersächsische Staats-un-Universitäts-Bibliothek, Göttingen (identification mark being provided), that a draft is preserved at item 72 in volume 8 of the Royal Society Herschel Collection, and that a contemporary transcript occurs in volume 20, item 111 in the Royal Society Herschel Collection.

8. Reference to published version of letters. Although it has not been the central goal of the research directed toward the preparation of this Calendar to find all published versions of correspondence to and from John Herschel, this research has located 665 letters that appear, at least in part, in published volumes. These published letters take two forms. A minority consist of letters that Herschel sent to newspapers or journals in the successful hope that the letter be published. The majority of published letters appear either in such volumes as Brian and Nancy Warner's Maclear and Herschel: Letters and Diaries at the Cape of Good Hope 1834–1838 or in biographies or collections of letters of Herschel's contemporaries, e.g., Charles Darwin. In every case where published letters of any of these forms have come to our attention, we have referenced the publication, in most cases using an abbreviated reference. These abbreviations can easily be deciphered using the "Bibliography of Works Containing Printed Herschel Correspondence," which is included in this volume.

9. Future plans. The research materials presented in this volume are also preserved in a database program for Macintosh computers named 4th Dimension. This has greatly facilitated our work, for example, in determining the chronological order of the letters or in ascertaining the number that have been published. The editors of this volume have been exploring possibilities of making this database available to scholars. Its uses are numerous. With this program and data, it is easy to determine which letters were exchanged with, say, George Airy or were written in the months around the discovery of the planet Neptune or which summaries contain the word "Neptune." Now you can search the Calendar on the web »

The research produced in this Calendar depended very heavily on the cooperation of librarians and other persons with Herschel correspondence in their care. In making available to us photoduplicates of these letters, these persons have frequently and fully justifiably stipulated that these copies not become the basis of a competing archive of Herschel materials. Moreover, it is not the intention of the editors of this Calendar to open a service that will supply scholars with photoduplicates of letters held by repositories with professional staff responsible for these materials. Thus although the editors welcome information on the Calendar itself and will appreciate receiving corrections as well as information about newly found letters, we shall not in general be responsible for responding to requests for photoduplicates of any letters described in this Calendar. Correspondence concerning the calendar should be addressed to Professor Michael J. Crowe, Program of Liberal Studies, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556.


[1]John Ruskin, Praeterita and Dilecta (London: George Allen, 1908), 205.

[2]T. R. R. [T. Romney Robinson], "John Frederick William Herschel," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 20 (1872), xvii.

[3]Walter F. Cannon, "John Herschel and the Idea of Science," Journal of the History of Ideas, 22 (1961), 219.

[4]M. J. Crowe, "John Herschel: Britain's First Modern Physical Scientist" in Brian Warner (ed.), John Herschel 1792–1992: Bicentennial Symposium (Royal Society of South Africa, 1994), pp. 57–69.

[5]Susan Faye Cannon, Science in Culture: The Early Victorian Period (New York: Science History Publications, 1978) and Robert Smith, "The Cambridge Network in Action: The Discovery of Neptune," Isis, 80 (1989), 395–422.

[6]Walter F. Cannon, "The Impact of Cultural Uniformitarianism. Two Letters from John Herschel to Charles Lyell, 1836–1837," American Philosophical Society Proceedings, 105 (June 1961), 301–14.

[7](Rotterdam: A. A. Balkema, 1984).

[8]David S. Evans, Terence J. Deeming, Betty Hall Evans, and Stephen Goldfarb (eds), Herschel at the Cape: Diaries and Correspondence of Sir John Herschel, 1834–1838 (Austin, Texas: Univ. of Texas Press, 1969).

[9]trans. by Bernard Pagel, edited and with an introduction by David S. Evans (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1970).

[10]In 1990, University Publications of America brought out a microfilm of the entire Herschel collection at the Royal Society. This has made Herschel's correspondence far more accessible to scholars.

[11]This document appears as Frame 69 of Reel 27 of the University Publications of America Herschel microfilm.

[12]Frames 111–20 of Reel 27 of the University Publications of America Herschel microfilm.

[13]R. K. Bluhm, "A Guide to the Archives of the Royal Society and to Other Manuscripts in Its Possession," Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 12 (1956), 39.

[14]For information on materials at the Royal Astronomical Society, see J. A. Bennett, "The Manuscript Archives of the Royal Astronomical Society," Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, 18 (1977), 459–63.

[15]M. J. Crowe (ed.), The Letters and Papers of Sir John Herschel: A Guide to the Manuscripts and Microfilm (in the series: Collections from the Royal Society), (Bethesda, Maryland: University Publications of America, 1991).

[16]The Royal Society has asked that the following statement applying to these summaries be included in this volume: "The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge holds rights to portions of this work. No unauthorized reproduction of these materials is permitted. All rights reserved."

[17]Edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith (New York: Garland, 1985); 2nd ed. (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994).