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Airy, Sir George Biddell (1801-1892), Knight, astronomer
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Letter from George Airy

Swansea - GA will be 'extremely glad' to have Neale as a pupil. However, further to his correspondence with Myers, he does not know whether Mr Hare had or had not already engaged a tutor for Neale. Could WW answer some questions further to the fellowship examination - 'In the first place must I sit at all? In the next place supposing that I sit, by what time must I be at Cambridge?'"

William Whewell to Julius Charles Hare

WW will not be able to return to Cambridge for the elections due to his ongoing experiment in Cornwall [with George Airy] to measure the density of the earth: 'So pray if you have an opportunity represent to the electioneering people how much more important it is that they should know the weight of the earth, on which all parties tread, than that the weight of Lord P.'s [Lord Palmerston] party should be increased by the addition of unit me' [Account of Experiments made at Dolcoath Mine in Cornwall, 1828]. WW and GA are underground between 8 to 11 hours and seldom dine before 11 or 12 at night. Could JCH assist him with unfinished tutorial business (applications and accounts) while he is away.

Letter from George Airy

Observatory - There is not a word about undulations in the papers by William Herschel on Newton's rings, in the Philosophical Transactions for 1807 and 1809 respectively: 'I have been observing the following curious phenomenon. If Newton's rings be produced by two glasses, however they be viewed the central spot is black. But if a glass be placed on metal, and viewed with polarised light (polarised to plane of reflection) then up to the polarising angle the central spot is black, and instantly beyond that it is white. This I anticipated from Fresnel's [experiments]: it is confirmatory of them, and defies emissions'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA had WW's 'Tide scheme' copied and sent to Francis Beaufort 'to ask if it required nautical corrections'. GA has just heard from Beaufort: 'I inclose it. Therefore I send the suggestions to the Secretary of the Admiralty today; and I refer him to you for further correspondence'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA has just returned from Madeira where his wife and daughter are staying [see GA to WW, 20 November 1851]. GA doubts whether his daughter's health, Elizabeth, is any better. He saw 'the Pole Star lower than I practically thought possible (the Earth is assuredly not flat)'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA formally communicated Ross's [James C. Ross] scheme to the Admiralty but received no answer: 'It does not consist of my notions of propriety to go to the Treasury for a matter which must be managed by the Admiralty, unless that Admiralty had given an answer in this shape "We are desirous of doing it, but have no funds"'. That was how he gained funds for the Trigonometrical survey via the Royal Society memorial to the Treasury. GA thinks 'it would be best still to operate privately upon the Duke of Northumberland. If any thing is to be done formally, I suppose that Sabine [Edward Sabine] is the right person'.

Letter from John Herschel

Collingwood - JH thanks WW for his remarks on his translation of book one of Homer's 'Iliad': 'I have adopted your suggestions all but one or two'. He has also begun the second book , but has not got far as he is constructing a 'general index catalogue of nebulae' with the aid of George Airy. JH's son Alexander Herschel is a candidate for the Professorship of Natural Philosophy at the Andersonian University of Glasgow: 'If in addition [to signing his certificate] you should think that he would be likely to make a good professor and in that case would express that opinion to the Secretary W. Ambrose...it would be a great help to him'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - Edward Sabine has given GA a letter from Francis Beaufort to pass to WW: 'It seems that the Admiralty of the present day are not so good men of business as some of their predecessors, and a little private action upon them is desirable'. It appears to be the opinion of all concerned that no formal application can be made: 'Therefore will you write at once privately to the Duke of Northumberland. - The Treasury have demanded the Annual Estimates earlier than usual, and there is no time to be lost'.

Letter from George Airy

Playford near Ipswich -- GA and Richarda Airy will not be able to make a trip to Cambridge. GA gives his views regarding 'the objects of university studies and the modes of attaining these objects'. The purpose of a university course is 'to prescribe a course of studies (not necessarily the same for every individual), to assist them by books, lectures, &c, and to stimulate and reward them by honours and pecuniary grants'. It is the responsibility of the college to deal with the first of these requirements. The intention of the college in regard to the college course of studies ought to be built into 'the ordinary subjects prescribed for daily study in the successive years of an undergraduate's college life, and in the examinations relating to them: 'these must practically express the course prescribed by the college'. GA did not approve of the Trinity Commemoration Day prizes: 'The essayists and the youths who have written Alcaics and Elegiacs are called up early, and are addressed in flattering terms, and altogether are made the heroes of the day and of the year, while the first-class-men are dismissed at the end of the ceremony without a single word. The general impression left on me was, that the lectures and the annual examinations are kept up merely for form's sake'. This has injured the educational interests of the college. The changes made since GA was a freshman have given undergraduates too great a share in the selection of their courses of study.

Letter from George Airy

Flamsteed House, Greenwich - GA has looked at the letter to the Vice-Chancellor and entirely approves of it: 'The unlimited tenure of Fellowships I think to be most important. There is only one thing which at present is doubtful to me, and that is the continuation of Sizarship gratuities after the election as scholars, middle of page 2. I think that the foundation of the independence of the future Fellows is to be found in the position of the scholars, at that proud table (the only one in Hall) where all are equal and no stranger is ever seen. I would carefully abstain from sowing the seed of division there'. GA thanks WW for his Plurality [Of the Plurality of Worlds: An Essay, 3rd edn., 1854]: 'I think it is right. Specially I agree with the leading idea that we have no right to assume or presume that all matter was necessarily meant to be inhabited or as we say useful, but that we must take things as we find them: and I am glad that you have had the boldness to say so'.

James David Forbes to William Whewell

Clifton, Bristol - JDF is disappointed that 'on the very eve of quitting the north [to avoid the weather] I learned by your kind note that we might have hoped to see you today'. Mr and Mrs Airy have been to stay for a couple of days. Since he has been ill, JDF has been struck by the sympathy he has received from his Cambridge friends.

Letter from John Herschel

Collingwood - JH claims he thought he had sent WW 'my atoms' and encloses another off-print [JH, 'On Atoms' dated 16 Oct. 1860]. Thanks WW for his remarks on his translation of Homer's 'Iliad'. JH asks: 'What is to be done in the matter of this lamentable blow up between [George] Airy and [Edward] Sabine, - Surely A has taken up the matter in a very high handed and violent manner' [GA wants to expel ES as Chairman of the Board of Visitors to the Greenwich Observatory]. JH had been unaware that there had been any bickering at the BAAS.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA is 'busy in the pendulum reductions, and till they are pretty far advanced or indeed completed we cannot tell how good the results are'. He sent six observers to Haston Colliery: 'I put up the apparatus and gave a few lessons, but I did not take a single observation'. GA gives a description of the tests: 'Galvonic wires were laid from one station to the other, and a telegraph needle was mounted by each clock face, and thus our clocks were compared by simultaneous signals without any necessity for chronometers'. GA is surprised at WW's report of Scoresby's remark on the non-correction of varying inductive force, and he should direct Scoresby [William Scoresby] to look at the Phil. Trans. for 1839 (p. 182-183): 'The effect of induced magnetism is very small, and I believe that ship-correcters very commonly neglect it'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA's 'people have brought up the pendulum-calculations to the final stage, and the result is - 1. The pendulums have stood so well as to give very great confidence in the accuracy of result. 2. The gravity at the bottom of the mine (reputed 1260 feet) is greater than at the top by 1/19190 part...This gives density nearly = 2.7 x density of coal measures, which is more than I expected'.

Letter from George Airy

Flamsteed House, Greenwich - The vibratory result for the pendulum experiments is 'very certain' [see GA to WW, 1 Nov. 1854]. GA and Richarda Airy accept WW's invitation to Commemoration Day at Cambridge.

Letter from George Airy

Flamsteed House, Greenwich - GA is 'very well inclined to accept the Caius invitation, especially if it is agreeable to you to go there'.

William Whewell to Julius Charles Hare

WW has just written a letter to JCH concerning the importance of his experiment to measure the density of the earth and therefore his inability to return for the forthcoming elections at Cambridge [see WW to JCH, 4 June 1826]. If JCH is not going to Cambridge he should get somebody else to open the letter he addressed to him and deal with the contents. WW and George Airy 'are working hard and getting on as well as the nature of our trade allows which is to carry 7 chronometers up and down 1200 feet of vertical ladders every day, and to watch the dangling of a brass bar with a brass bob at the end of it'.

Letter from George Airy

GA does not think WW's letter to David Brewster 'at all savage': 'If I had any discussion with Brewster on these points I would certainly hit him about his bad information and his influence in acting on it. The revenues of professorships &c is one point already reproached - another is the character of the professors "Whewell, Airy & Hamilton" the only true experimenters - Does not [James?] Cumming do more than all? And did [Sir W. R. ?] Hamilton since he drew vital air ever make or meditate an experiment or trouble himself about other peoples?...I wish Babbage's non-lecturing could somehow be lugged into this controversy'.

Letter from George Airy

Flamsteed House, Greenwich - Further to GA's letter written in January and WW's subsequent answer: 'I do not know that any thing could have passed more to my mind than did the proceedings in Hall on the last Commemoration Day. I am sure that the impressive words addressed by the Master to the Class men will have a lasting and beneficial effect on them' [see GA to WW, 6 Jan. 1854]. GA has had the 'measures of Jupiter overhauled quo ad ellipticity. They extend from 1840 to 1851...The mean result is a-b/a = 1/16.84'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - The installation of a Photographic Magnetic Observatory at Cambridge 'would be a matter of serious expence and of great trouble'. The Magnetic Observatory at Greenwich 'cost about £500 without instruments. Its use is very good for its purpose'. GA gives a break-down of the personnel costs at Greenwich. He does not think that a magnetic observatory at Cambridge 'would very probably give a single leading idea on this mysterious subject...As regards the results obtained at one isolated place, it is not likely that any could be obtained differing generally in character from those obtained at Greenwich, and there, as you correctly remark, have led to nothing yet. And I cannot conceive that there would be any advantage in adding to the accumulation of existing unproductive observations'. Besides which Cambridge is too near to Greenwich to compare observations, if the proposed observatory was somewhere like Rio Janeiro, GA would look upon the project favourably. Further if there was a Cambridge mathematician deeply engaged in theories of terrestrial magnetism, with the physico-mathematical power of Professor Stokes, 'it might be a sufficient justification of the expence of an observatory that he would have its results ready to his hand'.

Letter from Augustus De Morgan

7 Camden St. & Town - WW's practice of keeping letters will rank next to George Airy 'for extreme method', which he caricatures. Discusses his dispute with Sir William Hamilton, who is recovering from illness and will be treated with consideration; describes what he did when he realised their conclusions were similar. Is glad Whewell's recollection of the meeting is the same as De Morgan's, and will have a meeting with Charles Babbage privately about it.

Letter from George Airy

Confidential. Royal Observatory Greenwich - Miss Sheepshanks [Richard Sheepshanks sister] wants to use some of her brother's money in a way he would have liked: 'Her thoughts naturally turn to Astronomy, Cambridge, Trinity. and she has in the final instance consulted me about it'. It is her wish that GA and WW 'should decide entirely about it'.

James David Forbes to William Whewell

Edinburgh - JDF has now finished his 'Dissertation' on the history of science to the present day ['A Review of the Progress of Mathematical and Physical Science in more Recent Times and Particularly Between the Years 1775 and 1850', Encyclopedia Britannica, 1853 and separately 1858]: 'A vast number of persons whose names are entitled to appear in a history of science are wholly omitted. My selection will be criticised as a matter of course'. He has often looked at WW's 'History' and 'Philosophy': 'but you well know that if one really tries to make a subject their own, one must not depend upon such helps however valuable'. JDF is sorry that George Airy has got such a high value for the Earth's density and thus throw doubt on the previous determinations: 'I am in hopes that an examination of the strata may yet diminish it'.

Letter from George Airy

Flamsteed House, Greenwich - GA has already sent three copies of the Account of the Haston Experiments [see GA to WW, 1 Nov. 1854]: 'Pray cause a search to be made for them'. Two copies of the Greenwich Appendixes were sent to WW: 'But if they trouble you, I can send only one in future'. GA will think of a time when they can 'talk over Italian and other matters'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA gives a list of references pertinent to 'the steps which have been made in Astronomy in the last few years. A great deal has been done, and some of the things done have distinct relation to the comparison (as a science) of the two processes of theory and observation (as labours)'. GA places his list under the following titles - 1. Parallaxes and Motions of Stars: 2. Orbits of Double Stars: 3. Sun's Heat: 4. Attractions generally: 5. Lunar Theory: 6. Planetary Theory: 7. Encke's Comet: 8. Cometary Theory generally: 9. Shooting Stars: 10. Miscellaneous.

Letter from Charles Brooke

29 Keppel Street - Thanks WW for his cheque for £100. Colonel Sabine wants some registering apparatus to send to the Toronto observatory by the end of this month. Asks if it is acceptable to give him one of WW's time-pieces and a mirror which he can replace in a month or so. To help CB get remuneration George Airy promises to report to the Government the success of his apparatus. John Herschel, Henry De La Beche and Colonel Sykes think the observatory at Kew ought to be under the auspices of Government and made a depot for meteorological science. If such a plan took place CB would like a permanent situation.

Letter from Augustus De Morgan

7 Camden St. & T. - The spoon is a good representation of inductive logic. Whewell's notion of induction contains more than logic. Spoon feeding is synthetical (induction) and knife and fork feeding is analytical. Whewell will probably see a scene at the Astronomical Society as Jerwood, who accused Airy and Le Verrier of conspiring to defraud Adams [regarding the discovery of Neptune], has been proposed as a fellow. He describes his friend [Joshua Ryland] Marshman's suitability for the Professorship of Law at Cambridge.

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