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Letter from George Airy

Observatory - GA describes his observation of the projection of a star on the moon's disk: 'Now imagine that you see the moon's limb well, and that you see the star well, with all its rings... The moon approaches the star - goes right over it...the outermost ring of the star considerably within the moon's limb - till when it is satisfied with shewing itself in this ridiculous manner puff it goes out - like a candle...what is one to make of all this?'

Letter from George Airy

Observatory - GA gives WW references to French works on polarisation written between 1808 and 1824: 'Most of Biot's papers are tremendous to a person who is not very familiar with the subject, & perfectly easy to one who is familiar with it and has thought upon it well'.

Letter from George Airy

Observatory - GA gives his views regarding Barlow's [correction] of ship-magnetism: 'The importance of its error (other changes not considered) increases as the directive force of terrestrial magnetism on the horizontal needle decreases, that is as the dip increases. Under this circumstance, the absolute error is small, because the section perpendicular to the dip is nearly the same in all portions of the ship. So that the error is small in the circumstance in which its relative effect is great. On this account it is doubtless a good thing when most wanted' GA gives his breakdown of the 'facts' concerning the theory of humming tops.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - Answers WW's queries: when Newton's 'analysis is carried to perfection (i.e. so as to shew Fraunhoffer's lines), it has certainly developed original properties of light... Their existence in the diffraction spectrum tends most strikingly to confirm this. - You may also say that persons who have tried the experiments with great care do not believe in [David] Brewster's changes of colour. - The changes of colour are certainly the only source of his objections'. The French have always associated Thomas Young with the discovery of the undulating theory of light.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - Could WW send GA 'a parcel of the mild Trinity ale - for which my "government" have a great esteem'. When GA was last in Cambridge Deighton [book publisher] told him that nearly all of GA's tracts were gone and wished to know what he intended to do: 'Can you help me with your council? I have hardly time to give such attention to the thing as would be necessary to keep it to level...also it is very likely that somebody else would do it better'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - WW should translate Littrow's papers [Joseph J. Littrow] and send them to the secretary of the Astronomical Society: 'From the few words of account which you give, I doubt whether their value is great... It has probably this degree of novelty that it is not published; but it is such as any one would hit on in the time of need'. The remark about the ships compasses is curious and new to GA: 'I will ask Fisher (who I think knows more than almost any other person about compasses in ships) whether he has observed it. It is likely enough, theoretically, to be true'. The principal parts of Littrow's history may be put into the speech at the Royal Society.

Letter from George Airy

Orleans - GA has not heard from John Herschel and is not sure whether he has reached Paris yet - perhaps he is with Arago? Could WW send the GA's papers to his forthcoming address in Paris [see GA to WW, 10 August 1826]. [Henry] Kater was perfectly satisfied with the correction of Lambton's error: 'moreover I discussed with him most vehemently the question of disappearance and reappearances versus disappearances only and persuaded him at least to confess that the disappearances only would not give a right result except all circumstances such as the rate of the pendulum on the clock, the arcs of the two pendulums, and the magnitudes of the discs, were the same. He hoped that in giving an account to the Royal Society we should not spare Parkinson'. GA outlines the part of the account he is to contribute. He is 'thinking of means to make chronometers transportable in a kibble & various other things, and will bring you a complete plan for conducting the operations. Of course I shall not do anything till I have seen you'.

Letter from George Airy

Observatory - GA returns a parcel of amethystine crystals of which, due to their rough surfaces, he has been able to make nothing. 'I have lately determined an odd thing in the way of polarization, viz that the light of ladies eyes is polarized - at least when viewed in particular directions. When deprived of this light, the eye has a most unnatural appearance'.

Letter from George Airy

Hotel Feder, Turin - GA gives an outline of his movements around Europe followed by a description of an eclipse: 'Well - the sun arose badly and the sky was very cloudy, but we saw the beginning and progress of the eclipse clearly, and saw the totality well. But it is difficult to give an idea of it. The gloominess increased, the country seemed annihilated... The moon was seen like a black patch in the sky surrounded by a ring of light (very slightly red I think) whose breadth was about 1/8 of her own diameter... As touching the ring of light, about which so much has been said, I have no hesitation in believing it to depend neither on the sun's atmosphere nor on the moon', but simply to arise from our own atmosphere'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA will give WW notice when he can 'talk over the tide matters'. Regarding 'a theory of the Pacific (or indeed of any sea - especially where the depth is not known) I give it up as desperate. Whether, like the simpler planetary perturbations, it can ever be theorised after the discovery of simple empirical laws, I do not venture to guess'. The magnetic observations are going well: 'there has been terrific disturbance of the magnets (not yet finished) which is well self-registered'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA wants WW to delete the last paragraph of his last letter concerning tides [see GA to WW, 6 March 1843]: 'I find on consideration that in the case when the main wave is a forced wave (as in a tidal wave in a canal round the earth) the partial differential equation, upon making the second substitution, will not have that peculiar form which introduces the factor x'.

Letter from George Airy

Oxford - Struve [Friedrich G. W. von Struve] and GA intend to come to Cambridge on Sunday - 'I believe Otto Struve will also accompany us'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA has sent by rail 'the volumes of the Greenwich Astronomical Observations for 1836, Appendixes, Planetary and Lunar Reductions, as directed by the Board of Visitors.

Letter from George Airy

Flamsteed House, Greenwich - George Airy's brother has come across a copy of the Solemn League and covenant signed by most of the people in his parish [Swineshead]: 'I think there are not many of these parochial covenants in existence - so it appeared to me well to ask his licence to offer it to the library'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA encloses the bill for the paper puncher WW ordered (made by Ransome and May). GA's life has been very busy over the last two or three months. His 'great instrument has not yet left the engineers. The pivots have given some trouble'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - WW's memorial on the tides 'was duly read by me and approved to the best of my judgement, and reserved for the intended meeting of the B.A. Council'. A Council was called without informing GA: 'Imagine a Seniority Meeting without notice to the Master - so I have pronounced said meeting null and void, and we will have another soon, as soon as I have screwed Henslow and Hooker into shape, who are the most unpractical dogs that I ever met with. The business of the Association will, in fact, be somewhat advanced by this apparent contretemps'. GA has had a letter from 'Madeira yesterday. My party seem to be posited comfortably; but with regard to the ultimate success in the main object of the voyage, I have little hope' [see GA to WW, 20 Nov. 1851].

Letter from George Airy

Flamsteed House, Greenwich - Due to a little ailment and the desire to go to Playford with his family, GA must 'reluctantly give up the chance of seeing' WW.

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 will arrive on Saturday at 1.30. He has written to the Vice-Chancellor advising him to send the Sheepshanks Endowment Deed to Trinity Lodge 'a few minutes before 1.30 for my examination' [for background see GA to WW, 30 Sept. 1856]. GA is not sure whether he can obtain information on the question of a Transit-Circle: 'Can you ascertain whether Challis [James] looks to dimensions equal to those of the Greenwich Instrument, or smaller?'

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - The Sheepshanks endowment will be nearly in place once Miss Sheepshanks executes the Transfer of stock and the Deed of Gift [see GA to WW, 30 Sept. 1856]. Thus WW and Trinity Seniors should prepare the time and circumstances for the examination of scholarship.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA thanks WW for the copy of the Commissioners new Draft of Statutes for the College -- 'on the whole I am satisfied with it'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA has written to the Vice-Chancellor, 'stating the reasons for my scheme' [see GA to WW, 10 Nov. 1858].

Letter from George Airy

Playford near Ipswich - GA sends 'the orthodox map of the Ecliptic path. Mr. Hind [John Hind] I know not why has squeezed up the degrees of longitude most uncomfortably'. GA gives suggestions for travel routes in Spain [this is to do with WW's trip to Spain to witness a total eclipse on 18 July 1860]. If the claims of the un-credible village doctor are true, and that there is a planet between Mercury and the Sun, then it is odd 'that it should have been kept so long unrevealed'.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA has sought to get rid of the imaginaries ever since the Root of Equation appeared and believes that he has at last succeeded: 'And now I have faith in the real thing: i.e. that every algebraic expression is divisible by a quadratic trinomial. I abominate all duplicate square roots, even when real, and I proceed thus with an ordinary quadratic' [GA gives the mathematical demonstration].

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