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Sedgwick, Adam (1785-1873) geologist
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Letter from Roderick Impey Murchison

RIM will not be attending the BAAS meeting at Cambridge for various reasons, but mainly because of Adam Sedgwick's dislike of him: 'If I did not feel that he had irresolvably made up his mind to be alienated from me, I would still make every effort in my power to win back his friendship. For a long time and even during our gelogical disputes about nomenclature, he declared that they never could or should interupt our friendship and I am at a loss to know why in the last years he has become so morose and unforgiving' [see Adam Sedgwick to Everina Affleck, 25 September 1862].

William Whewell to Julius Charles Hare

If Ma-Man is still with JCH on the 6th, WW will try to come to them for a day. He gave Mrs Augustus Hare a copy of his short critique of Hegel's vagaries to pass to JCH [On Hegel's Criticism of Newton's Principia, 1849]: 'There is nothing which so entirely deprives men of all respect for German heads in the matter of reasoning as the way in which they have allowed Hegel to dominate over them. It appears to me that on every subject he is equally fanciful and shallow though he may not be so demonstratively wrong as in the matter of Newton. Sedgwick [Adam Sedgwick] is mightily delighted and entertained with my paper'.

Letter from Thomas Woolner to William G. Clark

27 Rutland St., Hampstead Road - Woolner 'rejoices' that Adam Sedgwick has consented to allowing him to do 'his head in sculpture'. The modelling will probably take a fortnight. Glad Clark likes his photographs and frame.

Letter from Charles Lyell

16 Hart Street, Bloomsbury - Further to their conversation concerning CL's doctrine of 'uniformity' in his 'Principles of Geology', certain passages from the first edition have been unfairly seized upon by his critics and not fairly considered. CL believes that any reader of Adam Sedgwick's anniversary address to the Geological Society 'would suppose that I had contended for 'an indefinite succession of similar phenomena' [Address, p. 25]. And the suggestion by AS that he had not made due allowance for the creation of man. However, CL did claim in the first edition that this 'innovation' was 'a new cause differing in kind and energy from any operation' and mentioned it as an unanswerable objection against any one who was contending for absolute uniformity. p. 156'. CL's 'notion of uniformity in the existing causes of change always implied that they must forever produce an endless variety of effects, both in the animate and inanimate world'. He 'did not lay it down as an axiom that there cannot have been a succession of paroxysms and crises on which 'a priori reasoning' I was accused of proceeding, but I argued that other geologists have usually proceeded on an arbitrary hypothesis of paroxysms and the intensity of geological forces, without feeling that by this assumption they pledged themselves to the opinion that ordinary forces and time could never explain geological phenomena'. There is a traditional prejudicial emphasis in geology 'that in attempting to interpret geological phenomena the bias has always been on the wrong side, there has always been a disposition to reason a priori on the extraordinary violence and suddenness of changes both in the inorganic crust of the earth and in organic types, instead of attempting strenuously to frame theories in accordance with the ordinary operations of nature'. WW should read what AS has to say on the two different methods of theorising in Geology and what he says in his address for 1831 of De Beaumont's system of parallel elevations and CL's chapter on the same subject: 'De Beaumont's system was properly selected by him as directly opposed to my fundamental principles...It was a theory invented not only without any respect to the reconciling geological events with the ordinary course of changes now in progress but it evinced at every step that partial leaning to a belief in the difference of the ancient causes and operations which characterises the system of my opponents'. AS was 'prompted by the same theoretical bias which assumes the discordance between the former and existing course of terrestrial change...I know not how much of De Beaumont's theory Sedgwick now believes, probably but a small part of it'. AS 'considered that my mode of explaining geological phenomena, or my bias towards a leading doctrine of the Huttonian hypothesis, had served like a false horizon in astronomy - to vitiate the results of my observations - But has he not himself been unconsciously warped by his own method of philosophizing which he has truly stated to be directly at variance with mine!' CL gives a detailed answer to AS's critique of his work. If CL had plainly stated as Herschel had done in his letter to CL regarding the 'possibility of the introduction - or origination of fresh species being a natural in contradistinction to a miraculous process I should have raised a host of prejudices against me which are unfortunately opposed at every step to any philosopher who attempts to address the public on these mysterious subjects'. CL attempts to distinguish between a Uniformitarian and the Catastrophist by an imaginary case by appealing to WW's work in tides and a hypothetical case. 'The difficulty which men have of conceiving the aggregate effects of causes which have operated throughout millions of years far exceeds all other sources of prejudice in Geology and is yet the most unphilosophical of all'.

Letter from Adam Sedgwick to Everina Frances Affleck

On his journey to Dent AS felt so tired at Newark station that he rested for two hours before going on to Leeds by a later train - 'now I am nearly well'. He found his brother [John Sedgwick] in a 'state of such disability - so weak as to be quite unable to keep up a conversation'.

Letter from Charles Lyell

London - CL has written to Adam Sedgwick to tell him that he will be dining with WW and the two ladies, and will not be turning out for the Field Lecture 'as the ladies could not enjoy the sport and it would cut up our short stay'. CL has no criticisms to make of WW's speech - which he enjoyed even though he missed a great deal through interruptions.

Letter from John Herschel

JH sends a certificate in favour of Ritchie who wants to become a fellow of the Royal Society. Would WW also sign it and if [Adam] Sedgwick is around get him to add his name.

Letter from Adam Sedgwick to Everina Frances Affleck

AS has gone to Dent for his brother's [John Sedgwick] funeral: 'I found my dear friends here better than I expected'. He has to stay for a week or two as he is the acting executor of his brother's will. AS has no doubts that his nephew [Richard] will be elected to his father's house and office. AS's brother believed that the terrible bodily sufferings he experienced were good for him: 'I believe that as his body was bent down by sickness towards the grave his soul rose higher and higher'. Isabella attended 'her father with that unflinching love which none but a woman can show, and no one but a Christian woman can show in perfection'.

Letter from Dawson Turner

Adam Sedgwick informed DT that WW would be coming up to visit, 'and that I might then look to see both of you in Yarmouth'. DT went to a couple of AS's lectures: 'The fulness of his mind, the ardour of his spirit, the comprehensiveness of his views, depth of his knowledge, and the fluency of his diction are all wonderful'. DT is pleased WW is working on something 'worthy of your mind, your knowledge and your name' ['The History of the Inductive Sciences, from the Earliest to the Present Time', 3 vols., 1837].

William Whewell to Richard Jones

Trinity College - WW is pleased RJ's Statistical Society has started well: 'I should have been sorry if you had not taken it for granted that I wished to be one of you'. WW would be pleased to be on the council if it is clear other people as well as RJ wish it. WW is against the University Whig reformers who want to see unrestricted admission and graduation for Dissenters: 'Their petition appeared to me very wild, except as a mere ministerial move. As to the substance of the petition, it throws down before the Dissenters the College fellowships, which they did not ask for, but which being thus offered to them they will of course claim. I think the fellowships a necessary support to the established church; and I think the church a necessary part of our social system'. WW is disillusioned with the views of Musgrave [Thomas Musgrave?], Sedgwick [Adam Sedgwick] and Peacock [George Peacock]. WW encourages RJ to get on with his work on wages: 'your book is of more consequence than a cart load of such petitions'.

Letter from Henry Sidgwick to his mother

Thanks her for sending him 'the news' and is sorry 'that it is not more completely satisfactory.' Reports that Mr [J.F.?] Wickenden called on him on Sunday and inquired after her, Mary and Edward. Explains that Wickenden came up for Sedgwick's funeral.

Discusses Sedgwick's death: he was 'knocked up by a meeting which the Chapter of Norwich took it into their heads to come up and hold in his rooms.' Claims that his death 'is a great severance of [the college's] ties with the past', and that he is 'the last "historical character" of Trinity'; he must have been the oldest man in College 'by nearly thirty years' Reports that the Master 'was much affected in reading the service.' Tells her to tell Mary that 'she may as well send [him] a Post Card presently'. Relates that Sedgwick has reportedly 'left very little property', and that his family 'have been a sad trial to him in various ways and a great drain on his resources.'

Informs her that in relation to Rugby he can only tell her that 'there are mysterious rumours', and that '[t]hey do mean to keep the secret this time'. Is sorry to hear of Edward's rheumatism, and reports that he himself has been attacked by 'something indicating disorganisation of the M[ucous] M[embrane]', but that he is taking great care of his 'M.' Reports that he had a letter from Miss Green [their old governess?] 'with much affectionate anxiety about Mary.'

Letter from Julius Charles Hare

Herstmonceux, Hailsham - JCH would be delighted if WW could come and visit. Has WW any news regarding the Malcolm family since their house, Warfield, was to be sold about this time. What do Trinity men and especially Adam Sedgwick say about the attack made upon him: 'The Reviewer seems to me to be often unfair, though not unintentionally so: but he is a man of no common powers'.

Letter from Adam Sedgwick to Everina Frances Affleck

AS 'cannot meet Sir Roderick Murchison as a friend till he retracts, before the Geological Society, publicly and personally, a statement which he made in their printed journal'. Namely 'that in one of the greatest and most mischievous blunders ever made in the history of English Geology, I had visited him and been the cause of his mistake. In short that I was the author of the mistake' [see Roderick Murchison to WW, 28 Sept. 1862].

William Whewell to Richard Jones

Norwich - Perhaps WW should have suppressed his pamphlet altogether, 'but there was something which looked like a challenge in a part of Thirlwall's [Connop Thirlwall] which drew me on' [see WW to RJ, 12 June 1834]. WW thinks RJ's suggestion that WW's pamphlet could be seen as a defense of the Master's dismissal of Thirlwall as absurd. On the contrary, WW thought Thirlwall's opinions on chapel going could have been overcome: 'This I told his friends (Sedgwick, Musgrave, Romilly etc) from the first'. WW is clear about his own view: 'The case is the same as that of an officer in any other body publishing an attack upon the system which he has to carry into affect: or a cabinet minister declaring himself against a cabinet measure: the tutors and assistant tutors were understood by most of us to be engaged to further the observance of all college rules by the undergraduates'. This does not mean a tutor cannot hold Thirlwall's opinions about dissenters, as is clear from the case of George Peacock. RJ will find that Julius Hare 'considers that the Master could not do otherwise than he did, and Sedgwick [Adam Sedgwick] acknowledged that Thirlwall's declarations were inconsistent with his position'.

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