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Taylor, Sir Geoffrey Ingram (1886–1975), knight, physicist and engineer
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Biographical and Personal

A.1 - A.11 Biographical and autobiographical material

A.12 - A.53 Career and appointments

A.54 - A.64 Honours and Awards

A.65 - A.78 Letters of congratulation

A.79 - A.134 Family papers and correspondence

(The Taylor family, A.79 - A.104)

(The Boole family, A.105 - A.134)

A.135 - A.174 Personal correspondence

Taylor, Sir Geoffrey Ingram (1886–1975), knight, physicist and engineer

Papers of Sir Geoffrey Taylor (G. I. Taylor)

  • TAYL
  • Fondo
  • 1777–1975

These surviving records are variable - even capricious - in content and time-span, for reasons inherent in Taylor's temperament, interests and methods of work. For most of his career he held research posts, especially the Yarrow Research Professorship of the Royal Society, to which he was appointed in 1923; he was thus almost wholly absolved from routine teaching, administrative, departmental or institutional tasks, and free to pursue whatever research suggested itself, or was suggested to him. He had the help of his technician, Walter Thompson, and a room in the Cavendish Laboratory, originally made available by Rutherford, who described Taylor as being 'paid provided he does no work'. This lack of formal establishment obligations, though ideal for Taylor's research, meant that he had no office or secretarial help. He worked with rough notes and drawings, often on any piece of paper that came to hand; even when he used a notebook of more conventional kind, the content is somewhat heterogeneous and lacks dates or headings (see B.2, B.3, for examples). Several of the official committee reports in Section C originally took the form of personal letters which were then typed out in a more acceptable official style (see, for example, C.37, C.41, C.42, C.45, C.49, C.50). Conversely, several letters in Section D are statements of research in progress, and were typed up and used as such by the recipients. Furthermore, it should be remembered that Taylor did much work at home at `Farmfield', whence most of the surviving letters are addressed.

The general consequences of these conditions of work are often mentioned in biographical articles about Taylor, and are best summarised by Batchelor in his Memoir (Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 22, 1976), p.597

Perhaps I should explain here that, so far as I know, at no time in his life did Taylor employ a secretary or have his letters typed. The documentary evidence of what he did throughout his life consists wholly of incoming letters and papers (including, of course, his own in published form), and since his filing system was rudimentary, and dependent more on his wife's wish to contain the papers in one room than on his need to find something later, I am sure there are some gaps. He did make an effort to retain one copy of every published paper in a set of boxes, but typed or duplicated reports, by him or by someone else, often remained in the envelopes in which they were delivered, and incoming letters were collected in large brown envelopes marked only with the year. Periodically Stephanie had a clearing-up operation which led to some documents being thrown out in order to make room for new ones, and few of the letters and documents that come in before about 1960 have survived.

The result is that very little now survives by way of notebooks, experimental records or laboratory observations to document Taylor's scientific research (see Section B). In order to supplement these scanty resources, Batchelor assembled from some of Taylor's correspondents copies of letters which might permit the reconstruction of a collaborative piece of research, joint publication or substantial scientific discussion. Successful examples of this enterprise are enumerated in the introduction to Section D and itemised in the relevant entries. Because of the paucity of surviving material by Taylor himself, a list of all items in that Section which include his letters or draft replies to correspondents is also given in the introduction to Section D. In addition, Batchelor assembled many of the reports and committee papers by Taylor, and these, together with other drafts and papers found in the collection, constitute the considerable body of unpublished work brought together in Section C.

A word may be said here about Taylor's handwriting. Although he wrote a fairly standard legible hand until about 1913 (see the manuscript of the Adams Prize Essay in C.2), the `Scotia' notebook of the same year (see B.1) is in the characteristic script, resembling the waves and eddies it often describes, of most of his subsequent letters and papers. It has certain similarities with his mother's hand, especially in her later years, and is not easy to read. Most of the recipients of his letters had typed copies made.

The personal material in Section A includes documents relating to a little known episode in 1911 when Taylor was obliged to spend several months in a sanatorium with a lung infection (see A.17 - A.23), and a considerable amount of information relating to Taylor's family, and particularly to the Boole connection. Taylor's mother, Margaret, was the second of the five daughters of George Boole, and Taylor both inherited and contributed to a sense of family continuity (see especially A.79 - A.135 and introductory note). The numerous photographs in E.1 - E.15 are a useful additional record of Taylor's family, career, travels and interests.

Probably the most widely known of Taylor's achievements is the CQR anchor. Material relating to this can be found in A.157, A.160, B.6, C.22, C.23, C.79, D.26, D.63, E.14.

Taylor, Sir Geoffrey Ingram (1886–1975), knight, physicist and engineer