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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?'"

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 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'.

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'.

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 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'.

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 George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA and Richarda Airy 'propose to offer you our company on Dec. 12'. GA gives his corrections to WW's Inductive Sciences [History of the Inductive Sciences from the Earliest to the Present Time, 3rd edn., 1857] and apologises for the 'frightful' amount of references he gave on the progress of modern astronomy - 'I could not well give you fewer' [see GA to WW, 11 Oct. 1856].

Letter from George Airy

Flamsteed House, Greenwich - GA sends WW a letter from Vignoles [Charles B. Vignoles] 'whom I thought the most likely person of my aquaintance to give me the the verity about Skew Arches'. GA has taken up Plato's Phaedo again after 'I do not know how many years'.

Letter from George Airy

Flamsteed House, Greenwich - GA has been laboring on the account of Sheepshanks's [Richard Sheepshanks] work on Standards, which has now passed through its first stage. GA's plan devised for the Correction of the Compass is adopted by most iron ships in the world. However, the Admiralty 'nominally adopt Archibald Smith's mode of resolving observed errors into series &c of multiples and then computing errors generally, but practically, I do not think it is ever used at all'. GA gives a description of 'a very neat way of presenting errors graphically, which was invented by Napier [Robert Napier], iron ship builder, of Glasgow'. GA had a Royal Navy ship sent out with a corrected compass last autumn: 'Scoresby [William Scoresby] had not published any thing specific. Changes were found in the magnetism of the ship. Some of his compass observations came to me through the Liverpool Committee [of the BAAS], and I discussed them. A very valuable report on the subject generally, including these, has been made by the Liverpool Committee to the B. of Trade, which I have urged the Board to publish'. GA does not know anything of the diurnal variations and the magnetic storms, as compared with solar spots.

Letter from George Airy

Further to Le Verrier's principle, that France ought to be in the first rank in observations as well as every thing else, GA thinks his 'bold talk is admirable' - but he does not agree: 'The Greenwich Observatory has grown up like the British Constitution under pressure of circumstances, and has thus adapted itself to the genius of the people, and is likely to receive permanent support under circumstances in which a French observatory would not receive much support. I can abandon such showy things as discovering comets and planets, and can therefore do the dull meridian work surprisingly well, and this is known to and approved by the astronomical public of England but it would not do in France'. However the mathematical and astronomical parts of Le Verrier's Annales are admirable and should be adopted 'as the authorised exposition of modern astronomy (Lunar Theory excepted)'

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - Could WW dine Professor Gautier of Geneva 'in hall, or lodge him' in Cambridge: 'He is a capital good fellow, and does more to make English science known on the continent, by his writings in the Bibliotheque Universelle, than any other person'.

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

Royal Observatory Greenwich - As far as GA remembers, WW quoted accurately from him concerning the old eclipses: 'and I was certainly correct: the only point on which change could be suspected (a point of no interest to the chronology) being that in the first paper I had left open the passage of Agathocles to the North or South of Sicily, inclining however to the North, but in the second paper I decide on the South'. There was some quibbling about another eclipse 'computed only from [Buachkardt's] elements, and is so stated in my first paper. It has since been computed with Hansen's elements (nearly as was described for Buackhardt's) far north of the sea of Azores. If this is the matter of which you were thinking I will send a note on it to the Athenaeum'. Were the quarrels at the BAAS meeting of 1857 or 1856?.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - Regarding the eclipse GA will be observing it from Hanowden near Wellingborough: 'My first Assistant and my best assistant (viz my wife) and other aids are to go there'. If WW wants to come he will have to bring his own telescope.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA is sorry to hear of the death of George Peacock: 'He was my earliest and best friend in College'. This is a good time to revise the relative positions of the Plumian and Lowndean Professorships - the latter is well endowed and has nothing to do, while the former is insufficiently endowed and is overloaded with too heavy duties: 'Here is an opportunity for removing a scandal'. WW should write to the Vice-Chancellor on the matter.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - Further to the Sheepshanks endowment [see GA to WW, 30 Sept. 1856], he has talked over the amended Draft - 'it is understood to be all right as far as the low intellect of a Solicitor goes'. The £10,000 will eventually get transferred to the Master, Fellows and Scholars of Trinity College and George Airy.

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

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA has looked at Cowley's [Abraham Cowley] Ode to the Royal Society: 'I find the allusions and the repetition of allusions to Bacon much stronger than I had supposed. Cowley, though no man of science, was a schemer in science, and seems to have been intimate with the founders of the Royal Society...from whom probably he had derived his impressions about Bacon'.

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