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Letter from Isaac Barrow to the Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge

Pera, Constant[ino]politanae - After an apology for the long delay in writing to the Fellowship, he gives an account of his travels from Paris, with a description of his stay in Florence, prolonged because of the plague in Naples, which was predicted to spread to Rome whither he had planned to go next; heeding the warning that if caught by the plague he would not be able to leave, and it proving too difficult to reach Venice, he embarks on a ship to Constantinople. He describes the present state of affairs under the Grand Vizier, Koprulu Mehmed Pasha, who had come to power two years earlier: his work to restore the Ottoman name at home and abroad, recovering the islands of Tenedos and Lemnos, repelling an attack by the Venetian fleet, suppressing a revolt in Moldavia and Wallachia by removing their princes, repressing the infighting threatening the prestige of the empire, most recently undertaking an expedition to Transylvania on the pretext that Prince Ragotzy, a Turkish subject, had invaded Poland hoping to take the kingdom for himself. Barrow predicts that Christendom will find in the Grand Vizier its worst enemy and describes his punishment of Parthenius, the Patriarch of the Greek Church, who was accused of intrigue with the Duke of Muscovy despite the commonly held view that the accusations were false, and who was hanged and left on display in his Pontifical robes as a deterrent to plotters. Barrow closes with a promise to return to Cambridge within the year.

Docketed by William Derham, "Paper. 1. Dr Barrows Lr ...to the Fellows of Trin. Col. Cambridge from Constantinople. Caland August 1658. Publ. Lr 1. W.Ds.'

Barrow, Isaac (1630–1677), mathematician and theologian

Diary and account book belonging to Thomas Hebbes

Diary entries and accounts kept by a student in his last year at Trinity College, Cambridge in a printed diary for 1753 altered to the later date the diary started in February 1755 and continuing on through the beginning of February 1756 when Hebbes left Trinity for Kensington. Hebbes records academic activities: declaiming in Chapel, presenting an epistle to the Master of Trinity Dr Smith, and paying the Moderator's man for huddling before being examined by Mr Howkins, and then by two moderators, and four fathers in the 'theatre'. His accounts record purchases of food, a subscription to Dockrell's Coffee House, and a variety of miscellaneous items: a new wig, repairs to his watch, Christmas boxes, as well as expenses relating to trips to London, Saffron Walden, Royston, Chesterton, and Stourbridge Fair. He records money won and lost at cards and bowls, and money given to the poor. He mentions selling books, makes payments to the Junior Proctor, Beadle, Head Lecturer and Senior Bursar, and buys a bachelor's gown, and wine and port for the 'Batchelor's table' before taking his degree. The diary also appears to have been used for handwriting practice by Ellen Hebbes and possibly other Hebbes children.

Hebbes, Thomas (c 1733-1766), clergyman

Letter from Charles Babbage

Devonshire Rd, Portland Place - Babbage received WW's thirty guineas and has paid 31 for his fees at the Royal Society. Three members of the Astronomical Society have donated 100 guineas toward the Cambridge Observatory (50 came from William Pearson). 'Sir J. B [Joseph Banks] is about to resign and has recommended Davies Gilbert. But all sorts of plans speculations and schemes are afloat, and all sorts of people proper and improper are penetrated with the desire of wielding the sceptre of science. Whether this elective throne shall be filled by a philosopher or peer a priest or prince is a problem pendent on the fortuitous course of events. The Society is in a position of unstable equilibrium or rather it is like a comet which has not made up its mind whether it shall soberly circulate round the light of truth or traverse boundless space through endless time frying and damning the predestined infidels of other systems until some starry giant shall fascinate to its destruction this erring ball which has "run a muck" through creation'.

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

Trin: Coll: - Gives his 'critical' comments of WW's treatise on dynamics. He considers WW's enunciation of the laws of motion 'very far preferable to any other that I have seen'. GA emphasises the importance of attaching the same meaning to the word: 'It matters not whether there is at all such a thing as velocity in the world, provided we mathematicians know what we mean by it, and always attach the same meaning to the word. This latter is essential to logical reasoning: and in a science which is not founded on hypothesis but on experiments it is of the greatest consequence that the same word shall signify the same thing in the reports of the experiments and in the mathematical properties founded on them'. Drawing upon Atwood's machine and the philosophy of Locke, GA gives his definition of velocity: 'It is measured by causing the weights (as far as is in our power) to combine during a unit of time in the same rate of motion or at the time for which we desire to find the velocity, and the space thus described is called the velocity. To me the limit of ds/dt is rather difficult to get, but I find no difficulty in conceiving a body to continue to move with the same degree of motion which it has at any time (This perhaps appears absurd - but Locke says that we can comprehend relations between two things without having a clear idea of either)'. GA gives various mathematical corrections to WW's work: 'when I see Mr Whewell led astray in the use of the differential calculus by obscure principles and a bad notation I cannot help wishing that better were substituted'.

Letter from George Airy

Orleans - GA and his students are settled in Orleans and 'in as satisfactory a state of stable equilibrium as can be expected'. If his paper in the Philosophical Transactions has been published could WW send him 70 copies. Could WW tell [Henry] Kater 'that I have investigated a theory of the pendulum...as he suggested to me: and that the interval to reappearance does not follow so simple a law as he seemed to imagine?' And if he sees Young, that further to his letter addressed to GA in the Quarterly Journal, 'I get a different result? The result however consolidates his influence. The problem is, to find the form of a thin revolving fluid surrounding a nucleus'.

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

Keswick - If WW is in Cambridge could he correct the proofs to his paper on Trigonometry for the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana: 'I have just got a letter from [Edward] Smedley who is in an awful fright about it...If you take this upon you, would it be worth the trouble to say so to Smedley? he would then send proofs directly'.

Letter from George Airy

Keswick - GA has just received a letter from Thomas Atkinson of Ainstable 'with a certificate from Hudson, which I transmit to you as being (I believe) Hudson's successor' [concerning TA's entry into Trinity College?].

Letter from George Airy

Trinity College Cambridge - GA agrees with WW that his article on eye pieces should be printed immediately. If WW can arrange this, could he pass on the address of the printers and engraver. He has received the latest number of the Philosophical Journal which contains two letters by James Ivory about GA: 'I wish the man would not torment me by writing letters to me; I am amused by his idea that I have fallen into error from deference to high authorities; I never expected this accusation'.

Letter from Charles Babbage to John Lubbock

He congratulates him on his commercial tables: 'I admire your tables and have made use of one the 3 per cent. - It is exceedingly desirable to have the Constants of Commerce and Manufactures and when I have printed my volume I will try to make the manufacturers who are most interested collect more of them'.

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

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 - 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

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

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 - Henderson [Thomas Henderson] is with GA: 'I intend to bring him to hall; pray dine there if you have nothing better to do'. GA gives the two things which need correcting in his Venus paper.

Letter from George Airy

Observatory - GA 'tried the rings on the diamond this morning, and they succeeded perfectly' [light polarised through a diamond].

Letter from George Airy

Observatory - GA gives a description of his observations of light polarised through glass and a diamond: 'At the first angle of incidence where this takes place (viz. the polarising angle of the glass) the rings go out, evanesce, and disappear: and on increasing the angle they appear in as good proportions at the first instant when visible as when tolerably bright - the white center having the same proportion to the 1st ring did. Of this I am quite certain, having looked carefully. But at the second angle (viz. the polarising angle of the diamond), where the white-centered rings change into black-centered, there is no such thing; the rings do not vanish at all though they become faint; but the first black ring contracts, squeezes out the white center, and itself becomes the black center. This also I have examined carefully. The same thing takes place when, at an angle between the polarizing angles, the tourmaline or prism is turned round'. Amongst other things this proves that the 'diamond does not polarise perfectly at any angle'. Vibrations in the plane of incidence change from + to - on passing through the angle where the polarisation is nearest to perfection. This is 'not by becoming =0 (as certainly they do in glass & all things that polarise perfectly) but by an alteration of the plane.'

Letter from George Airy

Observatory - Gives a note on perturbations intended for John W. Lubbock: 'If perturbations are applied to x y & z, there is no practicability of dividing the time of an apposition into different parts, as the calculation does not give the means of correcting the elements for the beginning of each part. Consequently the series used must be such as will apply from the beginning of an apposition to the end. It seems to me very probable that 5th or higher powers may be wanted'.

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 - Thanks WW for his History of Induction [The History of the Inductive Sciences, from the Earliest to the Present Time', 3 vols., 1837]. The next time WW is in London he should come and see them.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - Gives an account of the difficulties involved in constructing a self-registering machine to measure terrestrial magnetism: 'There is only one way in which I can conceive the possibility of such a machine, namely by making the magnet carry a point, and constructing [a] mechanism which should lift the paper up to the point to receive a dot and then withdraw the paper that the magnet might quietly make up its mind as to the position that it would take for the next dot: this to be repeated as often as necessary, say every minute. Taking into account the horizontal oscillation, the up-and-down-bobbing &c of the magnet, which may be checked, I think this may be mechanically possible: but what shall the dot be?' - there are problems with the different possible inks. Is puzzled by David Brewster's latest work - 'it amounts to this, that light from different parts of the spectra can interfere. This is quite opposed to all analogy'.

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 - The clock for the Northumberland telescope is nearly finished. Could WW get [James] Challis to send to [William] Simms or GA 'the breadth of the hole that is left by the side of the south pier of the polar axis for the clock weights to drop into; as that will determine the construction of our weights'. Could WW ask the President of the Council of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, whether they would present to the library of the Royal Observatory a copy of the Transactions of the Society. This will help bind the links between the Observatory and Cambridge.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - GA sends WW two papers including his piece on Cambridge Planetary errors. Main has been trying to correct the elements of Venus from them, but the errors come out so oddly as to make GA suspect that there is some error of theory.

Letter from George Airy

Royal Observatory Greenwich - In response to Colonel Everest's pamphlet, GA wrote to the East India Company to inquire into the nature of Major Jervis's appointment. They wrote back stating that it was for the entire management of the India Survey: 'There is a charming appointment for you! Given a furious fellow like Everest on one side, and a not-over-wise one like Jervis on the other, I do not think that a better appointment could have been devised for the purpose of setting them together by the ears and dragging some innocent persons into the quarrel'.

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