Item 1 - Letter from James Clerk Maxwell to Frederick Pollock

Identity area

Reference code

CLIF/A7/1

Title

Letter from James Clerk Maxwell to Frederick Pollock

Date(s)

  • 12 Apr. 1876 (Creation)

Level of description

Item

Extent and medium

1 folded sheet, 1 envelope

Context area

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge.—Sends a contribution to the Clifford fund. Discusses Tait's criticisms of Mayer.

(With envelope.)

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Accruals

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

Note

Transcript

Cavendish Laboratory
Cambridge
12 April 1876

Dear Pollock

I enclose £5 for the Clifford Fund. I hope that a slight displacement of his position on the earth’s surface may bring him into a milder air and one less stimulating than that at Gower Street, {1} so that as his oscillations between elliptic and hyperbolic space gradually subside he may find himself settling back again into that parabolic space wherein so many great and good men have been content to dwell, and may long enjoy the 3 treasures of the said great & good men as enumerated by S.T.C. {2}

The gospel according to Peter G. T. {3} although somewhat entêté {4} in the places where old controversies are fought over again is much sounder than it sounds when read aloud. The habit of lecturing generates a peculiar jargon which, when taken down by a reporter, looks strange. Tail† has always been proving that Mayer used inconclusive reasoning when he made an estimate of the dynamical equivalent of heat, whereas Joule was on firm ground all along.

Hence Mayer should not have many marks for this piece of his work. But Mayer sent up ingenious answers to a great many questions propounded by nature, many wrong some right, but all clever. The strict examiner gives him but small credit for these but the historian of science must take account of the amount of good work by others which followed on the publication of Mayers† papers.

Now one man thinks most of the credit to be assigned to each individual as his property while another thinks most of the advance of science which is often associated by the noise even of fools, which directs wiser men to good diggings.

Yours truly
J Clerk Maxwell

[Direction on envelope:] F Pollock Esqre | 12 Bryanston Street | London W.

—————

The envelope was postmarked at Cambridge on 12 April, and has been marked in pencil ‘Clerk Maxwell’.

{1} Comma supplied, in place of a full stop.

{2} Coleridge’s poem ‘Reproof’ contains the following lines:

Hath he not always treasures, always friends,
The great good man?—three treasures, love, and light,
And calm thoughts, regular as infant’s breath

{3} Peter Guthrie Tait.

{4} i.e. obstinate.

† Sic.

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used

Status

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Language(s)

Script(s)

Sources

Accession area