Fonds EDDN - Papers of Sir Arthur Eddington

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Papers of Sir Arthur Eddington


  • 1897-1982 (Creation)

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9 boxes

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Arthur Stanley Eddington was born in 1888 into a Quaker family, and remained of that religion all his life. He was educated at Brynmelyn School, Weston-super-Mare, and Owen’s College, Manchester, before coming up to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1902. He graduated in 1905 and spent a short time in Cambridge as a mathematical coach, but in 1906 went to Greenwich as Chief Assistant to the Astronomer Royal. He returned to Cambridge in 1913 as Plumian Professor of Astronomy, and the following year was also appointed Director of the Cambridge Observatory. He held these posts for the rest of his life. Eddington’s most significant scientific contributions were to the study of the structure and movements of stars, the implications of Einstein’s theory of relativity, and the search for a ‘fundamental theory’ to unite the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics.

Archival history

The immediate provenance of these papers is unknown, and there is no formal documentation of their deposit. Two notes made in 1982 by David W. Dewhirst of the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy indicate that some or all of the manuscripts relating to Fundamental Theory were then in the custody of that institution, and since the notes appear to have been made at the time the papers were being transferred elsewhere, it seems likely that they came to Trinity at that date. Probably all the papers came at the same time from the same immediate source, but there is nothing to confirm this. For an account of the earlier history of the manuscripts relating to Fundamental Theory see the introduction to section B of this catalogue. A number of the documents catalogued under A, C, and D are referred to in Professor Vibert Douglas’s biography of Eddington, and it seems likely that all these papers, except those which are obviously later additions, passed through her hands. Other papers used by Douglas were deposited by her at Queen’s University, in Canada, in 1954. But the whereabouts of a number of the documents mentioned in her book are unknown.

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On their arrival in the Library the papers were put into five archival boxes and numbered in the order in which they lay. A record has been kept of this initial numbering, but it has now been superseded.

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      Related papers elsewhere in Trinity College Library are listed in the card index of Modern Manuscripts. The most significant are Eddington’s Notebook, 1905-39 (Add. MS b. 48), the autograph manuscript of The Nature of the Physical World, 1928 (O.11.25), thirteen juvenile essays, 1896-8 (O.11.22), and copies of correspondence to Hermann Weyl, 1918-44 (Add. MS a. 238/10-24). The last are probably copies of the papers at the ETH Bibliothek, Zürich (see below). The Library also possesses copies of most of Eddington’s books and a presentation copy of Douglas’s biography.

      Related papers held by other institutions include correspondence with Hermann Weyl (ETH Bibliothek, Zürich), Albert Einstein (Hebrew University, Jerusalem), Herbert Dingle (Imperial College, London), Lord Cherwell (Nuffield College, Oxford), and Sir Joseph Larmor (Royal Society, London). The Eddington papers at Queen’s College, Ontario, are described in the online catalogue as follows:

      ‘The collection consists of both originals and copies of correspondence between Eddington and other scientists. … The correspondents include Albert Einstein, Erwin Shrodinger, Harlow Shapley, Henry Norris Russell, Walter S. Adams and J.C. Kapetyn [sic]. Also included are two copies of pages from the manuscripts, Differentiation of any tensor (1918) and Mass-luminosity equation (1924).’

      Photographs of pages from the two manuscripts mentioned are reproduced as Plates 6 and 7 in Professor Vibert Douglas’s biography. Douglas’s own papers, held at the same university, include correspondence with Albert Einstein and others about Eddington.

      Eddington’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that some of his papers are held at the Institute of Astronomy, but there are in fact no such papers there, only printed works and memorabilia, such as his chair and some studio photographs. The papers of the Institute itself are in the University Library, catalogued with the Archives of the University Observatory, etc., but they are mainly concerned with the management of the Observatory.

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      The following abbreviations have been used:
      Douglas: A. Vibert Douglas, Arthur Stanley Eddington (1954)
      : Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
      : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
      Notebook: Eddington’s Notebook (Add. Ms. b. 48)
      Phil. Trans.
      A.: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, series A
      Slater: Noel B. Slater, The Development and Meaning of Eddington’s ‘Fundamental Theory’ (1956)


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      Dates of creation revision deletion

      This catalogue was compiled by A. C. Green in 2007, and revised by him in 2019.




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