THOMPSON, Professor Silvanus Phillips (1851-1916)

Scope and Content

Papers of Professor Silvanus Phillips Thompson, 1828-1951, comprising correspondence, 1828-1919, notably with William Edward Ayrton, 1883-1899; Sir William Fletcher Barrett, [1878-1896]; Antoine Henri Becquerel, 1902-1908; Alexander Graham Bell, 1879-1880, concerning his experiments with the telephone; Sir Wiliam Crookes, 1876-1916; Michael Faraday, 1830-1835 [written to Richard Phillips]; Sir William Huggins, 1879-1907; David Edward Hughes, 1884-[1912], concerning magnetism; Sir Joseph Larmor, 1902-1916; Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge, 1897-1919; Sir James Augustus Henry Murray, 1904-1913; Augusto Righi, [1902]-1916; William Thomson, 1882-1907; notes and printed material, [1907]-1951; photographs and prints, 1870-1910, notably photographs of friends and family.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born, York, 1851; educated at Bootham School, York; Flounders' Institute, Pontefract; Royal College of Chemistry, 1875-1876; Science master, York; Professor of Experimental Physics, University College, Bristol, 1876-1885; Principal and Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering, Finsbury Technical College, 1885-1916; President of the Physical Society; President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers; particularly noted for his work in electrical engineering; died, 1916. Publications: include: Dynamo-Electric Machinery: a manual for students of electrotechnics Second edition (E & F N Spon, London, 1884); Light Visible and Invisible. A series of lectures delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, at Christmas, 1896, with additional lectures (Macmillan & Co, London, 1897); Michael Faraday. His life and work (Cassell & Co, London, 1898); Optical Tables and Data for the use of opticians (E & F N Spon, London, 1900); Contributions to Photographic Optics by Otto Lummer, translated and augmented by S P Thompson (Macmillan & Co, London, 1900); The Life of William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs (Macmillan & Co, London, 1910); Calculus made Easy (Macmillan & Co, London, 1910).

Access Information


Researchers wishing to consult the Archives should first contact College Archivist, Imperial of Science, Technology and Medicine, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2AZ, for an appointment.

Acquisition Information

The papers were presented by Miss Helen Thompson, daughter of Professor Thompson, in 1962.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue is available in the reading room of the College Archives.

Separated Material

Papers and correspondence, 1877-1916 (reference: SC Mss 3), correspondence and papers including working notes, (reference: SC Mss 4) and letters to Oliver Heaviside, 1887-1915 (reference: SC Mss 5), held at the Institution of Electrical Engineers Archives Department; correspondence, 1891-1909, held at London University Library (reference: AL304); correspondence with Lord Kelvin, 1884-1905, (reference: Add 7342, 7656) and letters to Sir George Stokes and Sir Joseph Larmor, c 1889-1909, (reference: Add 7342, 7656), held at Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives; correspondence with Sir Oliver Lodge, 1883-1916, held at London University: University College Manuscripts Room (reference: MS ADD 89); letters to the Royal Astronomical Society, 1875-1896 held by the Royal Astronomical Society Library (reference: RAS letters); correspondence held at Sussex University Library Manuscript Collections; correspondence held at the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Library.

Conditions Governing Use

A photocopying service is available at the discretion of the Archivist. Photocopies are supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Archivist.

Custodial History

The letters written by Michael Faraday to Richard Phillips were given to Professor Thomson by Lady Wilson, the daughter of Phillips. Autographs collected by Professor Thomson's father and grandfather are also included in the collection.

Related Material

Records relating to Finsbury Technical College (FA), City and Guilds of London Institute (F), City and Guilds College (FC-FS) and the Department of Physics (KP), held at Imperial College.


Silvanus Phillips Thompson ... His life and letters Jane Smeal Thompson and Helen G Thompson (Fisher Unwin, London, 1920)