Sir George Gabriel Stokes: Miscellaneous Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

1. Correspondence

The letters are divided into two main parts. The largest group of correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, then chronologically within these sections. The remaining letters are arranged chronologically in the following subject groupings:

LB1.1 to LB1.22 Letter book containing letters written to Stokes in 1846.

LB2.1 to LB2.34 Letter book containing correspondence between Stokes and George Baden Powell in 1847 and 1848.

RS1 to RS2415 Royal Society of London correspondence, 1848-1902. The letters mainly deal with Royal Society business during Stokes's years as secretary and president, 1854-1900.

OS1 to OS30 Ordnance Survey correspondence, 1857-1858.

MC1 to MC219 Meteorological Council correspondence, 1868-1901.

SP1 to SP98 Solar Physics Committee correspondence, 1877-1902.

TH1 to TH58 Trinity House lighthouse controversy, 1885-1899. This correspondence concerns inventions made by John Richardson Wigham, which were reported on by Stokes, Lord Raleigh and William Thomson, Lord Kelvin.

Jb1 to Jb69 Jubilee congratulations. Letters received by Stokes for the jubilee of his Lucasian Professorship in 1899.

TR1 to TR136 Thomas Romney Robinson correspondence. Letters from various people to Robinson, Stokes's father-in-law.

2. Papers

PA1 and PA1A Lists of material in Stokes Collection.

PA2 to PA36 Reading and lecture notes, Cambridge, late 1830s and early 1840s.

PA37 to PA216 Notes by Stokes on various scientific and mathematical topics.

PA217 to PA247 Drafts of Stokes's publications.

PA248 to P270 Prints of Stokes's articles.

PA271 to PA281 Notes for Stokes's own lectures.

PA282 to PA298 Material regarding examinations and students.

PA299 to PA313 Honours.

PA314 to PA1064 Examination problems and solutions.

PA1065 to PA1298 Notes by Stokes on various scientific and mathematical topics.

PA1299 to PA1357 Miscellaneous items.

PA1358 to PA1367 Obituary notices, etc., for Stokes.

PA1368 to PA1397 Miscellaneous notes and problems.

PA1398 to PA1598 Miscellaneous bits and pieces.

PA1599 to PA1648 Joseph Larmor manuscripts.

PA1649 to PA1687 Charles Babbage manuscripts.

PA1688 to PA1740 Thomas Romney Robinson manuscripts.

PA1741 to PA1754 William Vernon Harcourt manuscripts.

PA1755 to PA1787 Material relating to others.

3. Notebooks

NB1 to NB43 Lecture notes, problems, research notes, notes on students, and notes on articles by various people, c.1840s-1899, with supporting correspondence.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir George Gabriel Stokes (1819-1903), first baronet, mathematician and physicist, was educated at schools in Dublin and Bristol, before attending Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he was senior wrangler and first Smith's prizeman. He was made a fellow of Pembroke in 1841, and was master, 1902-1903. While at Cambridge he developed a close friendship with William Thomson, Lord Kelvin. In 1849 he was made Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, a position he held until his death. Stokes developed Lagrange's theory of the motion of viscous fluids, and also carried out work on optics. He contributed to the discovery and development of spectrum analysis, and in 1852 discovered the nature of flouresence. He was the virtual founder of modern science of geodesy in 1849. Stokes was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1851, and served as its secretary, 1854-85, and president, 1885-90. Between 1887 and 1891 he was the Conservative MP for Cambridge University. He was created baronet in 1889.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Transferred to the Library between 1937 and 1964, the major part coming from the Library of the Philosophical Society.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on Stokes in the Concise Dictionary of National Biography, Part II, 1901-1970, p.639 (Oxford University Press, 1982).

Other Finding Aids

A full catalogue is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Custodial History

Most of the papers were at one time in the possession of Sir Joseph Larmor.


Stokes's writings were produced in five volumes of Mathematical and Physical Papers (1880-95). His Scientific Correspondence was edited by Sir Joseph Larmor (2 vols., 1907).