Airy, Professor Sir George Biddell

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection, 1835-1850, contains letters and printed papers, notices and unpublished printed material, which Airy received during his time as a member of the Senate of the University of London. The Airy correspondence has a special importance because much of the early archival material of the University of London was destroyed and so often the only record of its activities is in the Senate and Committee Minutes. Airy was particularly interested in the constitution of the University, the developments of the mathematics syllabus, the syllabuses for certificates in hydrography and civil engineering and the introduction of the religious examination.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir George Biddell Airy was educated at Cambridge and became Plumain Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Cambridge Observatory in 1828. In 1835 he accepted the post of Astronomer based at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, which he held until 1881. In 1835 Airy was invited to become a member of the University of London Senate. Although he was unable to attend Senate meetings on a regular basis, he discussed the pressing issues of the University at the time with other Senate members, in particular Sir John William Lubbock, 3rd Bt. Airy also served on the University's Sub Committee on Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and the Committee on Certificates of Proficiency. He resigned from the Senate in August 1847.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Access to archive collections may be restricted under the Freedom of Information Act. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Other Finding Aids

Airy Correspondence Carol Ibrahim, 1994

Archivist's Note

Separated Material

Cambridge University Library holds correspondence and papers as Astronomer Royal (Ref: RGO 6), and letters to Sir George Gabriel Stokes, 1st Bt (Ref: Add 7342, 7656); the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London, has correspondence (Ref: MS 7108); the Natural History Museum, London, contains a biography with manuscript notes (Ref: L MSS HUN); the British Library holds letters to Charles Babbage, 1826-1855 (Ref: Add MSS 37183-86, 37194, 37196), letters to Stacey Grimaldi, 1837-1859 (Ref: Add MS 34189), and correspondence with Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Bt, 1835-1846 (Ref: Add MSS 40414-593); the Royal Astronomical Society Library, London, has letters to James Bosquanet, 1851-1877 (Ref: MS Add 89), letters to James Glaisher (Ref: MSS Glaisher), letters from Airy to the Society, 1832-1888 (Ref: RAS letters), and letters to Richard Sheepshanks, 1836-1859 (Ref: MSS Sheepshanks); the Public Record Office, London, contains correspondence with Edward Law, Earl of Ellenborough, 1845-1846 (Ref: PRO30/12), letters from John Peter Gassiot, 1860-1868 (Ref: BJ1), and letters to Sir Edward Sabine, 1841-1852 (Ref: BJ3); the Royal Geographical Society, London, holds letters to Sir David Gill; St Andrews University Library has correspondence with James Forbes; the Royal Society, London, holds correspondence with Sir John Frederick William Herschel, 1st Bt, 1824-1875 (Ref: HS), letters to Sir John William Lubbock, 3rd Bt, 1829-1860 (Ref: LUB); the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center Library, University of Texas at Austin, USA, contains correspondence with Sir John Frederick William Herschel, 1st Bt, 1836-1870; the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, holds letters to Lord Arthur Charles Hervey (Ref: MS Eng lett c297); Buckinghamshire Record Office, Aylesbury, has correspondence with John Fiott Lee, 1837, 1861-1863 (Ref: D/X720); the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, contains letters to Sir George Cornewall Lewis, 2nd Bt, 1860-1863 (Ref: Harpton Court); Exeter University Library has letters to Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer; Edinburgh University Library contains correspondence with Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Bt, 1835-1865 (Ref: Lyell 1); the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford University, holds letters to Baden Powell, 1836-1858; Pembroke College Library, Oxford University, has letters to Bartholomew Price, 1861-1883 (Ref: 60/14); the Institute of Electrical Engineers, London, contains correspondence with Sir Francis Ronalds, 1844-1851 (Ref: SC Mss 1.3, 1.9); Birr Castle, republic of Ireland, holds letters to William parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse, and Laurence Parsons, 4th Earl of Rosse, 1843-1879; the National Maritime Museum, London, has letters to Professor Sedgwick and his daughter (Ref: MS79/120); Glasgow City Archives contain letters to Archibald Smith, 1835-1861 (Ref: TD1); the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, holds letters to John Tyndall; Trinity College Library, Cambridge University, has correspondence with William Whewell, 1823-1866 (Ref: Whewell MSS); Liverpool University contains letters.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.

Corporate Names