Journal of John Walsh's Visit to France in 1772

Scope and Content

The journal is written predominantly on one side of the page only. To folio ii is attached a list described as List of Visites à Paris, 1772, giving names and addresses. The journal covers the periods 8-26 June (folios 1-56), 27-28 July (folios 57-61), 4 August (folios 68-9), and 13-17 August 1772 (folios 79-108). It was evidently intended to fill in the blanks between the periods. The journal was probably copied up from diaries: see folio 56v with the note, See the Diary of Transactions at La Rochelle ë L'Isle de Re. From June 26th to July 27th. The many places visited include Boulogne, Paris, Orleans, Blois, Amboise, Tours, Les Ormes St. Martin, Poitiers, La Rochelle, Chantonnai, Angers, La Fleche, Le Mans, Val-Dieu, La Trappe and La Ferte. There is a copy of a letter to Dr [Benjamin] Franklin, dated 21 June 1772 (folios 26v, 27), and Memorandums concerning the Torpedo made in the Journey from Paris to La Rochelle (folios 53v-55v).

Administrative / Biographical History

John Walsh (1726-1795), natural philosopher and politician, was born in Madras, the son of a senior merchant in the East India Company. He was sent to England after his father's death in 1731, to be raised by his uncle John Walsh. In 1742 Walsh joined the East India Company as a writer; in 1757 he was appointed secretary to Clive of India. He later settled in England, and for some time engaged in politics, representing Worcester in the House of Commons.

Walsh was elected to the Royal Society in 1770, and became known for his work on the electric ray, Torpedo marmorata. In 1769 Edward Banfield proved that the electric eel emitted electric shocks, and Walsh set out to confirm that the ray had a similar power. In this he was encouraged by Benjamin Franklin, whose American colleagues were undertaking similar investigations. With his nephew Arthur Fowkes he spent the summer of 1772 at La Rochelle, where the ray was often captured. The fish could survive many hours out of water, and Walsh was able to conduct experiments ashore and successfully proved that the ray's shocks were caused by electricity. His findings were published in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions, vol. 63 (1773), pp. 461-77, and the Royal Society awarded him the Copley medal for his achievement.

Source: E.I. Carlyle, 'Walsh, John (1726-1795)', rev. Anita McConnell, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from the bookseller G.H. Last of Bromley, Kent, on 18 February 1935.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, and Elizabeth Gow, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on John Walsh.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928-35 (English MS 724).

Custodial History

Contains a bookplate of Lord Ormathwaite. John Walsh died unmarried in 1795, leaving his property to Sir John Benn, who in 1778 had married his niece Margaret. In accordance with the provisions of the will, Benn assumed the additional name of Walsh, and was the father of John Benn Walsh, 1st Baron Ormathwaite (1798-1881).

Corporate Names