Manuscripts, books and research papers associated with George Green (1793-1841) of Sneinton, Nottinghamshire, miller and mathematician

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This is an artificial collection, which brings together from a number of sources material relating to the life, career, and family of George Green. The collection reflects research into all aspects of Green's life, his subsequent scientific reputation, his family descendants, and the history of his mill at Sneinton, Nottinghamshire.

The collection contains very little original material from the time of George Green, whose papers have been lost, but includes a wealth of published source material and copy manuscripts concerning Green and his circle, as uncovered through modern research. The collection concentrates on the biographical and scholarly resources available for the study of George Green and the recognition of his significance, and does not attempt to include comprehensive references to the application of his scientific work.

The first section (GG 1) contains offprints of articles and copies of original papers by George Green, 1828-1839. This is complemented by a series of translations, collected editions and reprints of his papers, 1850-1958 (GG 2). An effort has been made to include copies of contemporary scientific works which are now felt to have influenced his thinking (GG 6A), and the collection also includes copies of some 20th-century scientific papers which particularly draw on Green's mathematics (GG 6B).

There is a series of biographical articles and notices on George Green, 1863-1999 (GG 3).

Manuscript material in the collection is mainly in copy form. This includes a series of copies of letters between George Green, Sir Edward Ffrench Bromhead and Professor William Whewell of Cambridge University, 1828-1834 (GG 4B). The papers of H Gwynedd Green, however, include some original correspondence of William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), relating to George Green (GG 4A). There is some miscellaneous modern correspondence concerning research into the life and work of George Green, 1974-1999 (GG 4C). A series of copies of correspondence held elsewhere, between Sir Edward Ffrench Bromhead, Charles Babbage, William Whewell and others, 1816-1842, does not mention Green but gives an idea of the kind of mathematical work going on at the time by his contemporaries (GG 4D).

There is a large series of copies of source material and illustrations gathered together by Mary Cannell for her biographies of Green (GG 4E).

Another section contains photographs, newscuttings and other miscellaneous papers relating to Green's Mill in Sneinton, 1793-1988 (GG 5). This section also contains material concerning the work of the George Green Memorial Fund Committee in undertaking restoration of the mill and in transferring it to Nottingham City Council to serve as a science museum.

Records are also present of the events surrounding the 1993 Bicentenary celebrations, including the unveiling of a plaque for George Green in Westminster Abbey (GG 7).

The two final series relate to academic research on George Green: the research papers of D M Cannell, c.1979-2000 (GG 8); and the research papers of Mr D A Edge, 1973-1974 (GG 9).

Administrative / Biographical History

George Green of Sneinton, Nottinghamshire, followed his father in his early career as a baker and miller, but is today remembered for his original work as a mathematician. His major contributions, Green's theorem, Green's functions and Green's elasticity, are of continuing relevance to contemporary physicists, mathematicians, engineers and biomedical scientists.

The early educational influences and later contacts who must have encouraged and supported Green have long been a matter of debate. Candidates include educators such as Robert Goodacre of Nottingham, and John Toplis, Headmaster of the Free Grammar School, Nottingham. Green was also a member of the Nottingham Subscription Library which met in Bromley House, Nottingham. Its members in 1828 subscribed to enable the publication of his seminal work, An Essay on the Application of Mathematical Analysis to the Theories of Electricity and Magnetism.

This publication first introduced Green to a wider scientific audience. This led to his meeting his patron Sir Edward Ffrench Bromhead of Thurlby Hall near Lincoln, and his entrance to Caius College, Cambridge. In 1839 he was elected into a College Fellowship but he left after six months and died in Nottingham in 1841. He had produced a number of articles but no further monographs after 1828. William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, 'rediscovered' the significance of George Green in the 1840s, and caused Green's 1828 Essay to be reprinted in German by Crelle. It was reprinted in English for the first time by Ferrers in 1871.

His mill in Sneinton, which was in a derelict condition in the early 1970s, was purchased and restored through the efforts of the committee members of the George Green Memorial Fund. It was opened to the public as Green's Mill and Science Centre in 1985.

Staff at University College, Nottingham, and later the University of Nottingham have been particularly involved in memorialising George Green. This began with the interest shown by Professor H Piaggio, Professor of Mathematics, the Vice-Principal Professor F Granger, and Dr Edith M Becket, in the 1920s. Becket published an article in the Transactions of the Thoroton Society in 1921. H Gwynedd Green (no relation), Reader in Geometry, published a longer biography in 1946. In 1974, an exhibition at Nottingham Castle Museum celebrated George Green. A booklet, with contributions from Dr R M Bowley, Professor L J Challis and Dr F W Sheard of the Physics Department, was produced to accompany the exhibition. This booklet was the first to publish letters written by George Green to Sir Edward Ffrench Bromhead, following their discovery by Dr J M Rollett.

George Green's most recent biographer has been Doris Mary Cannell (1913-2000), who was Secretary of the George Green Memorial Fund from the 1970s, and a close collaborator with its Chairman Professor L J Challis. Cannell began detailed research on George Green in around 1983. She published a biographical booklet in 1988, followed by a full biography in 1993. She continued her research into Green and his circle, and her biography was published in a second edition posthumously in 2001.


Material is arranged in a number of series, within which items are listed chronologically. The continuing accruals to the collection inevitably disrupt this order.

Conditions Governing Access

Accessible for reference use to all registered readers.

Other Finding Aids

Copyright in all Finding Aids belongs to the University of Nottingham.

In the Reading Room, King's Meadow Campus:

Typescript catalogue, 117 pp

At the National Register of Archives, London:

Old version of typescript Catalogue, 22 pp


Available on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue, accessible from the website of Manuscripts and Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying restrictions are in place for material in copy form, where the original is not held at The University of Nottingham. Photocopies and photographic copies of other material in the collection can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on access arrangements and the condition of the documents.

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email

Custodial History

The University Library already held many of the publications relevant to George Green when increasing interest during the 1980s, and the active support of Professor L J Challis and others, prompted the creation of a George Green archive of research materials. Many additional materials, often in copy form, have been added from a variety of donors, particularly from Challis, Cannell and other members of the George Green Memorial Fund and the Green's Windmill Trust. A significant quantity of material comprises the research papers of Green's biographers H Gwynedd Green and D M Cannell.

Related Material

Additional material relating to George Green held in The University of Nottingham, Manuscripts and Special Collections:

The archive of Professor Frank S Granger contains a number of items concerning Green, referring in particular to the interest shown by Albert Einstein in Green's work during his visit to Nottingham in Jun. 1930 for the meeting of the British Association:

Typescript notes and agenda for meeting in Nottingham relating to George Green and his contribution to science. [Meeting of British Association in Nottingham.] 1937 (Gr Ug 1)

Newspaper cutting commenting on the publication of H Gwynedd Green's Biography of George Green. 1947 (Gr Ug 2) See item GG 3/12

Notes and Newspaper cutting relating to Einstein's visit to Nottingham and brief record of a discussion between Granger and Einstein on Green's work. 1930 (Gr Ue 1-22)

There is also another collection of papers relating to Green's Mill, Sneinton, Nottingham, 1921-1924 and 1976 (MS 812)


The Collection includes the bulk of the material used by D M Cannell, in George Green, Mathematician and Physicist, 1793-1841: The Background to his Life and Work (1993, 2nd ed. 2001).