Joseph Norman Lockyer collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Lockyer to Alfred Parr regarding the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876 (leader George Strong Nares)

Administrative / Biographical History

(Joseph) Norman Lockyer was born in May 1836 in Rugby. On completing his education, he became a clerk in the War Office at the age of twenty-one. Developing a keen interest in science, in particular astronomy, he presented his first scientific paper to the Royal Astronomical Society in 1863. During the 1860s, Lockyer turned his attention to spectroscopy, discovering the theoretical existence of the previously unrecognised element helium and coining the name 'chromosphere' to describe the outer layers of the solar atmosphere. In 1869, he founded and became editor of the scientific journal Nature.

Between 1870 and 1875, Lockyer served as secretary to the Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction and the Advancement of Science, which recommended the establishment of an observatory of solar physics at South Kensington. In 1875, Lockyer was transferred from the War Office to the Science and Art Department at South Kensington. On the foundation of the Royal College of Science at South Kensington in 1890, Lockyer was appointed director of the new solar physics laboratory and professor of astronomical physics, a post he held until 1913. Retiring to Devon, he established a solar observatory at Sidmouth, now known as the Norman Lockyer Observatory. He received many honours throughout his career, including the Janssen medal of the Paris Academy of Sciences and the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society he was knighted in 1897. He died in August 1920.


The correspondence with Parr is arranged chronologically

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland, Garland Publishing, London (1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills, San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and Dictionary of National Biography, 1912-1921, Oxford University Press London (1927) and University of Exeter

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

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Further accessions possible