William Samuel Stratford: Papers

Scope and Content

MS.Add.4236: Notebooks E1-E19, with some additional loose sheets, containing calculations made at the Nautical Almanac Office by various assistants under Stratford's supervision, relating to Halley's Comet, 1835-1836, 385 folios. The notebooks were subsequently bound together, but the binding has disintegrated. E12 is a final proof of Ephemeris of Halley's Comet 1835-6 (Nautical Almanac Office, 30 December 1835), in which the first results of these calculations were published.

MS.Add.4237: Notebooks C13-C23, containing similar calculations to MS.Add.4236, 294 folios.

MS.Add.4238: Miscellaneous official and private papers of Stratford, 313 folios. Nos I-XI are notebooks; XII-XIII are loose sheets.

I. Draft regulations for the London Chemical Society, with draft minutes of a meeting of the society, 22 March 1827, inserted loose; II. English translation of P. Caturegli, Ephemerides Motuum Caelestium, 1829-1832 (Bologna, 1828), app. pp. III-XVI; III-V. Memoranda of accounts, 1832-1833 (see below); VI. Engagement book, October-December 1837; VII. Occultations and eclipses of Jupiter's satellites for 1838; VIII. Mean time of transit of the same for 1838; IX. 'Independent computation of apparent places of stars on Decr. 16th 1836', with sheets of further similar computations inserted loose; X. 'Independent apparent places of the 100 stars 1838', with an inserted letter to Stratford from Richard Farley, 22 February 1835; XI. Memoranda of rents, 1827-1828 (see below); XII. Calculations and notes on the positions of the stars for 1837-1838; XIII. Astronomical calculations, some inserted on printed forms for incorporation in the Nautical almanacs for 1835-1842, with letters, including the following: (no. 1) T. Henderson, 21 October 1833; (no. 3) Richard Farley, 11 December 1835; (nos 8-10) Robert Main, 30 March, and 4 and 18 April 1835; (no. 21) R. Farley, undated.

Nos I and III-XI appear to be in Stratford's own hand. III-V and XI relate to properties in London from which rents were receivable, of some organisation with which he was connected. The calculations in VIII-X and XII-XIII, as in MSS.Add.4236-4237, were the work of assistants in the Nautical Almanac Office, submitted to Stratford, whose notes are occasionally added. The assistants are usually identified only by their initials. Those whose names appear in full include R. Bullen, Richard Farley and Jenkin Jones.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Samuel Stratford (1791-1853) was born on 31 May 1791. He entered the navy in 1806, and was engaged in naval business in the North Sea, 1809-1815. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1815, but was not engaged offshore after that year. Thereafter, Stratford studied astronomy, and became Secretary of the Astronomical Society on its foundation in 1820. He was appointed Superintendent of the Nautical almanac in 1831, and made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1832. He died on 29 March 1853.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

No record of accession, but received before 1905.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on Stratford in Sidney Lee, ed., Dictionary of national biography, Vol. XIX (London, 1909), p. 35.

Other Finding Aids

Additional Manuscripts Catalogue.


For the final results of the calculations in MS.Add.4237 see Statford's paper 'On the Elements of the Orbit of Halley's Comet in 1835 and 1836' in the Nautical almanac for 1839 (published 1837), appendix pp. 185-263.