The collection includes: letters and notes to Peter Guthrie Tait, 1859-1901, and the order of service for the funeral service of Lord Kelvin at Westminster Abbey, 23 December 1907; a testimonial by Kelvin in favour of P. G. Tait for the Chair of Natural Philosophy, 1859, and notes to Tait, 1865, 1872; letter to D. R. Hay, 1856; letters and a post-card to Tait about magnetism, temperature etc, 1869-1891; letter to Professor Silvanus Phillips Thompson, 1889; letter to Sir Archibald Geikie about the Presidency of the Royal Society, London, 1890; copy of a letter to E. Mascart, 1891; letter to Sir W, Muir; and a letter to S. C. Chandler, 1897.
Collection of Papers relating to William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)
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- ReferenceGB 237 Coll-389
- Dates of Creation1856-1907
- Language of MaterialEnglish.
- Physical Description32 letters, 10 postcards, 1 printed item.
- LocationGen. 1426/120; Gen. 1731 Kelvin; Gen. 2169/80-111; Dc.2.59; Dc.2.76/16, ff.6-18; Dk.2.14, p.30
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
William Thomson was born in Belfast on 26 June 1824. He was the son of James Thomson, Professor of Mathematics at Glasgow University. He was educated at Glasgow University and Peterhouse College, Cambridge. In 1846 he became Professor of Natural Philosophy at Glasgow University, establishing his academic reputation in the field of thermodynamics. He put forward an absolute scale of temperature - known as the Kelvin scale - and formulated the laws of equivalence and of transformation. He also put forward the doctrine of available energy. Thomson was a practical scientist too, and worked on the development of electric telegraphy. In 1853 he put forward the theory of electric oscillations and then performed a number of experiments towards the creation of insulated electric telegraph cables. In 1856 he was a Director of the Atlantic Telegraph Company, and in the same year that he invented the mirror galvanometer - 1865-1866 - he supervised the laying of the transatlantic cable from Ireland to Newfoundland. He was also involved in the French Atlantic cable in 1869, the Brazilian River Plate cable in 1873, West Indian cables in 1875, and the Mackay-Bennett Atlantic cable in 1879. Thomson also invented an improved mariner's compass, a navigational sounding machine, a tide predictor, and many electrical measuring and telegraphic instruments. He was knighted in 1866 for his work on telegraphy and was created Baron Kelvin of Largs in 1892. In 1902 Kelvin became a Member of the Order of Merit and a Privy Councillor. William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, died on 17 December 1907. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Conditions Governing Access
Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.
Geikie letter, from letters purchased 1968, Accession no. E68.24. Thompson letter, purchased January 1970, Accession no. E70.4. Letter purchased July 1970, Accession no. E70.31. Tait letters, acquired May 1983, Accession no. E83.32.
The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Who was who. A companion to Who's who ... 1897-1916. London: A. and C. Black, 1920. (2) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994.
Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.
Other Finding Aids
Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.
Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.