De Morgan Lecture Notes (MS ADD 2)

Scope and Content

Notes for an introductory lecture in the Faculty of Arts and Laws at University College London.

Administrative / Biographical History

Augustus De Morgan was born in Madura in the Madras presidency, the son of a Colonel in the Indian army. Seven months after his birth his parents moved to England. The De Morgan children were brought up with the strict evangelical principles of their parents. Augustus was sent to various schools: he had a gift for drawing caricatures and for algebra. In February 1823 he entered Trinity College Cambridge to develop his already apparent mathematical ability, graduating in 1827. De Morgan had never definitely joined any church, and he refused to carry out his mother's wishes by taking orders. He decided become a barrister and entered Lincoln's Inn, but preferred mathematics over law. In February 1828 De Morgan was unanimously elected the first Professor of Mathematics at the new University College London. De Morgan resigned this post in July 1831 in protest at the dismissal of the Professor of Astronomy. However, in 1836 his successor was drowned and De Morgan offered himself as a temporary substitute. He was then invited to resume the Chair of Mathematics; the regulations concerning dismissal that had promoted his resignation having been altered in the interim. De Morgan accepted the post and remained in it for the next 30 years.

Besides his professorial work, he served for a short period as an actuary and he often gave opinions on questions of insurance. He also occasionally taught private puils. De Morgan resigned his Chair again in November 1866 due to his view that personal religious belief of a candidate should not be taken into account in appointing a candidate for the vacant Chair of Mental Philosophy and Logic.

De Morgan had many children, some of whom died before him. De Morgan himself died on 18 March 1871. In 1828 De Morgan had been elected a fellow of the Astronomical Society and he was also a member of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, contributing a great number of articles to its publications. He also wrote on mathematical, philosophical and antiquarian points. After De Morgan's death, his library, which consisted of about three thousand volumes, was bought by Lord Overstone who presented it to the University of London.

Access Information


The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Mrs William De Morgan.

Other Finding Aids

Collection level description

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Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Related Material

University College London Special Collections also holds a manuscript of De Morgan's introductory lecture at the opening of classes in mathematics at University College London, 1828, with notes for another lecture (Ref: MS ADD 3); a student's notes on lectures given by De Morgan at University College London, 1847 (Ref: MS ADD 5); mathematical tracts by De Morgan, copied by John Power Hicks from the original manuscripts in the Library of University College London, 1849-1851 (Ref: MS ADD 6); papers relating to the history of the De Morgan family (Ref: MS ADD 7); 'Elements of statics', 1827, a volume written for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge but never published, used by De Morgan as evidence of his work when applying for the Mathematics Chair at University College London (Ref: MS ADD 27); mathematical fragments, letters, and papers of De Morgan, c1863-c1871 (Ref: MS ADD 69); correspondence between De Morgan and George Boole and others, 1842-1881 (MS ADD 97); letters of thanks from De Morgan to F Hendriks for publications, 1852-1866 (Ref: MS ADD 147); two items of correspondence between De Morgan and Sophia Frend, 1836 and undated, a letter from De Morgan to Sir Jonathan Pollock, 1865, and miscellaneous undated verses (Ref: MS ADD 163); over 100 letters from De Morgan to the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 1827-1844 (Ref: SDUK); over 70 letters to Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, 1842-1866 (Ref: BROUGHAM); letters relating to University College London business, 1828-1866 (Ref: COLLEGE CORRESPONDENCE); two letters to Henry Clark Barlow, 1857 (Ref: BARLOW); a letter to Sir John Bowring, 1839 (Ref: MS OGDEN 62/2/39); a letter to Richard Francis Weymouth, 1849 (Ref: MS ADD 231/31); two letters to an unknown man, 1857, 1860 (Ref: MS MISC 3D); papers of the London Mathematical Society, in which De Morgan was involved (Ref: LMS); a letter to Thomas John Hussey, 1847, and one to Sir William Rowan Hamilton, 1857 (Ref: MS GRAVES 23); c2,860 anagrams on the name Augustus De Morgan by John Thomas Graves (Ref: MS GRAVES 36); letters from James Smith to the editor of the 'Athenaeum', William Hepworth Dixon, arguing against De Morgan on the quadrature of the circle (Ref: MS ADD 118); various annotations, inscriptions and inserts made by De Morgan in printed works, including letters addressed to him, some from eminent contemporaries (see card index at University College London Special Collections for details).

The University of London Library holds correspondence and papers of De Morgan (Ref: MSS 36, 165, 238-41, 321-2, 775-6, 786) and his family (Ref: MS 913). The British Library, Manuscript Collections, holds correspondence with Charles Babbage, 1830-1850 (Ref: Add MSS 37185-200 passim). The Royal Society, London, holds c384 items of correspondence with Sir John Herschel, 1831-1870 (Ref: HS), and 26 letters to Sir John Lubbock, 1832-1860 (Ref: LUB). The Royal Astronomical Society Library, London, holds correspondence and papers, 1831-1866 (Ref: MSS de Morgan), and letters from De Morgan to the Society, 1831-1866 (Ref: RAS letters). Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, holds family correspondence and correspondence with Lady Byron (Ref: Dep Lovelace Byron) and miscellaneous correspondence (Ref: MS Autogr d 14). Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, holds 205 items of correspondence with Sir George Airy, 1850-1870 (Ref: RGO MSS 942-52); 37 letters to William Hepworth Dixon, 1856-1857 (Ref: Add 9428); ten letters to Lord Kelvin, 1845-1849 (Ref: Add 7342, 7656). Cambridge University, Trinity College Library, holds 69 letters to William Whewell, c1832-1866 (Ref: Whewell MSS). The National Library of Scotland, Manuscript Division, holds 19 letters to Alexander Campbell Fraser, 1855-1864 (Ref: Dep 208). Edinburgh University Library holds 12 letters to James Halliwell-Phillipps, 1845-1851 (Ref: LOA). The Royal Observatory Library, Edinburgh, holds a catalogue of mathematical books (Ref: NRA(S) 2657). Trinity College Dublin holds 252 letters to Sir William Hamilton, 1841-1865 (Ref: MS 1492). The American Philosophical Society Library, Pennsylvania, USA, holds c30 letters, 1841-1866.