William Hyde Wollaston: Papers

Scope and Content

Box 1


There are two sets of material, one containing copies of articles, notes, letters, etc., the other consisting of letters and notes in brown envelopes to or from L.F. Gilbert.


1st series: 1-4. scientific notebooks 'O', 'H', 'G', and 'D'; 5. 'Tours', notes on Wollaston by Henry Warburton; 6. 'Ink Book', describing experiments with ink; 7. early Wollaston notes while at Huntingdon and Bury, 1792; 8. notes on Fordyce's Materia Medica; 9-11. 'M-Pendulum 1', 'M-Pendulum 2' and 'M-Pendulum 3', describing pendulum experiments.

2nd series: 1, 3 and 8. scientific notebooks 'J', 'F' and 'C'; 2. 'L', concerning money; 4. unidentified notebook, containing calculations, notes, etc.; 5. 'Account Book'; 6. 'Pencil Tabs', concerning pendulum data, etc.; 7. Forster account, concerning 'account between Mrs. Forster'; 9. 'E', letters and notes; 10. Henry Warburton's alphabetical book; 11. Fordyce's Lectures on Chronic and Acute Diseases; 12. Wollaston's copy of William Heberden's Introduction to the Study of Physics.

Box 2


1st series: 1. Wollaston papers in 'Philosophical Transactions'; 2. notebook not related to Wollaston, containing references in English, German, French, etc.

2nd series: 1. geological notebook; 2. Poisson's Memoire Sur la Theorie du Magnetisme on mouvement; 3. tours made by Smithson Tennant, 4. 'I', crucible and boiler construction; 5. diary kept at Huntingdon, with notes; 6. Heberden's Three Lectures on Poisons.

Letters to Henry Warburton

The correspondents are G.B. Greenough (1 letter, 1826); E.D. Clarke (1, 1816); J. Whishaw (12, c.1813-1821); F. Berger (2, 1814); E.C. Howard (6, c.1816); J. Pond (2, no year); T. Smith (4, 1815-1817); 'Binda' (4, 1816-1821); W. Buckland (12, 1814-1823); and H.G. Bennett (3, c.1814).

Brown Envelopes

1st series: A) other MSS (7); B) unclassified MSS concerning Wollaston (4); C) letters from and to Wollaston, with MS notes apparently in his writing; D) Wollaston material: letters, MS notes, scientific notebook, and drafts of a differential barometer paper; E) filing folder - 'Philosophical Transactions' papers.

2nd series: 1) slips from Materia Medica; 2) miscellaneous material; 3) enclosures from Materia Medica; 4) slips from Introduction to Study of Physic; 5) Smithson Tennant's diploma.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Hyde Wollaston (1766-1828) was born at East Dereham, Norfolk, on 6 August 1766. He was educated at Lewisham, before entering Charterhouse in 1774. He was admitted a pensioner of Caius College, Cambridge, in 1782 (M.B., 1788; M.D., 1793), and was appointed a senior fellow of Caius in 1787. In 1789 he began to practice as a physician, first at Huntingdon, and then at Bury St Edmund's. In 1794 he was admitted F.R.S., and in 1795 became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. In 1797 Wollaston set up a medical practice in London, but he retired in 1800, and began to carry out experimental work. In his new line of work he discovered a process for making platinum malleable, and published papers on astronomy, botany, chemistry, crystallography, electricity, mechanics, mineraology, optics, pathology, and physiology.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Transferred from the Department of Mineraology and Petrology, Cambridge, 1968.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on Wollaston in Sidney Lee, ed., Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. XXI, pp. 782-787 (London, 1909).

Other Finding Aids

Additional Manuscripts Catalogue.

Custodial History

Wollaston's papers passed into the care of his intimate friend Henry Warburton after his death.