Reference numberMS/257
Previous numbersMS 257, MS 258, MS 259, MS 260, MS 261
TitleCorrespondence of Sir Edward Sabine, PRS
CreatorSabine, Sir Edward (1788-1883) Knight General Geophysicist
DescriptionCorrespondence of Sir Edward Sabine:
MS/257/1 A - C
MS/257/2 D - J
MS/257/3 K - R
MS/257/4 S
MS/257/5 T - Y and anonymous
ExtentFive volumes, MS large; containing 1,841 items
Physical descriptionBound, size 16 x 10.5 inches, MS (large)
ArrangementAlphabetically by name of correspondent, and by date under each correspondent.
Finding aidsCatalogued in Archive card catalogue. Table of contents at front of each volume
Access statusOpen
Administrative historyBorn in Dublin in 1788, Edward Sabine was a graduate of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He retained his commission, eventually reaching the rank of general - but started scientific work at the end of the Napoleonic wars. He was recommended by the Royal Society to accompany John Ross on an expedition to seek the Northwest Passage in 1818, was with William Edward Parry on his 1819-1820 Arctic expedition, and on a pendulum expedition in 1821-1822 around the Atlantic to determine the true figure of the earth. He was most interested in terrestrial magnetism, in 1826 working with Babbage on the British Isles; in the 1830s he, Humphrey Lloyd, James Clark Ross and others completed the magnetic survey of the British Isles, which he repeated in 1858-1861. His career was distinguished by his successful promotion and administration of a world-wide effort to gather terrestrial magnetism observations, believing in the existence of two magnetic poles and that terrestrial magnetism was essentially the same as atmospheric phenomena. He played a key role both in the dispatching of a British expedition to the southern hemisphere in 1839 to establish a network of magnetic and meteorological observatories, and in its consequences, motivated by intellectual curiosity and nationalistic zeal. Also, he and Sir John Herschel were in complete agreement on the desirability of seizing this opportunity to advance meteorology. Sabine took over from Lloyd the processing of the data, and between 1841-1861 he maintained a staff at Woolwich for data reduction. He also persuaded the British Association to acquire the King's Observatory at Kew to be the basic geophysical observatory for the Empire, providing standard data and equipment for colonial observations, until in 1871 it was transferred to the Royal Society. Sabine believed that data was not the end in itself, but a preliminary to theory. He was particularly active in the British Association and the Royal Society, shifting programmes from one to the other to gain his objectives, such as the Kew Observatory. He was distressed by the disputes over reforming the Royal Society, and with Grove played a leading reform role which answered the complaints of Davy and Babbage about the election of Fellows. However, he failed to move with the scientific times, in 1863 refusing the demand by younger naturalists for awarding the Copley Medal to Darwin in favour of Adam Sedgwick. Accused by Tyndall of neglecting natural history, he resigned the presidency of the Royal Society in 1871
Related materialSee also 2 volumes of correspondence on Terrestrial Magnetism by Sir Edward Sabine, Reverend Humphrey Lloyd and others, reference MS/119; Public Record Office, correspondence and papers, 1825-1877, correspondence with Balfour Stewart, 1859-1870; Devon Record Office, correspondence 1825-1837; Plymounth and West Devon Record Office, diary 1818; Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, Cambridge University, papers 1822, correspondence with Sir George Airy, 1847-1858, correspondence with Sir George Stokes, 1847-1876; National Meteorological Library and Archive, correspondence relating to Meteorological Office and Kew Observatory; Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University, journal, 1818-1819; Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine, ornithological papers, 1830-1820; Archives Department, Institution of Electrical Engineers, 10 letters to Michael Faraday 1845-1860, correspondence with Sir Francis Ronalds, 1844-1851; St Andrews University Library, correspondence with James Forbes. 1841-1858; Niedersachsische Staats and Universitatsbibliothek, 24 letters to Gottinghen Academy of Science, 1824-1865; Royal Institution of Great Britain, 57 letters to Sir William Grove, 40 letters to John Tyndall; Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center Library, University of Texas at Austin, correspondence with Sir John Herschel, 1822-1866; Library and Archives, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, 260 letters to Sir William Hooker, 1832-1849; Manuscripot Collections, British Library, letters to Sir Roderick Musrchison, 1845-1862; Castle Ashby, letters to Lord Northampton; Birr Castle Archives, 11 letters to 3rd and 4th Ears of Rosse, 1848-1871; Manuscripts Room, University College London, University of London, 59 letters to William Sharpey, 1852-1865; Glasgow City Archives, letters to James Smith, 1822-1837; Trinity College Library,m Cambridge University, 17 letters to William Whewell, 1837-1854; Natural History Museum, correspondence with Sir Richard Owen, William Clift, 1851-1870
Fellows associated with this archive
NA8279Sabine; Sir; Edward (1788 - 1883)1788 - 1883
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