Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Painting of comet. Click to enlarge.

J. W. F. Herschel, Halley's Comet, 1836-7. Herschel Collection.

History of Science

The most important single resource for research in this field is the Herschel Family Archive, comprising journals, extensive correspondence, manuscripts, and memoirs collected by astronomer, natural philosopher, and photographic inventor Sir J. F. W. Herschel (1792-1871). Sir John's own papers include his correspondence with Charles Babbage, Charles Darwin (as well as an a first edition of The Origin of Species inscribed to him), and many other scientific contemporaries. In addition, there are his Capetown journals (1834-37), drawings of telescopes, and illustrations of comets and other astronomical phenomena. Other members of the Herschel family represented are John's father William Herschel (1738-1822), discoverer of the planet Uranus and cataloger of nebulae, and his aunt Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), who not only assisted her brother in his research but herself identified a number of comets.

The Center's astronomy materials, many from the collection of Herbert M. Evans (1882-1971) are enhanced by first and significant editions of works by scientific pioneers such as Copernicus (1473-1543) (two copies of De Revolutionibus), Galileo (1564-1642), and Kepler (1571-1630), as well as by Cassini's (1625-1712) famous map of the moon (first edition,1679). There are first editions of most of Newton's (1643-1727) important works, including the Opticks and the Principia, as well as several manuscripts in the scientist's hand on theological topics. Especially important to the Center's scientific holdings are accounts, published and unpublished, of voyages of scientific discovery, including those of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), Capt. James Cook (1728-1779), Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521), and Robert Fitzroy (1805-1865); there is, moreover, an exceptional collection of works (in multiple editions) by Charles Darwin (1809-1882).

The C. L. Lundell Botany Collection consists of six thousand books, many of which derive from the library of Oakes Ames (1874-1950), and a significant aggregate of manuscripts and journals dealing with plant taxonomy, systematic botany (including local floras), gardening, and cultivation. The books are primarily American, English, and French, and are from all periods. Among the most important items are early herbals, the Hortus Eystettensis (1613), and works of botanist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) and his pupils. Particular strengths are illustrated books and treatments of the flora of Texas and the Southwest. Dr. Lundell's archives are also here. The Lundell Collection's herbarium specimens, including one from Captain Cook's voyage, are located in the University's Plant Resource Center.

The Van Wijk Chronology Collection includes twelve hundred books, plus a large number of offprints, photographs, and slides, dating from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries.

The papers of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) are a small but important collection from Pasteur's closely related family and most likely represent those materials which did not find their way to the Bibliothèque Nationale in 1967, when Pasteur's immediate family donated his entire personal archive to that institution. The Ransom Center's collection contains four autograph manuscripts by Pasteur's son-in-law, René Valléry-Radot (1853-1933), totaling four hundred thirty-two pages, of the first published study of Pasteur's life and work. The manuscripts contain numerous autograph corrections and additions by Louis Pasteur himself. Also in the collection are books from Pasteur's library, with annotations and notes by him; books inscribed to him, including one from the Russian bacteriologist and Nobel laureate Elias Metschnikoff relating to his lecture on Phagocytosis and Immunity; books by and about Pasteur from his family's libraries; fifteen mounted photographs and prints, many of them with autograph notes by Pasteur, relating to the founding of L'Institut Pasteur; and a pen-and-ink portrait of Pasteur's associate, Dr. Roux, signed by the artist and subject.

The Sir Owen Richardson (1879-1959) Collection of the Atom contains twenty-seven hundred books, thousands of scientific offprints, and voluminous archival materials documenting the career and professional relationships of the Nobel-Prize-winning physicist. The Ransom Center's Albert Einstein (1879-1955) collection includes a large number of published works by and about him, one hundred thirty of his letters, three manuscripts of published papers, and unpublished manuscript notes on his "Unified Field theory."

Scientific works by literary figures include manuscripts of the scientific essays of novelist C. P.  Snow (1905-1980) and the mathematical and logical studies of Lewis Carroll (C. L.  Dodgson, 1832-1898).