Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Fall 2011 Newsletter

Center receives $10,000 grant
to catalog collection of science materials

Drawing. Click to enlarge.

A drawing of Halley's Comet by Caroline Herschel, 1835–1836.

The Ransom Center has received a $10,000 grant from the Friends of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics to rehouse and rearrange its holdings of the Herschel family papers and to create an online finding aid.

The Herschel family papers, acquired in 1960 with subsequent smaller accessions of additional materials, largely represent the life and work of Sir John F. W. Herschel (1792–1871), the English mathematician, astronomer, chemist, and experimental photographer/inventor. John Herschel has been called Britain's first modern physical scientist, and his correspondence has been noted as one of the most valuable archives for nineteenth-century science.

The papers also contain manuscripts and correspondence by and about other members of the Herschel family, most notably John's father Sir William Herschel (1738–1822), discoverer of the planet Uranus and stellar astronomy pioneer; his aunt Caroline Lucretia Herschel (1750–1848), another noted astronomer; and to a lesser extent, his son Sir William James Herschel (1833–1917), who first introduced the use of fingerprints as a means of official identification; as well as other Herschel family members, scientific colleagues, and friends.

The one-year project allows the Center to arrange and describe the papers according to current archival practices and enhance access to the materials. The papers will be re-housed to better protect and preserve the materials for the long term. The creation of an online finding aid will raise awareness and will represent the first complete and searchable description of the collection.

The Herschel family papers will be unavailable to scholars for the duration of the grant, which runs through December 31, 2011.

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