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Among manuscripts of Sir John Herschel's works are his writings on actinometry, astronomy, the barometer, biology, chemistry, geology, music, photography, physical optics, physics, and other subjects, as well as 37 poems he wrote between 1826 and 1842. A manuscript of one of Herschel's earliest works, Memoir on a Remarkable Application of Cote's Theorems, is present in the collection, as are notebooks from his student years. Notes from numerous chemistry experiments date from 1848 to 1870. Diaries cover the years 1820-71, while travel journals from 1809 to 1850 contain observations on tours in Italy, France, Germany, and England. Herschel's reports, notes, star charts, financial accounts, and diaries from his work at an observation point at the Cape of Good Hope are present. Reports, essays, and documents of various organizations with which Sir John was associated, including the Royal Mint (1850-55), the English Committee for the Terrestrial Magnetism Survey (1838-39), the Greenwich Observatory (1830), the Royal University Commission (1850), the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Royal Commission on Standards of Weights and Measurements (1838-43), are also included.
Items in the miscellaneous works series include Sir John Herschel's sketches titled "Profiles Taken with the Camera Lucida," sketches of apparatus, and various writings and calculations. Sir John's list of his publications chronologically records all of his published books, articles, and letters from 1812 to 1870. The letters series comprises correspondence from Sir John Herschel to over 200 correspondents, including George Biddell Airy, Mary Baldwin, W.E. Gladstone, Margaret Brodie Stewart Herschel, Richard Jones, Henry Rich, Edward Sabine, William Henry Fox Talbot, and Charles E. Trevelyan.
The miscellaneous series is comprised of correspondence to Sir John Herschel, correspondence and works of other members of the Herschel family, and correspondence and works of colleagues and acquaintances. Also included are Sir John's account books, memoranda books, and Lady Herschel's housekeeping books from 1822 to 1840. Correspondence to Sir John Herschel includes nearly 1200 letters from such correspondents as George Biddell Airy, Jasper Atkinson, Charles Babbage, William Thomas Brande, Henry Drury Harness, George Peacock, Richard Sheepshanks, and William Whewell.
Within Sir William Herschel's correspondence are letters from his father and other relatives in Germany. Sir William's "Concerning the Central Powers of the Particles of Matter," "My Idea of Matter," "Remarks on Dr. Priestly's Disquisition on Matter and Spirit," "Interference of Light," notes on astronomy, notes on optics, and various mathematical tables are represented in the collection. A list of the telescopes Sir William constructed and documents relating to his early musical career are also present. Sir William's biographical memoranda from 1758 to 1787, recopied by Caroline Herschel, and the original draft of Sir John's obituary of his father, are included as well. Among Caroline Herschel's correspondence are letters from Carl Gauss, John Haygarth, Alexander von Humboldt, and Joseph Lalande. Caroline Herschel's manuscripts include diaries from 1833 to 1845, biographical memoranda, an autobiography, documents about the disposal of her property, her will, diplomas, the royal warrant for her salary, and her astronomical tables. Her commonplace book of astronomical memoranda records her education as an astronomer. Correspondence by various other members of the Herschel family dates from 1721 to 1951. Correspondence and writings by other scientists, such as George Biddell Airy and John Dalton, complete the miscellaneous series.