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Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine

THOMPSON, Professor Silvanus Phillips (1851-1916)


Reference code(s): GB 0098 B/THOMPSON

Held at: Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine

Title: THOMPSON, Professor Silvanus Phillips (1851-1916)

Date(s): Created 1828-1951

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 6 boxes

Name of creator(s): Thompson | Silvanus Phillips | 1851-1916 | physicist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born, York, 1851; educated at Bootham School, York; Flounders' Institute, Pontefract; Royal College of Chemistry, 1875-1876; Science master, York; Professor of Experimental Physics, University College, Bristol, 1876-1885; Principal and Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering, Finsbury Technical College, 1885-1916; President of the Physical Society; President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers; particularly noted for his work in electrical engineering; died, 1916.
Publications: include: Dynamo-Electric Machinery: a manual for students of electrotechnics Second edition (E & F N Spon, London, 1884); Light Visible and Invisible. A series of lectures delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, at Christmas, 1896, with additional lectures (Macmillan & Co, London, 1897); Michael Faraday. His life and work (Cassell & Co, London, 1898); Optical Tables and Data for the use of opticians (E & F N Spon, London, 1900); Contributions to Photographic Optics by Otto Lummer, translated and augmented by S P Thompson (Macmillan & Co, London, 1900); The Life of William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs (Macmillan & Co, London, 1910); Calculus made Easy (Macmillan & Co, London, 1910).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Professor Silvanus Phillips Thompson, 1828-1951, comprising correspondence, 1828-1919, notably with William Edward Ayrton, 1883-1899; Sir William Fletcher Barrett, [1878-1896]; Antoine Henri Becquerel, 1902-1908; Alexander Graham Bell, 1879-1880, concerning his experiments with the telephone; Sir Wiliam Crookes, 1876-1916; Michael Faraday, 1830-1835 [written to Richard Phillips]; Sir William Huggins, 1879-1907; David Edward Hughes, 1884-[1912], concerning magnetism; Sir Joseph Larmor, 1902-1916; Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge, 1897-1919; Sir James Augustus Henry Murray, 1904-1913; Augusto Righi, [1902]-1916; William Thomson, 1882-1907; notes and printed material, [1907]-1951; photographs and prints, 1870-1910, notably photographs of friends and family.


Language/scripts of material: English, French, German, Italian.

System of arrangement:

The records are arranged in sections as outlined in the scope and content.

Conditions governing access:

Researchers wishing to consult the Archives should first contact the College Archivist, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2AZ, for an appointment.

Conditions governing reproduction:

A photocopying service is available at the discretion of the Archivist. Photocopies are supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Archivist.

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:

A catalogue is available in the reading room of the College Archives.


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

The letters written by Michael Faraday to Richard Phillips were given to Professor Thomson by Lady Wilson, the daughter of Phillips. Autographs collected by Professor Thomson's father and grandfather are also included in the collection.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were presented by Miss Helen Thompson, daughter of Professor Thompson, in 1962.


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

Records relating to Finsbury Technical College (FA), City and Guilds of London Institute (F), City and Guilds College (FC-FS) and the Department of Physics (KP), held at Imperial College.

Papers and correspondence, 1877-1916 (reference: SC Mss 3), correspondence and papers including working notes, (reference: SC Mss 4) and letters to Oliver Heaviside, 1887-1915 (reference: SC Mss 5), held at the Institution of Electrical Engineers Archives Department; correspondence, 1891-1909, held at London University Library (reference: AL304); correspondence with Lord Kelvin, 1884-1905, (reference: Add 7342, 7656) and letters to Sir George Stokes and Sir Joseph Larmor, c 1889-1909, (reference: Add 7342, 7656), held at Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives; correspondence with Sir Oliver Lodge, 1883-1916, held at London University: University College Manuscripts Room (reference: MS ADD 89); letters to the Royal Astronomical Society, 1875-1896 held by the Royal Astronomical Society Library (reference: RAS letters); correspondence held at Sussex University Library Manuscript Collections; correspondence held at the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Library.

Publication note:

Silvanus Phillips Thompson ... His life and letters Jane Smeal Thompson and Helen G Thompson (Fisher Unwin, London, 1920)



Archivist's note: Sources: Who Was Who (A & C Black, 1947, volume II); British Library On-Line Publications Acess Catalogue 97; National Register of Archives. Compiled by Julie Tancell as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions: General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: November 2000

Photographs | Visual materials
Physicists | Scientists | Scientific personnel | Personnel | People by occupation | People
Telephone | Telecommunications equipment
Telephone engineering | Telecommunications
Communication methods

Personal names
Ayrton | William Edward | 1847-1908 | electrical engineer and physicist
Barrett | Sir | William Fletcher | 1844-1925 | Knight | physicist
Becquerel | Antoine Henri | 1852-1908 | French physicist
Bell | Alexander Graham | 1847-1922 | inventor
Crookes | Sir | William | 1832-1919 | Knight | chemist
Faraday | Michael | 1791-1867 | chemist and natural philosopher
Huggins | Sir | William | 1824-1910 | Knight | astronomer
Hughes | David Edward | 1831-1900 | electrical engineer
Larmor | Sir | Joseph | 1857-1942 | Knight | physicist
Lodge | Sir | Oliver Joseph | 1851-1940 | Knight | physicist
Murray | Sir | James Augustus Henry | 1837-1915 | Knight | lexicographer
Righi | Augusto | 1850-1920 | Italian physicist
Thomson | William | 1824-1907 | 1st Baron Kelvin | physicist x Kelvin | 1st Baron

Corporate names