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James, Sir Henry (1803-1877)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0117 MS 744
Held at: Royal Society
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Full title: James, Sir Henry (1803-1877)
Date(s): 1850-1875
Level of description: Sub-fonds
Extent: 2 boxes (1 box papers, 1 box photographs)
Name of creator(s): James | Sir | Henry | 1803-1877 | Knight | Director General of the Ordnance Survey
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born in 1803 at Rose in Vale, Cornwall, Henry James was educated at the grammar school in Exeter, and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich; and was commissioned second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on 22 September 1826. The following year he was appointed to the Ordnance Survey, on which he served mainly in Ireland. In 1843 James was appointed loal superintendent of the geological survey of Ireland under Sir Henry De la Beche. On 7 July 1846 James was transferred to Admiralty employment, and became chief engineer at Portsmouth with charge of the construction works in the dockard. On 8 September 1847 he was appointed to the commission investigating the use of iron in railway structures. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society on 30 November 1848, and an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on 1 May 1849. James returned to the Ordnance Survey in 1850, and had his divisional headquarters at Edinburgh. In 1854 James married Anne Matson, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. On 11 July 1854 James was appointed superintendent of the Ordnance Survey.

Whilst in charge of the Survey, one-inch and six-inch scale maps were retained for the whole of the UK and the 1:2500 scale was adopted in addition for populous, cultivated, and mining districts. Also, related scientific investigations were undertaken: in 1856, observations were made with Airy's zenith sector on the sumit of Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, to determine the mean specific gravity of the earth by triangulation. In 1860 James was knighted in recognition of his services. Also, In 1864-5 James arranged for a survey of Jerusalem, with the aim to make the city's water system less hazardous to pilgrims.

James also advocated a new process of map reproduction for which he conied the name of 'photozincography' (a chromocarbon photographic print of a small drawing was prepared and then transfered to zinc). This process allowed the Survey to keep pace with demands for maps in a variety of scales.


Scope and content/abstract:

Correspondence, papers, notebooks and specimens (copper and photographic) compiled by Sir Henry James. The majority of this correspondence is based around the following themes: James's work for the Ordnance Survey (particularly the book of maps and photographs produced by the OS of Jerusalem), James's investigation of the corrosion by sea water of the copper bottoms of ships, letters discusing George Biddell Airy's proposed system of projection and personal letters of invitation to James. The majority of the photographs relate to 'The Wreck of the RHONE', and in particular, of a survivor of the shipwreck, a cabin boy called John Bailey. (The RHONE was a steam packet ship, built in London in 1865. It sank off the coast of the Virgin Islands in October 1867, after being struck by strong winds. Of the 197 people on board only 24 survived. The wreck of the RHONE is now regarded as one of the world's most famous wreck dives). The sketchbook consists mostly of sketches of trilobites drawn whilst James was in Ireland and the notebook contains notes on military topics.

Access & Use

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Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to Archivist in the first instance.

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Archival Information

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Allied Materials

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Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Copied from the Royal Society catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

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:
Feb 2009.

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