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Gilbert Papers

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0103 GILBERT
Held at: University College London
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Full title: Gilbert Papers
Date(s): c1930-1955
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 22 boxes, 1 roll, 1 large folder
Name of creator(s): Gilbert | Lionel Felix | 1893-1955 | chemist
Hartog | Sir | Philip(pe) Joseph | 1864-1947 | Knight | educationist
Wollaston | William Hyde | 1766-1828 | physiologist, chemist, and physicist
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Lionel Felix Gilbert: born, 1893; studied chemistry at University College London, 1910-1915, 1923-1928; on the staff of the Chemistry Department at University College London, 1919-1955; Senior Lecturer; died, 1955.

Philip(pe) Joseph Hartog: born, 1864; entered University College London, 1875; a chemist in London, Manchester, and elsewhere, but attained distinction as an educationist in Manchester, London, and India; joint contributor of the entry on Wollaston to the Dictionary of National Biography, 1900; knighted, 1926; died, 1947.

William Hyde Wollaston: born at East Dereham, Norfolk, 1766; third son of the author Francis Wollaston and his wife, Althea Hyde; educated at a private school at Lewisham for two years and then at Charterhouse, 1774-1778; a pensioner of Caius College Cambridge, 1782; scholar of Caius College Cambridge, 1782-1787; appointed a senior fellow, 1787; retained his fellowship until his death; while at Cambridge, became intimate with John Brinkley and John Pond and studied astronomy with their assistance; graduated MB, 1788; on leaving Cambridge, worked as a physician in Huntingdon, 1789; subsequently went to Bury St Edmund's; became acquainted with the Reverend Henry Hasted, a close friend and lifelong correspondent; MD, 1793; elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1793 and admitted, 1794; admitted candidate of the Royal College of Physicians, 1794; Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, 1795; went to London and set up practice at no 18 Cecil Street, Strand, 1797; censor of the Royal College of Physicians, 1798; increasing devotion to various branches of natural science, including physics, chemistry, and botany, led him to retire from medical practice, 1800; looked to support himself by chemical research; took a house, no 14 Buckingham Street, Fitzroy Square, and set up a laboratory, 1801; innovations relating to platinum including the discovery of palladium and of a process for producing pure platinum and welding it into vessels, c1804; awarded the Copley medal, 1802; secretary of the Royal Society, 1804-1816; fellow of the Geological Society, 1812; suggested in evidence before a committee of the House of Commons the replacement of the various gallons then in use by the `imperial gallon' (adopted in the Weights and Measures Act of 1824), 1814; served as commissioner of the Royal Society on the Board of Longitude, 1818-1828; a member of the Royal Commission on Weights and Measures that rejected the adoption of the decimal system of weights and measures, 1819; frequently elected a vice-president of the Royal Society; declined a proposal to be nominated president of the Royal Society, but consented to act as president until the election, 1820; elected a foreign associate of the French Academy of Sciences, 1823; elected to the Royal College of Physicians, 1824; suffered occasional partial blindness in both eyes from 1800; attacked by symptoms said to be signify a fatal brain tumour, 1827; set about dictating papers on his unrecorded work, many of which were published posthumously; transferred 1,000 to the Geological Society (which formed `the Wollaston Fund' from which the society awards annually the Wollaston medal and the balance of the interest), 1828; transferred 2,000 to the Royal Society to form the `Donation Fund', the interest to be applied in promoting experimental research, 1828; awarded a royal medal by the Royal Society for his work, 1828; elected a member of the Astronomical Society, 1828; died, 1828; his house was afterwards inhabited by his friend Charles Babbage. Publications: fifty-six papers on pathology, physiology, chemistry, optics, mineralogy, crystallography, astronomy, electricity, mechanics, and botany, the majority read before the Royal Society and published in the Philosophical Transactions.


Scope and content/abstract:

Working papers and correspondence, c1930-1955, in manuscript and typescript, assembled by Lionel Felix Gilbert for a proposed biography of William Hyde Wollaston, comprising notes (some by P J Hartog) from various printed and manuscript sources on Wollaston's life and work, publications, and associates; copies and extracts of letters from Wollaston to the Rev Henry Hasted, Charles Babbage, and others; copies and notes of letters to Wollaston and on other letters relating to him; engraving of Wollaston, 1830; prints of Wollaston and various of his contemporaries, and of various places and artefacts associated with him; correspondence and notes relating to portraits of Wollaston; notes on Wollaston genealogy; notes, drafts, typescripts and correspondence on Gilbert's publications and lectures on Wollaston, including parts of his unfinished biography; correspondence on sources relating to Wollaston, and various correspondence on aspects of his life and work. The collection almost entirely comprises material of 20th century date, but refers to and duplicates various 19th century sources. The material extends beyond Wollaston's own life to refer to many prominent scientific contemporaries.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The papers apparently retain Gilbert's working arrangement.

Conditions governing access:

Open, with the exception of one file of correspondence between Gilbert and Professor McKie relating to the Platinum Metals Exhibition of 1955, which is closed.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Finding aids:

Handlist available at University College London Special Collections for most of the material, but five 'miscellaneous' boxes of slips, comprising manuscript and typescript notes and indexes, are not included.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Transferred from Gilbert's Department at University College London after his death.

Allied Materials

Related material:

University College London Special Collections also holds a manuscript copy of a letter from Lionel Felix Gilbert to Herbert Dingle and a typescript letter from Dingle to Gilbert, 1955 (Ref: HISTORY OF SCIENCE SOURCES); John A Chaldecott, 'William Cary and His Association with William Hyde Wollaston: the Marketing of Malleable Platinum in Britain from 1805-1824' (offprint from Platinum Metals Review, xxiii, no 3, 1979). University College London Records Office holds a personnel file on Gilbert (Ref: GO 1799/25).

The Natural History Museum holds Gilbert's correspondence with W R Dawson (91 items), 1953-1955 (Ref: L MSS DAWS A). Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, holds Wollaston's correspondence and 19 notebooks (Ref: Add 7736). The Science Museum Library holds a notebook, 1822-1825, and letters to Thomas Farmer, 1809-1812. The Royal Society holds papers (Ref: MS 240); correspondence with Sir John Herschel (15 items), 1823-1827 (Ref: HS); and letters to Thomas Young, 1800-1801. The British Library holds letters to Charles Babbage (in Add MSS 37182-205).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; National Register of Archives. Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with 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:
May 2001

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