AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

Lubbock, Sir John William (1803-1865)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0117 JWL
Held at: Royal Society
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: Lubbock, Sir John William (1803-1865)
Date(s): 1821-1860
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 6,521 letters, personal papers and boxed items
Name of creator(s): Lubbock | Sir | John William | 1803-1865 | 3rd Baronet | astronomer and mathematician


Administrative/Biographical history:

John William Lubbock, third Baronet, astronomer and mathematician, was born on 29 March 1803 in Duke Street, Westminster, only child of Sir John William Lubbock, head of the banking firm of Lubbock & Co., by his wife Mary, daughter of James Entwhistle of Rusholme, Manchester. He attended Eton, then in 1821 Trinity College Cambridge, where he graduated as first senior optime in 1825, and MA in 1833. In 1825 he became a partner in his father's bank, dividing his time between business and study. He joined the Astronomical Society in 1828, the Royal Society in 1829 (Treasurer, 1830-1835 and 1838-1845, and Vice-President, 1830-1835, 1836-1837 and 1838-1846), and was a member of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge from 1829. He aided the establishment of the British Almanac in 1827, and published a descriptive memoir on tides in the 'Companion' volume in 1830. His research on tidal observations formed the subject of his Bakerian Lecture in 1836 and a paper to the Royal Society of 1837. In 1834 the Royal Society awarded him a Royal Medal for his work on tides. His researches into physical astronomy were directed towards simplifying methods, and introducing uniformity into the calculation of lunar and planetary perturbations. Mathematically, he was foremost among English mathematicians in adopting Laplace's doctrine of probability and with Drinkwater was the author of a joint elementary treatise on probability published in 1830 (reprinted in 1844) by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. He was the first Vice-Chancellor of London University (1837-1842), one of the treasurers of the Great Exhibition of 1851, a visitor to the Royal Observatory, and a member of various scientific commissions, especially those on standards and weights and measures. He saw the bank through the commercial panics of 1847 and 1857, and in 1860 amalgamated it with another bank, to become Roberts, Lubbock & Co. From 1840 he led a retired life at his home at High Elms in Farnborough, Kent, where he died on 20 June 1865. On 20 June 1833 he had married Harriet, daughter of Lieutenant General Hotham of York, and had 11 children, of whom the eldest, Sir John Lubbock, was created Baron Avebury in 1900.


Scope and content/abstract:

The correspondence of Sir John William Lubbock, providing information on a wide range of Lubbock's contemporaries, not exclusively in the field of science. The largest collections of scientific letters are from George Biddell Airy (113 letters), John George Children (128 letters), Joshua Alwyn Compton, 2nd Marquis of Northampton (98 letters), G P D de Pontecoulant (67 letters) and William Whewell (87 letters). There are smaller but no less important groups of letters from Charles Babbage, Francis Baily, Francis Beaufort, Charles Darwin, John Couch Adams, J F W Herschel, Baden Powell and W H F Talbot.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

42 bound volumes of letters to Lubbock in single alphabetical sequence.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

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

Finding aids:

A list of contents to the volumes is available. Letters in bound sequence noted in Archives card catalogue under author's name. Detailed catalogue available at

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited with the Royal Society by Eric Lubbock M.P. in 1963.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Manuscript Collections, British Library, holds correspondence with Charles Babbage, 1830-1861; Trinity College Dublin holds correspondence with Sir William Hamilton, 1832-1853; Royal Astronomical Society Library holds 23 letters to the Royal Astronomical Society, 1830-1863; University College London Special Collections holds letters to the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 1829-1843; Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford holds his letters to Mary and William Somerville, 1831-1835; Trinity College Library, University of Cambridge, holds correspondence with William Whewell, 1823-1860.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Description produced by the Royal Society and revised 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:
Created 27/02/2002, modified 4/04/2002, revised Sep 2002

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Personal Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"