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Jeans, Sir James Hopwood (1877-1945)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0117 JHJ
Held at: Royal Society
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Full title: Jeans, Sir James Hopwood (1877-1945)
Date(s): 1896-1945
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 9 notebooks, 59 files and 4 boxes
Name of creator(s): Jeans | Sir | James Hopwood | 1877-1946 | Knight | physicist and mathematician


Administrative/Biographical history:

Sir James Hopwood Jeans was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire, on 11 September 1877, and moved to London in 1880. A precocious child, he had a passion for clocks, writing a booklet about them at the age of nine. He attended Merchant Taylor's School from 1890-1896, then entered Trinity College where he was second wrangler on the mathematical tripos in 1898. While recovering from a tubercular infection of the joints, he took a first class on part two of the tripos in 1900 and was awarded a Smith's Prize. In 1901 he was elected a fellow of Trinity College, obtaining his MA in 1903. In 1904 he published his first treatise Dynamical Theory of Gases which became a standard textbook. Two further textbooks followed while he was professor of applied mathematics at Princeton University from 1906-1909. From 1910-1912 he was Stokes lecturer in applied mathematics at Cambridge. His Report on Radiation and the Quantum Theory in 1914 helped spread acceptance of quantum theory. Until this time he had been interested in molecular physics; then he turned his attention to astronomy, working on the equilibrium of rotating masses, culminating in his Adams Prize Essay Problems of Cosmogony and Stellar Dynamics. He continued to work on astrophysical problems, producing Astronomy and Cosmogony in 1928. From 1928, he occupied himself with the popularization of science, beginning with a series of lectures which served as a source for The Universe Around Us in 1929, followed by other publications in his fluent and stimulating style, though his final books Physics and Philosophy in 1943 and The Growth of Physical Science in 1947 were more historical and restrained. In 1907 he married Charlotte Tiffany Mitchell, an American from a wealthy family, by whom he had one daughter. Charlotte died in 1934, and he subsequently married Suzanne Hock, a concert organist. They had three children. Jeans died on 16 September 1946 of coronary thrombosis. He was awarded the Order of Merit, and was Secretary of the Royal Society, 1919-1929, and Vice President, 1938-1940.


Scope and content/abstract:

Some correspondence, papers, notebooks and publications of Sir James Hopwood Jeans. Early manuscripts in the series relate to Jean's education at Trinity College, Cambridge, in the form of early lecture notebooks, largely on mathematical topics. A collection of letters, 1901-1907, documents his treatment for tuberculosis at Ringwood Sanatorium, where he completed work on the theory of gases; correspondents included G H Hardy and Adam Sedgewick among others. Jean's engagements in popularizing science are represented by proofs and typescript of lectures and essays, especially those written for the BBC, 1934-1935, together with associated letters and press cuttings. The series contains collections of offprints, reprints, and extracts of published works by Jeans and others, notably from the Philosophical Transactions and the Philosophical Magazine.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

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

Finding aids:

A rough descriptive handlist is available, giving categories of records.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited by Lady Jeans with the Royal Society in 1975.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Nuffield College Library, Oxford University, correspondence with Lord Cherwell, 1916-1931; California Institute of Technology Archives, correspondence with George Hale, 1917-1932; Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center Library, University of Texas at Austin, 23 letters to Sir Owen Richardson; Manuscript Collections, British Library, correspondence of Jeans and his wife with Marie Stopes, 1934-1957.

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 25/03/2002, modified 15/05/2002, Sep 2002

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