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

Blagden, Sir Charles (1748-1820)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 MSS.1234-1252
Held at: Wellcome Library
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: Blagden, Sir Charles (1748-1820)
Date(s): 1767-1780
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 19 volumes
Name of creator(s): Blagden | Sir | Charles | 1748-1820 | Knight | physician
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Blagden was born at Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire. He studied medicine at Edinburgh and received his MD in 1768. He was elected FRS in 1772 and served as a medical officer in the British Army from about 1776 to 1780. He was Henry Cavendish's assistant from 1782 to 1789, from whom he received an annuity and a considerable legacy. Blagden succeeded Paul Henry Maty as Secretary of the Royal Society in 1784 (while the Society was divided over the efficacy of its President, Sir Joseph Banks, a close friend of Blagden's), serving until 1797. Both in this capacity and as Cavendish's assistant he became involved in the prolonged 'water controversy' - who had priority in discovering the composition of water, claimed by both Cavendish and James Watt in England and A L Lavoisier in France. Blagden admitted responsibility for conveying, quite well-meaningly, word of the experiments and conclusions of both Cavendish and Watt to Lavoisier; and he overlooked errors of date in the printing of Cavendish's and Watt's papers. His experiments on the effects of dissolved substances on the freezing point of water led to what became known as 'Blagden's Law', where he concluded that salt lowers the freezing point of water in the simple inverse ratio of the proportion the water bears to it in the solution. In fact Richard Watson had first discovered the relationship in 1771. Blagden spent much of his time in Europe, particularly in France, where he had many friends among French scientists such as C L Berthollet. He died in Arcueil in 1820. He was knighted in 1792.


Scope and content/abstract:

The collection chiefly comprises material generated whilst Sir Charles Blagden was a student at Edinburgh University: notes of lectures, clinical notes of cases observed at Edinburgh Infirmary, commonplace books, dissertation drafts, lists of materia medica, etc. Also included are two papers addressed to the Royal Society, 1767-1780.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, Latin and French

System of arrangement:

Arranged in sections as follows: Notebook, 1767; Case notes, 1767-1769; De causa apoplexiae: dissertaion drafts, 1768; Commonplace book, 1769-1773; Lectures: "methodus medendi", c 1770; Notes of lectures on physiology, pathology, obstetrics, etc, c 1770; "Quibus hepar circumcirca dolet...": short article, c 1770; Materia medica, c 1770; Miscellany, c 1770; Case addressed to Royal Society, c 1780; Memoir on animal acids, addressed to the Royal Society, c 1780.

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Described in: S.A.J. Moorat, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1962-1973).

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The Blagden Collection has been deposited in the Wellcome Library on permanent loan from R. G. Sherwood Hale of Mount House, Alderley, Glos., a descendant by marriage of John Blagden, High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, who married Ann Hale in 1779, and assumed the name of Hale on succeeding to the Alderley estates in 1784. It was presented June 1954.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Entry copied from Wellcome online catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

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:
Sep 2008

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"

Related Corporate Name Search

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

Related Placename Search

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