In 2015 the Whipple gratefully received a number of historical science books from the estate of Michael Clark, a former chemistry teacher and collector. Among these was a copy in modern binding of the 2nd edition of Robert Boyle’s New experiments physico-mechanical, touching the air, and its effects, (made for the most part, in a new pneumatical engine), published in 1662. What caught our attention with this book was the signature of Edward Nairne.

One of the most famous English instrument-makers of the 18th century, Edward Nairne (1726-1806) enjoyed a long career working in London. His range of products was great and included microscopes, telescopes, quadrants, sextants, globes, barometers and electrical machines. For some 20 years Nairne worked in partnership with Thomas Blunt in Cornhill, London. A number of instruments bearing the signature “Nairne, Cornhill, London”, “Nairne, London” or “Nairne & Blunt” have been identified. The Whipple Museum has an equatorial telescope marked “Nairne & Blunt LONDON”.[1] The Library holds some accompanying trade literature in Nairne’s Description and use of a new constructed equatorial telescope or portable observatory, published in 1771 and owned by Robert Whipple (STORE CR 10:20). Strangely, this also has the name Nairne written (in 2 attempts?) on the reverse of the frontispiece.

Another important part of Nairne’s business was his work with electrical machines. The Museum has a Nairne’s Patent Medico-Electrical Machine from around 1787, transferred from the Cavendish Laboratory, and again complementary printed material can be found in the Library’s collections.[2] A facsimile of the 1773 Directions for using the electrical machine (first published in 1764) shows Nairne’s first commercial success in the field of electrical machines (STORE 97:8). In 1782 Nairne received a patent for his new and improved machine, a design that would go on to be very popular. The description and use of Nairne’s patent electrical machine: with the addition of some philosophical experiments and medical observations was first published by Nairne & Blunt in 1783. We have a copy of the 8th edition, published by Nairne in 1796 (STORE CR 10:21), and a copy of the French translation by M. Caullet de Veaumorel from 1784 (STORE 95:30), attesting to its popularity beyond England.

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Nairne and Boyle…

Boyle engraving

Is the Nairne signature genuine? A smudged signature of ‘Ro.Boyle 166[?]’ written on the title page in a different hand and ink seems very dubious. However, Boyle’s New experiments physico-mechanical… would certainly have been a fitting work for Nairne to have. In this book, Robert Boyle described in great detail his experiments made on the effects of reducing the pressure in the air on diverse physical phenomena. Working with an air-pump designed and constructed by Robert Hooke these experiments, first published in 1660, were extremely influential. The engraving featured in the book clarified the written description.

Air pump in Museum

Copyright: The Whipple Museum (Wh.3145)



By the 18th century, the air-pump was one of the most important instruments for scientific study and a number of instrument-makers of the day sold them. Nairne improved an air-pump designed by John Smeaton and both were illustrated in the plates of Abraham Rees’ The cyclopaedia: or, Universal dictionary of arts, sciences and literature under the ‘Pneumatics’ section (STORE 213:64). The Whipple Museum also has a great example in an air-pump marked “Nairne & Blunt LONDON”. In the history of scientific instruments, the Whipple collections show some of the work of an instrument-maker such as Nairne in the 18th century and the great influence of Robert Boyle. The recent acquisition of Boyle’s New experiments nicely connects the two.

Air pumps in Rees

[1] No. 3 in J.A. Bennett, The Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Catalogue 3: Astronomy & Navigation (The Whipple Museum of the History of Science, 1983).

[2] No. 412 in Kenneth Lyall, The Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Catalogue 8: Electrical and Magnetic Instruments (The Whipple Museum of the History of Science, 1991).

G. Clifton, Directory of British scientific instrument makers, 1550–1851, ed. G. L’E. Turner (Zwemmer in association with the National Maritime Museum, 1995).
Simon Schaffer, ‘Nairne, Edward (1726–1806)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 20 July 2016]
D.J. Warner, ‘Edward Nairne: Scientist and Instrument-Maker’ Rittenhouse 12.3 (1998), 65-93.
J.B. West, ‘Robert Boyle’s landmark book of 1660 with the first experiments
on rarified air’ Journal of Applied Physiology 98 (2005), 31–39.


Posted by: whipplelib | July 13, 2016

M is for Maxwell


Does this building look familiar? To those with connections to the department it should do!!  The first Cavendish Professor of Experimental Physics was James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879). The laboratory where he was based, and which he designed, was built between 1872-1874 and is just a few meters away from the Whipple Library. Cavendish lab plaque

The man: Maxwell worked on many aspects of physics and science including colour perception, the rings of Saturn, theory of fluids and solids, statistical mechanics, molecular theory of gases, theoretical physics, and electromagnetism. He was interested in science from a young age, attending his first scientific lecture at the age of 12. His first published work appeared in the April issue of the Royal Society of Edinburgh when he was 14.

Through looking at a number of biographies of Maxwell we can learn about the person, he wrote verse for much of his life and was very good with a Diablo spinning top when he was a child. This has been seen as leading him to create his dynamical top used to demonstrate properties of bodies in rotation. (more on this below).

The books: We are lucky to have a collection of books from Maxwell’s own library which were transferred to us from the Cavendish Laboratory. In Theory of Heat Maxwell set about explaining the second principle of thermodynamics. We have a 5th edition from 1877 which was given as a prize to Charles Chree (1860– 1928) while he was at the University of Aberdeen. Maxwell had taught at Aberdeen between 1856-60 and Chree followed in his footsteps by carrying out research at the Cavendish Lab while he was a research fellow  in the 1890’s. This book is from the Whipple Collection and Chree worked alongside Whipple at Kew Observatory.

Maxwell Thoery of Heat book prize info

Chree’s book prize

A few books in our collection have been handed down through members of the Clerk Maxwell family. Hutton’s A complete treatise on practical arithmetic and book-keeping, both by single and double entry : adapted for the use of schools (London, 1798) contains the autograph of George Clerk Maxwell and John Clerk Maxwell. And even some doodles (this of course is not encouraged these days)

Another book with an interesting provenance is Maxwell’s On a dynamical top, for exhibiting the phenomena of the motion of a system of invariable form about a fixed point : with some suggestions as to the earth’s motion (Edinburgh, 1857). Maxwell gave this offprint from the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh to his old mathematics tutor, William Hopkins (1793-1866). It was then either sold or given to James Porter (1827-1900), Master of Peterhouse. The note of the fly leaf, which can be seen below) about the books provenance is signed by J.D. Hamilton-Dickson (1849-1931) who, according to an obituary, was interested in the planned events for the centenary of Clerk Maxwell’s birth. He may have had connections to Maxwell’s family. Hamilton-Dickson’s brother-in-law was Sir James Dewar, and Maxwell’s wife was Katherine Mary Dewar (1824–1886).

The dynamical top itself, which was with this book, is housed in the Whipple Museum and  was purchased by R.S. Whipple from a “H. Dickson” on 25th August 1930 for £10.


Posted by: whipplelib | July 6, 2016

L is for Lyell

V0026752 Sir Charles Lyell. Photograph by Mayall.

Sir Charles Lyell. Photograph by Mayall. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

This week’s entry looks at Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology. While it is easy to think of a published work as the final result of an author’s research into a particular subject or the definitive word on a theory, Lyell’s project shows constant developments in scientific thought and some of the debates that occupied geological studies in the first half of the 19th century. The Whipple is fortunate in having several copies of the Principles and these can be used to illustrate the complex publishing history of this important work.

In the 1820s Lyell set out to establish the basic ‘principles’ of the science of geology. This term carried connotations of Newton’s Principia and it was not intended as a simple introductory work but a full-blown treatise on the causes of geological phenomena.[1] After several years of travelling on the continent researching and gathering data, the first volume of Principles of Geology, being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface, by reference to causes now in operation was published in January 1830 (STORE 116:3). As the title page makes clear, this was to be a two volume work. Printed on an iron hand press, the expensive octavo was published by John Murray, a leading British scientific publishing house of the day. The frontispiece of Volume I was engraved from Lyell’s own sketch, reduced from a drawing by archaeologist Andrea de Jorio. The first run was an impressive 1500 copies and sold well.[2]

Volume 1 title and frontispiece

Volume 1 edition 2 title page

Vol. I, 2nd edition. STORE 81:21

However, by the time the second volume appeared in January 1832 Lyell had found that two volumes would not be enough to fulfil his ambitions and in the Preface he explained the need for a third to complete the work. Meanwhile, sales of Volume I had gone so well that another edition, largely a reprint but with minor corrections and additions and a more open type to enhance the intelligibility for the reader, was called for. This was issued in the same month as Volume II.[3]

By January 1833, the second edition of Volume II was ready. This was soon followed by the first edition of Volume III, with enough copies to supplement all previous print runs of the first two volumes, a factor that can easily cause confusion.[4] In the Preface to Volume III Lyell explained the journey of his publication, from delivering the first MS. to the publishers in 1827, through his various fieldwork excursions and correspondence, to this volume. The work was remarkable in scope and also in the copious illustrations. Volumes II and III had hand-coloured frontispieces made from Lyell’s own sketches; woodcuts and diagrams also came from his drawings; coloured maps were often compiled from the works of others, sometimes from several sources. Plates of engravings made from drawings of geologist and conchologist Gérard Paul Deshayes in Volume III indicate his collaboration with others working in the field.[5]

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Reactions to Lyell’s project, whether favourable or critical, had arisen as soon as the first edition of the first volume was published, and he continually exploited the burgeoning work in the field of geology as it appeared in books and the increasing numbers of scientific journals, and as issues arose in private communication. The changing editions of the Principles were the result of the expansion of knowledge and ideas in geological science, and represent Lyell’s own perspective on these changing debates. The Whipple also holds a copy of the tenth edition, published in 1867 in two volumes (STORE 163:24-25). By this time the work had transformed to include Lyell’s response to the theory of evolution and the subtitle had changed to become Principles of Geology or the modern changes of the earth and its inhabitants considered as illustrative of geology. [6]

10th edition

[1] M.J.S. Rudwick, ‘Lyell and the Principles of Geology’, in Lyell and Darwin, geologists: studies in the earth sciences in the age of reform (Aldershot: Ashgate Variorum, 2005), p.2.

[2] Stuart A. Baldwin, ‘Charles Lyell and the extraordinary publishing history of his works’ Geology Today 113 (May-June 1998), p.114; Jim Secord’s introduction to Charles Lyell: Principles of Geology (London: Penguin, 1997) p.xxvii; Rudwick p.11; List of plates and wood-cuts in Volume I.

[3] Baldwin, p.114.

[4] Baldwin, p.114.

[5] See lists of plates and wood-cuts in corresponding volumes.

[6] See Rudwick, esp. pp.1-2, 19-20.


Posted by: whipplelib | June 29, 2016

K is for Kant


L0005737 Immanuel Kant. Stipple engraving by F. W. Bollinger.

Immanuel Kant. Stipple engraving by F. W. Bollinger. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

The philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was the academic speciality of Gerd Buchdahl, who was a major figure in the development of the discipline of history and philosophy of science in Cambridge between his arrival from Australia in 1957 and his retirement in 1981. He served successively as Secretary of the Committee on History and Philosophy of Science, which administered teaching and examination in the subject before it achieved official departmental status in 1972, and then as Head of Department until 1974, enlarging the academic establishment and overseeing the expansion of the library.[1]









Besides a comprehensive collection of the published works of Buchdahl, the Whipple Library today holds a significant body of unpublished material that was donated after his death in 2001. This includes preparatory notes and texts of talks and lectures delivered throughout his career, reviews of publications and a number of heavily annotated working copies of  modern editions of books by Kant, Husserl and others through which Buchdahl’s developing ideas can be traced.

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Prof. Nick Jardine and others have assessed Buchdahl’s contribution to Kant scholarship, and in particular his consideration of how Kant related his critical philosophy to the contents and methods of natural science.[2]  A list of the annotated material in the Whipple’s Buchdahl collection has also been published,[3] but there remains much to explore, and we hope that this feature will help fulfil the function of this A-Z series in generating more interest from the suitably curious.

Anna Jones

[1] N. Jardine, ‘Gerd Buchdahl (1914-2001): Founding Editor’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 32,3 (2001), 401-405.

[2] N. Jardine, ‘Hermeneutic strategies in Gerd Buchdahl’s Kantian philosophy of science’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 34 (2003), 183-208.

[3] J. Whitelock, J.M. Rampelt & N. Jardine, ‘Gerd Buchdahl’s writings in history and philosophy of science: a listing of publications, unpublished works, and annotated books’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 34 (2003), 209-227.

Posted by: whipplelib | June 22, 2016

J is for ….. Journals

Journals serve many important purposes. They provide up-to-date news, a platform for people to discuss their research, book reviews, information about lectures and conferences (as well as a place to publish the conference papers), promote a subject and encourage discussion.  With the development of electronic journals articles can be accessed within a matter of seconds rather than having to wait for the issue to drop through the letter box or appear on the shelves.

current journal display selection

Our current journals section

We have a large range of journals at the Whipple covering everything from philosophy of science, history of medicine, history of science and more specialised subjects covered by journals such as the American Phrenological Journal, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Company and Antiquarian Horology. The paper journals we hold are mainly from 19th century onwards and some journals are only in electronic form. It might even come to a point when the current journal section is no more!!!

To celebrate the range of journals we have I’ve had a quick look at Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip which was first published in 1865. It had two editors during its run, the wonderfully named Mordecai Cubitt Cooke (1825-1914) and John Ellor Taylor (1837-1895). A letter published in Science Gossip was responsible for the establishment of the Quekett Microscopical Club (which happens to be our subject for the letter Q).

title page vol 20

Title page of Volume 20

By looking at three random volumes we can see the journey the journal has taken through the years. The first volume had basic illustrations and initial capitals with basic floral designs. In volume 20 we can see the use of colour plates and more decorative initial capitals. The print is also different, demonstrating the developments in printing technology. Many of the volumes are available online via or for those who like the original paper, available from our Special Collections Store.

Dawn Moutrey, Library Assistant

Posted by: whipplelib | June 14, 2016

I is for Instruments

As physical manifestations of the history of science, instruments are closely tied to the heart of the Library, Department and Museum. Integral to practical science, but also reflective of contemporary theory, R. T. Gunther declared these objects of ‘definite national value as milestones in the history of English Science’ but significant also for their ‘germs of suggestions for useful development’. Gunther founded the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford in 1924 as somewhat of a pioneer – many of his contemporaries disregarded the significance of scientific instruments. His book, Early Science in Cambridge, was published in 1937 and charters the history of  subjects such as mathematics, astronomy, meteorology, medicine, zoology and botany, and is peppered with references to specific scientific objects from Cambridge, indicating their value as ‘milestones’. Our well-thumbed copy belonged to the Curators of the Whipple Museum, and throughout the text are notes in the margins about objects now in the museum.


R.T. Gunther, Early Science in Cambridge, (1937). CR 8:10

Particularly relevant instruments to the Library and Museum are those made by the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company. Founded in 1881 by Horace Darwin, Charles Darwin’s son, and Albert George Dew-Smith, the company went on to considerable success, particularly during the war years. Robert Whipple later became Managing Director and Chairman of the company, and as the museum received the company’s instruments after their folding in 1968, links with the department are numerous. The library’s collection can reveal significant aspects of the company’s history, be they from Michael J. G. Cattermole and Arthur F. Wolfe’s Horace Darwin’s Shop: A History of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, 1878 – 1968, or via catalogues and pamphlets accumulated over time. One of many pamphlets Robert Whipple carefully bound and indexed is 50 years of Scientific Instrument Manufacturing, published by the company. The history documents Darwin’s benevolent management of the company as well as some of their key collaborations and developments in instrumentation.


Cambridge Scientific Instruments Company,50 years of Scientific Instrument Manufacture (1945). CR 13:3 OS


Cambridge Scientific Instruments Company,50 years of Scientific Instrument Manufacture (1945). CR 13:3 OS

Whipple himself compiled a large collection of books, catalogues and pamphlets relating to the history of scientific instruments, including works by him that share his immense appreciation of instruments. Whipple’s presidential address from The Optical Society in 1921 explicates the significance of instrument-making after the Great War, delineating how makers must hold an ‘intimate knowledge’ of the use for which the instrument is being made, but not be ‘overwhelmed by the immensity of the knowledge’ necessitated by the wide range of scientific possibility as well as understanding ‘tools, materials, processes’ and workforce. He emphasises the ‘catholicity of knowledge required by a maker: how a good designer and maker must understand the context of previous, similar instrumentation; they must imagine the possible outcomes of the experiment; the practical requirements of geometric design’. This comprehensive appreciation outlines what constitutes successful scientific instruments, and is a valuable read for anyone interested in the history of instruments. The pamphlet reveals Whipple’s own impressive knowledge as well as his practical, rigorous approach to the design of instrumentation.


R.S. Whipple, ‘The Design and Construction of Scientific Instruments’, Proceedings of the Optical Society (1921) CR 13:2 OS

Rosanna Evans, Lunchtime Invigilator

Posted by: whipplelib | June 10, 2016

H is for Hesse, her Honorary Degree, and more

Honorary degree letter

Although an understanding of Mary Hesse’s prolific success in the philosophy of science and local history can be gained from many sources, the social impact of this success is revealed by our small collection of 86 documents relating to the development of her career. Hesse joined the University of Cambridge in 1960, and worked in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, where from between 1975 until her retirement in the 1980s she served as Professor of Philosophy of Science. Her work focussed predominantly on the relationship between theory and observation, and methods and foundational assumptions, and she advocated the integration of philosophy of science with its history. She is well-known for her work Models and Analogies in Science, published in 1963. During her retirement, Hesse has been devoted to researching local history. Our collection not only includes offprints and reviews of her work and information on publications about Hesse but also correspondence, articles and reviews she has kept from pivotal moments in her career, including a letter from the Vice-Chancellor inviting Hesse to accept the nomination for the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science from 2002.


Mary passed on the collection to the Library in 2012 via our current Head of Department, Professor Liba Taub, and Hesse’s handwritten notes, torn-out and folded newspaper articles as well as the letters congratulating her on the nomination reflect a well-deserved personal pride, as well as a sense that this is only the tip of the iceberg of decades of impressive work.

The collection additionally has the quirks of being assembled with perhaps a sense of irony, for included is an entry from a draft for the satirical ‘Philosophical Lexicon’ by Dunnett that includes the entry:

“hessean, n. A kind of sackcloth worn at a habermass (q.v.) by those renouncing hemple mindedness”.

Rosanna Evans
Lunchtime Invigilator


Posted by: whipplelib | June 10, 2016

G is for Galileo and the tacit ‘Dialogues’

We might readily think of several examples, historical and more recent, to illustrate the truism that some of the most famous books in the popular consciousness are those that few have read. Official suppression – successful or otherwise – is probably one of the most powerful guarantors of this kind of notoriety, and Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World – Ptolomaic and Copernican (1632) was among several texts of the so-called ‘Scientific Revolution’ to achieve such status thanks to their inclusion on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

The Dialogo was first published in Florence on 21 February 1632 by Giovanni Battista Landini. It enjoyed a modest but reasonably wide geographical distribution in the ensuing months as Galileo himself sent copies to associates (mostly men of political influence) throughout Italy and in France, but within 8 months it was banned from sale in Florentine bookshops, and by July 1633 it had been added to the Catholic Church’s Index, apparently to try to prevent its influence among university men and certain religious orders, following the author’s appearance in front of the Roman Inquisition.

Dialogue_opening_reized The source of the controversy in Galileo’s work was his alignment with Copernicus in contending that the earth was subject to motion and not fixed, but the form of the Dialogo, which presented a fictional dialogue between 3 ‘friends’, Salviati, Simplicio and Sagredo, echoed more closely the renaissance tradition of instructional literature intended for an educated gentlemanly audience than the genre of academic treatises. Despite its flaws the text was translated and reached wider audiences through later editions, including Latin in 1635 and English in 1661.

All this suggests that surviving copies of the original Italian edition must have interesting stories to tell, and we might wonder who read actually them. It’s clear from the number still extant that the confiscation ordered by the Papal decree in 1633 did not lead to systematic destruction of copies in circulation since the previous year. The Whipple Library’s copy, which RSW had purchased from bookseller J. Tregaskis & Son on 18 May 1934 for 38l 10s, is one of 7 currently reported in Cambridge libraries.[1]


What makes ours distinct, however, is that it retains the paper covers that were very likely intended as temporary protection while the book was in the shop. Such survivals are very rare, as their purpose was ephemeral, serving only until the new owner commissioned a permanent binding. This, combined with the fact that the pages are uncut, suggests that this may have been a copy confiscated from a bookshop, as it hadn’t yet been sold.

Where it went, or how it managed to remain in its pristine state before appearing on the open market in London in the 1930s we can’t know, but once again we have cause to thank Mr Whipple for resisting the temptation to aggrandize his collection with fancy modern bindings, thereby preserving an important piece of book history.

Anna Jones

[1] Cf. Robert S. Westman’s report of the sale of a copy in Denmark in 1940 for a mere £1!  Robert S. Westman, ‘The Reception of Galileo’s “Dialogue”: A partial world census of extant copies’ in P. Galluzzi (ed.), Novità Celesti e Crisi del Sapere: Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi Galileiani (Florence, Giunti Barbèra, 1984), 329-371, pp 329-330 & n. 5.


Drake, Stillman, Galileo (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1980)

Westman, Robert S., ‘The Reception of Galileo’s “Dialogue”: A partial world census of extant copies’ in P. Galluzzi (ed.), Novità Celesti e Crisi del Sapere: Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi Galileiani (Florence, Giunti Barbèra, 1984), 329-371.

This week celebrates a key resource in the Whipple: the Foster Pamphlet Collection. These 5,221 pamphlets fill some 200 volumes and cover all aspects of 19th century physiology in the form of articles, sections from books, dissertations and other original works. They are gathered under a variety of subjects, including ‘Blood’, the ‘Central Nervous System’, ‘Digestion’, ‘Nutrition’, ‘Respiration’, ‘Psychology’ and many many others. Bound in blue or grey cloth with red and gold titles, the volumes are stamped ‘Physiological Laboratory.’ Most of the items were collected by Sir Michael Foster and after his death in 1907 this practice of gathering together and binding important material was continued by his successor John Newport Langley.

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L0001869 Portrait of Sir Michael Foster

Portrait of Sir Michael Foster. Photograph. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0


Michael Foster came to Cambridge in 1870 as the first Trinity Praelector of Physiology. He went on to become the first Professor of Physiology at the University and under his direction the Cambridge School of Physiology became a leading and hugely successful centre for research. Many of Cambridge’s famous physiologists were trained under Foster’s leadership and influence.

The early days of Foster’s teaching at Cambridge took place in two rooms granted by the University for his lectures and research, equipped by Trinity. Foster called these rooms ‘the Physiological Laboratory in the University of Cambridge.’ From here, as Trinity Praelector, he edited the Studies from the Physiological Laboratory in the University of Cambridge, papers published in 3 parts in 1873, 1876 and 1877 (STORE REF FILE 18:24-26). These were in effect a forerunner to the Journal of Physiology (edited by Foster from its beginnings in 1878 to 1894). The Whipple’s copy of part one of the Studies is signed by the celebrated physiologist W.H. Gaskell, who was greatly influenced by Foster and became a member of his research team. A number of Gaskell’s works feature in the pamphlet collection.

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As the Cambridge school grew new space was needed.  In 1878 a purpose-built laboratory was constructed on the east side of Downing Street, then in 1914 the department moved to buildings provided by the Drapers’ Company. The pamphlet collection of the Physiological Laboratory went too; it remained in the Department of Physiology until it was donated to the Whipple in 1997.

The Foster Pamphlet Collection is a valuable resource for a number of reasons. It contains a wide range of often unusual or unique material and gives an insight into the collecting of works for reference and record (pre-Internet, email and online subscriptions) in the 19th century. Some items were sent to Foster or Langley directly from their authors, others were collected for interest or curiosity. All were carefully bound and preserved, gathered into themed volumes. The items span 1823-1919, with the majority dated 1860-1907. They were written in numerous languages and printed across the world. The collection is significant for both its provenance and for the breadth of coverage in the field of physiology and related disciplines contained in its volumes. The items even include two articles by Robert Whipple.

Happily the collection, once only accessible through a card catalogue, was catalogued as part of a collaborative 19th century pamphlets project funded by the Research Support Libraries Programme (RSLP). The Foster pamphlets can all be found on LibrarySearch.

J.N. Langley, ‘Sir Michael Foster. In Memoriam’ The Journal of Physiology 35.3 (March 25, 1907) pp.233-246
For more information, have a look on the Library’s website.
The Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience website also has more on Foster and the history of the Physiological Laboratory.


Posted by: whipplelib | May 17, 2016

E is for Euclid, the father of geometry

Euclid is well known as the author of The Elements of Geometry, a text that has been at the centre of mathematical teaching for 2000 years, during which time it has been repeatedly edited and translated into many languages.

Searching the Whipple Library collection for Euclid, I came across several edition of the  Elements with various corrections and supplements.  But what absorbed my attention most were the volvelles, inserts and pyramids in some of these books. As I’ve read more about Euclid’s geometry it has become more obvious that the visualisation of three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional figures on the page might be difficult for some readers, especially novices (such as me).  So one of the solutions was to past cut-out figures on additional slips of paper in order to make ‘pop-up’ figures such as pyramids and cubes.  These different cut-outs and projections which appeared on the pages in woodcuts in two dimensions, could be folded upwards to demonstrate the three-dimensional figures described in the text. Here there are some examples:

‘Euclid’s elements of geometry, from the latin translation of Commandine : to which is added a treatise of the nature of arithmetic of logarithms : likewise another of the elements of plain and spherical trigonometry : with a preface, shewing the usefulness and excellency of this work’  (London:  Printed by Tho. Woodward … and sold by J. Osborn …, 1733), by John Keil … The whole revised … Also many faults … are shewn … An ample account of which may be seen in the preface by Samuel Cunn. (STORE CR 1:51)

This book contains Book 1-6 and 11-12 of Euclid’s Elements in the Latin translation by Federico Commandino. It includes 16 folded leaves of plates of drawings and three small volvelles (paper wheel charts) which are fastened on an end-paper with some up-folded parts.

‘An appendix to the Elements of Euclid, in seven books:  Containing forty-two moveable schemes for forming the various kinds of solids, and their sections, by which the doctrine of solids in the eleventh, twelfth, and fifteenth books of Euclid is illustrated, and rendered more easy to learners than heretofore’… (London: Sold by T. Cadell, [1765?]), by John Lodge Cowley… (STORE 86:25)

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The idea of the ‘pop-up’ shapes is that once the readers have learnt how to visualize these types of three-dimensional objects with the aid of the figures, they will be able to imagine all other types of shapes themselves.

Being amused by the imaginative power of pictures and the manual use of the movable parts, I came up with the idea to make up the ‘pop-ups’ by myself. And I couldn’t pick a better time for doing this, as my 11-years-old son Jan was preparing for his SATS! So we both decided to travel back in time to the maths of Ancient Greece and revise geometry through these reproductions:


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