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Physics and Astronomy

Institutional records and personal papers for astronomers like David Gregory and for physicists including Edward Appleton and Charles Barkla.


Eric Gray Forbes (1933-1984) was awarded a Personal Chair in History of Science at Edinburgh University in 1978. His principal research interest was the history of astronomy in the 18th and 19th centuries, in particular the development of lunar theory and navigational methods. The collection includes research notes and papers, lectures and lecture notes, and a wide variety of materials connected to his professional life.  

David Gregory (1659-1708) was Professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh University from 1683 to 1692. He is best known for his influential textbook 'Astronomiae Physicae et Geometricae Elementa', the first work to apply the language of Newtonian gravitation to astronomy. The collection includes manuscripts of lectures, of mathematical and astronomical treatises, and of mathematical and personal papers. It also includes works by David Gregory’s brother James Gregory (1666-1742), who succeeded him in the Edinburgh Chair of Mathematics in 1692. See also Lectures by David Gregory for student transcriptions of his lectures.


Physicist Sir Edward Victor Appleton (1892-1965) was Principal of Edinburgh University from 1949 to 1965. Appleton is known for proving the existence of the ionosphere, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize (1947), and for conducting research in radiophysics that led to the development of radar. The collection includes substantial scientific correspondence and extensive folders of notes, research ideas, manuscript calculations and data from all periods of Appleton's career.

Charles Glover Barkla (1877-1944) was Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University from 1913 to 1944. He is known for his work on the nature of X-radiation and its interaction with matter, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1917. The papers include lectures and notes for the years 1903 (when Barkla was a Fellow of University College, Liverpool) and 1917.

John Robison (1739-1805) was Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University from 1774 to 1805. Robison invented the siren and worked with James Watt on an early model of a steam car. The lecture notes cover the sciences of mechanics, hydrodynamics, astronomy and optics, together with electricity and magnetism. They are assumed to be Robison's own notes but this has not been verified.

Sir David Wallace (1945- ) was Tait Professor of Mathematical Physics at Edinburgh University from 1979 to 1993. He also served as Director of the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC), a supercomputing centre based at Edinburgh University. The collection include research materials, notebooks, lectures, and course material.

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