1907–8 1

4 Jan 19071 [sic; read 1908]2 William Huggins to Joseph Larmor3
I am grieved to hear that the P.4 is disappointed. I fear this feeling is chiefly due to Lady R.5 I remember your telling me some years ago that his son,6 prompted probably by his mother, complained that the R.S. had not sufficiently appreciated him. What could the R.S. have done more? Secretary for 11 years,7 recipient of two medals,8 one the highest, and offered the Presidency? Then, outside the R.S., he was made by the King an original member of the O.M.,9 scientific advisor to the Trinity H[ouse]., on Royal Commissions. The only remaining honour would be an elevation in the peerage to an Earldom or a dukedom. [Inserted line: The King should give him the Order of the Garter.] Then for the first time, he was made Prof. at the R.I.10 without any obligation to work in their laboratory; -- his assistant at home paid for, and only a minimum of lectures demanded. The Year Book shows appreciation abroad, and for the Nobel prize.11 No doubt he has not the public recognition which Kelvin12 got; but apart from the more theoretical value of his work he has never sought notoriety for its own sake, as Kelvin did. I think P. has to contend with what, if one were speaking of oneself, one would not hesitate to call natural laziness. I hope he will return refreshed, and then allow himself to be persuaded to remain the full time.13 Kelvin was curiously unacquainted with even scientific things a little out of his own line. A few years ago when I showed him the rotation of the sun by shift of lines on limb, he suddenly interrupted me by asking “What is a collimator?”, and a little afterwards “What are wave-numbers?”. Last September he told me that “he agreed with Rutherford14 that Ra is a compound of lead & helium”! and believed there were helium lines in its spectrum. I tried to explain to him that the spectrum of the transformed emanation, was a different thing from the spark-spectrum of Ra itself. He was absolutely prejudiced as to evolution. I remember the cruel way he treated a distinguished botanist at University College only a few years ago.15 Ramsay16 did go over to Vienna, and got the 0.6 gm Ra bromide as a loan,17 which I told you they would have lent the R.S. = £6,000 at £10 a mg. Is the recent object lesson of the Master of St. Johns18 having an effect upon the Fellows?
1. 2. 3. Lm.950, Larmor papers, Royal Society Library. 1907: Huggins committed an error common at the beginning of a new year by erroneously writing the previous year’s date. As a consequence, the letter was catalogued with Larmor’s letters from 1907. The error went unnoticed until discovered by the author in November 2011. Joseph Larmor: Irish-born mathematician and physicist Joseph Larmor (1857-1942) was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. He served as the Royal Society’s Physical Secretary


Selected Correspondence of William Huggins
(1901-1912) during William Huggins’s term as President of the Society (1900-1905). The two men maintained an active correspondence until Huggins’s death in 1910. P.: President of the Royal Society. Huggins is referring to John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh (1842-1919), who succeeded him as President of the Royal Society. Lady R.: Lady Rayleigh, Scottish-born Evelyn Georgiana Mary Balfour (1844-1934), sister of Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), Britain’s Prime Minister (1902-1905). son: Lord Rayleigh’s son, physicist Robert John Strutt (1875-1947), was known at the time for his research on radioactivity. Secretary for 11 years: Lord Rayleigh served as Physical Secretary of the Royal Society from 1885 to 1896. two medals: Lord Rayleigh was awarded the Royal Medal (1882) for his work in mathematical and experimental physics and the Copley Medal (1889) for his work in the physical sciences. In 1914 he was also awarded the Rumford Medal for his investigations in thermodynamics and radiation. O. M.: The Order of Merit is an honour founded by King Edward VII in 1902 to acknowledge exceptional service in the military, art, literature or science. Lord Rayleigh and William Huggins were among the first twelve individuals to be inducted into this prestigious order. R. I.: The Royal Institution of Great Britain was founded in 1799 to aid in the diffusion of scientific knowledge and promote public involvement in science through lectures and support for original research by experimental scientists. Nobel Prize: In 1904, Lord Rayleigh was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for isolating the inert gas, argon. Kelvin: William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin of Largs (1824-1907) was one of the most notable physicists and mathematicians of his day. remain the full time: Lord Rayleigh resigned the Presidency in 1908. The Society elected noted geologist Archibald Geikie (1835-1924) to serve as President in November 1908, an office he held until 1913. Rutherford: New Zealand-born physicist, Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) known at the time for his work on radioactivity. distinguished botanist ... a few years ago: On 1 May 1903, the Revd Professor George Henslow (1835-1925) gave the first in a series of lectures at University College on “Christian Apologetics”. His lecture was titled “Present-day Rationalism: An examination of Darwinism”. Kelvin spoke at the end and called into question the notion that inanimate material could, by chance, fall together in such a way as to produce sentient living matter. This prompted a flurry of letters to the editor of The Times of London on the subject of science and religion in which writers disputed the authority of physicists to speak on biological matters. Among Kelvin’s more outspoken critics was William Turner Thiselton-Dyer (1843-1928), former professor of botany at University College and from 1885-1905, the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Ramsay: Scottish-born chemist, William Ramsay (1852-1916) was involved in the discovery of the inert gases. He won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1904. Ra bromide as a loan: In November 1907, William Ramsay received some radium from the Vienna Academy of Sciences. Ramsay had been told the quantity would consist of 0.5 g of pure radium bromide, but when it arrived, he found it only weighed 0.388 g. See William Ramsay, “Apparent Decay of Radium”, Nature, 79 (1908), p. 129. Master of St John’s: At this time, the Master of St John’s College, Cambridge was mathematician and noted Hebraist Charles Taylor (1840-1908). He had served in that office since 1881. On 19 October 1907, Taylor married Margaret Sophia Dillon (1877-1962). The union caused quite a sensation.

4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

16. 17.



1907–8 3

5 Jan 19081 William Huggins to Joseph Larmor
We shall be delighted to see you on Thursday, 11th, when, of course, you will so us the pleasure to take lunch, which shall be at one sharp, so that you may leave not later than 1.30 to be at the Committee at 2.30. At the same time I feel that you may have some difficulty to get here as soon as 11.30, and when the fates are very favourable you may not find an hour quite long enough to get to Burlington House. Again another consideration comes in -- It is most important,if the instruments are to be removed from here, that they go direct to their new home. Apart from the room required, there are very serious reasons against putting them in store. It was these considerations which induced me to avail myself of the opportunity of speaking to Newall2 on Wednesday, in strict confidence, and in quite a preliminary way, to know if he would be inclined to consider favourably taking over the instruments,3 if the R.S. would be willing, of which I could say nothing, to entrust him with them. He was quite inclined to take the matter into consideration, and suggested coming here on Friday or Saturday of next week to see them before coming to a conclusion. Now when we have a talk over the matter, we should be in a better position to discuss the practical sides of their removal, if we know whether Newall would receive them; if he will not, I fear the satisfactory disposal of them may be difficult. Under all the circumstances, it seems to me doubtful if I ought to let you put yourself to the imminent rush of getting here and getting back again on time for the Committee, next Thursday. Would it not be better to postpone your visit until I know Newall’s decision? It is not a matter in which a week or two is of great consequence. I am concerned that you should allow your mind to be worried about your little momentary forgetfulness of last week. Let it be with you, as it has been with me from the first, a thing that has already passed into the oblivion of the past. I am very glad to have the proofs of your obituary of K.4 I have not yet had time to read it, but I shall do so almost at once. I do not expect to find occasion for anything but praise. Halm5 at the Cape has had a great triumph in the accuracy of his observations of motions in the line of sight. From 9 stars he has got out the colour parallax = 8.799”, prob. error + 0.0054
1. 2. 3. Lm.974, Larmor papers, Royal Society Library Newall: English astronomer Hugh Frank Newall (1857-1944), who, in 1909, would become the first chair of Cambridge University’s new department of astrophysics. taking over the instruments: A reference to the instruments commissioned by the Royal Society in 1869 and which had been on loan to Huggins since they were installed in his private observatory in 1870.


Selected Correspondence of William Huggins
obituary of K.: William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin of Largs who died on 17 December 1907. See, [Joseph Larmor], William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs. 1824-1907”, Proceedings of the Royal Society, 81A (1908), pp. iii-lxxvi. Halm: German-born astronomer Jacob Karl Ernst Halm (1844-1944) who was appointed Chief Assistant at Cape Observatory in 1907, a post at which he remained until his retirement in 1926. The research Huggins refers to here involves Halm’s involvement in efforts made at the Cape to measure solar parallax directly by spectroscopic means. Measures of the radial velocity of selected stars were taken at different times of the year. The measures for each star were then compared in order to determine the Earth’s orbital velocity. Finally, Earth’s distance from the Sun was ascertained from the values for Earth’s orbital velocity. See S[ydney] S[amuel] Hough [1870-1923], “A Spectrographic determination of the constant of aberration and the solar parallax”, Annals of the Cape Observatory, 10, Part III (1909), pp. 1C-91C.


========== 16 Jan 19081 George Ellery Hale (1868–1938) to William Huggins
Your very kind letters of November 18th and December 11 were most welcome and deserved an earlier reply. However, as our work has been constantly developing, I have several times put off writing to you with the hope of being able to include later various new results, at the time more or less uncertain. I now enclose an abstract of a paper I read recently in Chicago, at the meeting of the American Association.2 Some of these results, perhaps, require confirmation, but I think they will all turn out as stated. The investigation is a long one and we have not yet been able to attack it on its laboratory side. However, our new laboratory in Pasadena is now under roof, the pit for the 30-foot spectrograph (similar to the one used with the new “tower” telescope on Mount Wilson) is completed, and the piers for the electric furnace and other apparatus are being built. Within a few weeks, therefore, we may hope to see this work under way. Dr. King,3 formerly of the University of California, has recently joined our staff and will have charge of the laboratory investigations. We have not yet succeeded in obtaining photographs of the cyanogen fluting showing the remarkably interesting phenomon described by Newall,4 but this may be due to unsuitable exposure time or some other cause. We happened to obtain plates on one of the dates of Newall’s photographs, and I have sent him a slightly enlarged copy for comparison with his own results. It may turn out that our exposure time was not suitable to bring out the effect he describes. I have asked him to send me a photograph, and am looking with great interest to an examination of it. Please do not say that I have mentioned the subject to you, as I do not wish him to think that we are adopting a critical attitude. As a matter of fact, I am most anxious to confirm his results and shall make every effort to do so.

1907–8 5

The “Lord Mayor’s lines”5 is a famous title for the cyanogen fluting, which is likely to be adopted here. Has it occurred to you, by-the-way, that the presence of this fluting, as well as the green carbon fluting, in the chromosphere, is almost certain proof that in this case, at least, we are concerned with direct radiation, rather than with the effect of anomalous dispersion? So far as I am aware, no one has ever obtained anomalous dispersion phenomena in the laboratory with flutings. With reference to the question of anomalous dispersion, I agree with you in thinking that Hartmann’s6 statement of the case is a very good one, and much more likely to prove correct than the extreme views advanced by Julius.7 In the cases of the flocculi, it hardly seems possible that anomalous dispersion is not producing some effect, and I am much inclined to expect that Julius will receive some support for his ideas on this subject, as soon as we succeed in making a suitable test. Hitherto the tower telescope has been devoted entirely to work on spot spectra and the spectra of the center and limb. I enclose a direct print from a negative I made in the fourth order spectrum of the old 4-inch Kenwood grating. Unfortunately, some large gratings loaned to us have not proved to be bright in the higher orders and the Kenwood grating is the best one for our purpose, even though it uses so small a part of the 6-inch aperture. You will see that the scale is large enough to permit great precision of measurement, while the definition is fair. Adams8 is continuing with the tower telescope his spectrographic study of the solar rotation, and has recently found the the Ha line gives a much higher velocity than the other lines he has previously employed. This is in accord with the measures we have made of the motions of the hydrogen flocculi, though these measures are so few, and the proper motions so great, that I have not yet published any of the results. In view of Adams's work with the Ha line, I have interrupted the work on the calcium plates long enough to permit a number of the hydrogen plates to be measured, so that we may bring out the two results together. Please do not mention this work at present, as we wish to confirm it before publication. Your views as to our exceptional opportunities for astrophysical research on Mount Wilson coincide closely with mine, and have proved of great satisfaction to me, especially in view of my recent decision in regard to the Boston offer.9 The more I think of the matter the more fully I am convinced that no other work I could undertake could equal this in interest. At present our own trouble is an embarrassment of riches, so far as opportunities go. I can see more and more chances for the development of the solar work, but the immense amount of work involved in the measurement of the plates prevents us from doing as much as we should like to undertake. The rainy season, which is now beginning after a long period of very fine weather, will interfere with observations for some time to come. However, we have a fine supply of photographs of spot spectra which I made with the tower telescope just before Christmas, and these will give us occupation for


Selected Correspondence of William Huggins

a long time. We also have a fairly good collection of limb and center plates, and Adams is now photographing spectra for further studies of the solar rotation. I was glad to get Lady Huggins’s note in your letter, and also your most welcome remembrance at the opening of the year.
1. 2. Hale papers, California Institute of Technology Library. American Association: The meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences was held from 30 Dec 1907 to 4 Jan 1908. Hale is listed as having given two papers: one titled “The vertical coelostat or ‘tower’ telescope of the Mt. Wilson solar observatory”, the other (likely the paper Hale sent to Huggins) was written with Walter Sydney Adams (1876-1956) and was titled “Preliminary results of a comparative study of the spectra of the limb and the center of the sun.” Dr. King: American spectroscopist Arthur Scott King (1876-1957) was offered a position at Mt Wilson Observatory in 1907. Newall: English astronomer Hugh Frank Newall (1857-1944). “Lord Mayor’s lines”: See William Huggins to George Ellery Hale, 8 Nov 1907 for Huggins’s explanation for his name for these spectral lines. Hartmann’s: German physicist and astronomer Johannes Franz Hartmann (1865-1936). See J. Hartmann, “Über die Erklärung astrophysikalischer Beobachtungen durch anomale Dispersion”, Astronomische Nachrichten, 175 (1907), pp. 341-68. Julius: Willem Henri Julius (1860-1925). See W. H. Julius, “Spectroheliographic Results Explained by Anomalous Dispersion, Astrophysical Journal, 21 (1905), pp. 278-85. Adams: Walter Sydney Adams (1876-1956). Adams joined the staff of the Yerkes Observatory in 1901 and moved with Hale to the Mt Wilson Observatory in 1904 where he remained even after his retirement in 1946. Boston offer: Hale was invited to serve as President of the Massachusetts of Technology. See George Ellery Hale to William Huggins 29 Mar 1907.

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