JOULE, James Prescott, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts



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JOULE, James Prescott (1818-1889). Physicist.
Autograph Letter Signed to [William] Thomson (later Baron Kelvin), 4 pages 8vo, 5 Cliff Point, Higher Broughton, Manchester, 27 May 1870. A little stained at the foot, not affecting legibility.
Expressing sympathy with Thomson over his wife's illness, and the consolation that she 'is supported by her Saviour who will not fail those who trust in Him, and who holds forth a reward which will make all trials here appear as not worthy to be compared to the glory to be revealed.' [Thomson's first wife, Margaret, died laster this year.]

Joule then discusses the matter of his early scientific papers, in consequence of Thomson's suggestion that they should be published as a volume [Marginal note - see below], and goes on to mention his work on machinery or instruments, evidently in support of his experiments.

'... You are very kind in finding time to think of my papers, I will send the list in a day of two, but you must not take any trouble in reference to sending them to Mr Smith or otherwise. I think I had a little more vanity at that early time than now, also some ambition. How experience does away with such notions!!
 'Do not say anything about the R[oyal]. Societys treatment of my first papers. I do not think they were yet up with such circumstances as to give them the energy necessary to break through committees with other theories in their heads, and I was totally unknown. It did me no harm as I had pluck enough to publish them elsewhere. I only fear that the Society now & then errs in the opposite direction. I shall endeavour to act up to your advice as to the republecation [
sic]. I may be thought lazy. but I do something mostly on little affairs but interesting and I think valuable. I have been a fortnight polishing & grinding pivots & axles and I will let you know how to do it the best way. The accuracy that may be attained is wonderful. ...
[Marginal note in pencil by Thomson]:
'I have advised before and urged now, a re-publication of all his papers in a volume. WT'

Joule and Thomson were personal friends (from the 1840s) as well as two of the most significant scientific collaborators of the nineteenth century. Thomson had at first been sceptical of Joule's theories, but he was later to tell the Liverpool meeting of the British Association 'that Joule's discovery of the conversion of work into heat by fluid friction, the experimental foundation of the new energy physics, had "led to the greatest reform that physical science has experienced since the days of Newton",' [Oxford DNB]
[No: 25748]


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