Catalogue description Sir Edward Sabine: Correspondence and papers

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Details of BJ 3
Reference: BJ 3
Title: Sir Edward Sabine: Correspondence and papers

Personal letters and papers of Sir Edward Sabine, and official correspondence, papers and letter books of his Magnetic Department.

The correspondence is mainly from the period preceding James Clark Ross' Antarctic expedition and the period immediately after. The papers relate mainly to the establishment of magnetic observatories overseas and to various scientific observations, reflecting the liaison between the Magnetic Department and the overseas observatories. Included is a particularly rich collection of letters to Sabine from Dr Humphrey Lloyd of Trinity College, Dublin.

Date: 1818-1877

The letters are divided into personal correspondence and that which came into and emanated from the Magnetic Department.

Related material:

Aspects of the later stages of Sabine's career are reflected in his dealings with the Kew Observatory, records of which may be found in BJ 1

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Sir Edward Sabine, Knight, 1788-1883

Magnetic Department, 1839-1877

Physical description: 84 files and volumes
Custodial history: This series is part of a larger collection of records inherited from the Kew Observatory by the Meteorological Office.
Administrative / biographical background:

Sir Edward Sabine was one of the first great bureaucrats of organised science. In 1818 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and within two years had participated, as astronomer, in two voyages to the Arctic under William Edward Parry. In 1827 he became a captain in the Royal Artillery and in 1834 commenced, together with James Clark Ross and Humphrey Lloyd, the first systematic magnetic survey of the British Isles.

From 1836 Sabine, with the support of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, began to press the government to establish magnetic observatories at selected stations in both hemispheres, and to despatch a naval expedition to make a magnetic survey of the Antarctic region. The scheme was approved in 1839, the expedition was despatched under Ross, and the observatories were set up at strategic places around the globe under the direct administration of a Magnetic Department, under Sabine, situated at Woolwich, Kent. In the same year Sabine was appointed General Secretary of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Sabine remained actively involved in the field of terrestrial magnetism and was promoted to Major-General in 1856. Between 1858 and 1861 he supervised another magnetic survey of the British Isles, after which he was elected President of the Royal Society in 1861 and promoted to General in 1870.

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