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Papers of the Board of Longitude : Miscellaneous correspondence

Papers of the Board of Longitude

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This volume contains a selection of miscellaneous correspondence of the Board of Longitude from the 1780s onwards. It is arranged alphabetically, by author. The <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(7);return false;'> instruction page (RGO 14/55:4r)</a> in the front notes that many of the contents should in fact be in other volumes. This dates from the 1850s when these archives were arranged and bound under the direction of the then Astronomer Royal, George Airy [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>]. Indeed, a number of letters form part of series of correspondence that are bound in other parts of the archive. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(91);return false;'> Two letters (RGO 14/55:33r)</a> from Edward Chase, for example, regarding his compass invention form part of <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00039/83'> correspondence (RGO 14/39:39r)</a> in RGO 14/39, as does a <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(197);return false;'> letter (RGO 14/55:69r)</a> from James Fosbury. Correspondence with Arthur Hodge regarding multiple proposals likewise features in <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00031/533'> (RGO 14/31:239r)</a>, <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00039/443'> (RGO 14/39:203r)</a> and <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00054/494'> (RGO 14/54:247r)</a>. One correspondent, interestingly, noted the 'well known punctuality of the Honourable Board' in his <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(217);return false;'> request (RGO 14/55:77r)</a> for news.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Mostly the volume features cover letters from correspondents sending proposals, observations, or books, which are no longer part of the archive. Others enquire how best to approach the Board with their proposal, about the success of a proposal already submitted, or inform the secretary that they are now waiting to attend the Commissioners. A number deal with Board administration: secretaries <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(11);return false;'> forwarding (RGO 14/55:6r)</a> proposals from the Admiralty, or Sir Joseph Banks [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>]<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(35);return false;'> writing (RGO 14/55:15r)</a> to the Board secretary regarding minutes and attendance. Other letters deal with the Board's practical responsibilities. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(31);return false;'> One (RGO 14/55:13r)</a> asks for their transit instrument to be sent to replace the broken one at the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(213);return false;'> another (RGO 14/55:75r)</a> discusses the idea of setting up an observatory in Sierra Leone.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>A number of interesting letters also show the internal politics involved in being a Commissioner of Longitude. A <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(150);return false;'> note (RGO 14/55:53v)</a> by the secretary Sir Henry Parker on the back of an enquiry from George Douglas records that 'he is the person General Stone interested himself about.' Another <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(117);return false;'> letter (RGO 14/55:41r)</a> of 1823 to the then secretary Thomas Young (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>portrait</a> at BBC Your Paintings) from John Wilson Croker [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>], Secretary to the Admiralty, warns that the naval service would be 'justly dissatisfied' at Captain Henry Kater (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>sketch</a> at The National Portrait Gallery) being appointed the Naval Hydrographer. The most <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(249);return false;'> noteworthy letter (RGO 14/55:86r)</a> is from 1818, the recently dismissed secretary Thomas Hurd [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='!csearch;authority=agent-178430;makerReference=agent-178430'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] writing to Sir Joseph Banks in reply to a packet sent by Banks for the Board. Hurd acquaints Banks that he has been dismissed, complains at the injustice of this being done without a clear reason, and comments that the re-constituted Commissioners cast a slur on the navy with the new appointment of so many army officers.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Katy Barrett<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /></p>

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