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Papers of Sydney Chapman, FRS

 Single Item
MS. Eng. misc. c. 851 (formerly C.S.A.C 11/5/74)
Held at the Weston Library

  • Request

The papers consist mainly of biographical information assembled by Professor T.G. Cowling for his Royal Society Memoir of Chapman. There are also a small number of letters exchanged between Chapman and Cowling. Includes:

  1. (fols. 1-26) Memoir, by T.G. Cowling. (Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of The Royal Society, Vol.17, 1971); biographical note by Syun-I Akasofu on Chapman's personal and scientific life, 1970.
  2. (fols. 27-41) Correspondence on the location of Chapman's papers with S-I Akasofu, and with T.G. Cowling on documents passed on by him.
  3. (fols. 42-53) Correspondence between Chapman and Cowling 1962-1970 (mainly on corrections for The Mathematical Theory of non-Uniform Gases by Chapman and Cowling, 3rd. ed., revised with the co-operation of D.Burnett, 1970; also some autobiographical information).
  4. (fols. 54-64) 3 letters from Cecil Chapman (son) to T.G. Cowling, and notes on Cowling's draft for the Royal Society Memoir, 1970.
  5. (fols. 65-76) Miscellaneous correspondence with T.G. Cowling on Chapman. Correspondents include: Gordon Newkirk, David Crawford, P.C. Kendall, H. Levy, Esther Simpson, Cecily Tanner, and Donald Sadler. 1970-1972.


  • Creation: 1962-1973


76 Leaves

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. misc. c. 851, fols. 1-3].

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MS. Eng. misc. c. 851 (formerly C.S.A.C 11/5/74)

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 13340


Correspondence and papers of Professor Sydney Chapman, FRS, mathematician and geophysicist, (1888-1970).

Biographical / Historical

Sydney Chapman, FRS, (29 January 1888 - 16 June 1970) was a mathematician and geophysicist. He was born in Eccles, near Salford in England. He attended the Royal Technical Institute, Salford (now the University of Salford). In 1904 he entered Manchester University, where he obtained a B.Sc. in Engineering (1907) and a B.Sc. in Mathematics (1908).

Chapman persued his study of mathematics at Trinity College, and in his final year he was appointed Senior Assistant at the Greenwich Observatory, where he remained until 1914.

A pacifist, Chapman was exempted from military service, and returned to Cambridge as a college lecturer in 1914. He was asked to return to the Observatory in 1916, and he remained until 1918.

In 1919 Chapman was appointed Professor of Mathematics at Manchester University, the same year he was made a Fellow of The Royal Society. In 1922 he married Katherine Nora (they subsequently had three sons and a daughter).

In 1924 Chapman became Professor of Mathematics at Imperial College, London, where he remained until 1946. During this time he co-authored Geomagnetism with Julius Bartels and with T.G. Cowling The Mathematical Theory of non-Uniform Gases. No longer a pacifist, he undertook civilian war work, and in 1943-1945 worked for the army counil on problems of military operational research.

From 1946-1953 Chapman was Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy at Oxford University and a Fellow of Queen's College. After his retirement from Oxford he divided his time between the Geophysical Institute in Alaska and the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado. He died in Boulder in 1970 after a short illness.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Given by T. G. Cowling through the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre, 1974.

Related Materials

The disposition of Sydney Chapman's scientific papers, books, journals, correspondence, etc. has been made according to the following plan. Prior to any action being taken this plan was circulated to Mr. Cecil Chapman - Sydney's son, Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu and Dr. Keith B. Mather of the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska, and Dr. Gordon Newkirk of the High Altitude Observatory. These people all have expressed their agreement with the proposed disposition of the items.

  1. The complete collection of scientific papers authored by Sydney and his collaborators has been sent to the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, for archiving. The Institute will microfilm the papers, and one copy of the film will be kept at HAO. HAO and the Institute will share equally the cost of the microfilming.
  2. Scientific papers (reprints) by other authors but belonging to Sydney have been sent to the Geophysical Institute.
  3. Books authored by Sydney, i.e., Geomagnetism and The Mathematical Theory of non-Uniform Gases, which were his personal copies used at HAO have been sent to Cecil Chapman in England.
  4. Hard bound old books that belonged to Mrs. Katherine Chapman have been sent to Cecil Chapman.
  5. The remaining scientific books have been distributed as needed first to the HAO library, then to the NCAR library, and then to the Geophysical Institute.
  6. Duplicate copies of Sydney's authored papers have been kept by HAO as part of the organization's reprint files for distribution to those requesting them.
  7. The complete correspondence files have been sent to the Geophysical Institute where they will be permanently archived. The Institute will microfilm the files, and one copy of the film will be kept at NCAR. HAO and the Institute will share equally the expense of the microfilming.
  8. Certain personal files have been removed and destroyed by Doris Fisher at the request of Cecil Chapman.
  9. Certain other files relating to the Geomagnetic Source Book that was being jointly authored by Sydney and David G. Knapp have been sent to Mr. Knapp at the National Ocean Survey, Rockville, Maryland. This step was taken, with Cecil Chapman's concurrence, to allow Mr. Knapp to complete the nearly finished manuscript for the book.
Papers of Professor Sydney Chapman, FRS, (1888-1970), mathematician and geophysicist
Finding aid prepared by Jeannine Alton and Harriot Weiskittel
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom