Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: UAI 15.960

Records relating to the philosophical apparatus of the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and the Records of the Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History

The Records relating to the philosophical apparatus of the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and the Records of the Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History at Harvard were compiled and pasted into a single volume at an undetermined date. Inventories, invoices, letters, copies of votes extracted from Board of Visitors meeting minutes, and other financial records in this collection document the acquisition and maintenance of the philosophical apparatus acquired by Harvard College from 1765 to 1826 and record the establishment and administration of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History and Botanic Garden at Harvard from 1799 to 1835.

Dates

  • 1765-1835 and undated

Researcher Access

Records relating to the philosophical apparatus of the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and the Records of the Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, are open for research. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Please consult the Public Services staff for further details.

Copying Restriction

Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

Extent

.20 cubic feet (1 volumes)

The Records relating to the philosophical apparatus of the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and the Records of the Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History at Harvard were compiled and pasted into a single volume at an undetermined date. Inventories, invoices, letters, and bills of lading in this collection document the acquisition and maintenance of the philosophical apparatus acquired by Harvard College from 1765 to 1826; supply information about the scientific instruments purchased and maintained by Harvard, their purchase price, and in some cases names of craftsmen; and illustrate the growth of the philosophical apparatus at Harvard and its use in classroom instruction and experimentation. Letters, copies of votes extracted from the Board of Visitors meeting minutes, bills of exchange, reports, lists, statutes, and other financial records, document the establishment and administration of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History and Botanic Garden at Harvard by the Board of Visitors from 1799 to 1835.

The records were assembled in this volume as an archival collection by the archivist at an unknown date from various sources without regard to original provenance in order to document University professorships.

Historical Note on the philosophical apparatus collection of the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy

The philosophical apparatus collection of the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy was composed of scientific instruments and working models designed to demonstrate and explore the field known in the eighteenth century as "natural philosophy" (i.e. physics). The first scientific instrument presented to Harvard was a telescope in 1672. The apparatus was slowly assembled by Harvard until 1727 when Thomas Hollis (1659-1731), a wealthy English merchant, endowed the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and also gave Harvard five chests containing an assortment of apparatus for use by the new Hollis professor. The apparatus grew steadily through additional gifts and purchases after Hollis's donation. Unfortunately, on January 24, 1764, the philosophical apparatus and library in Harvard Hall was destroyed by fire. The College immediately began to solicit gifts and funds to restore the contents of the apparatus. Orders for new scientific instruments were placed in London beginning in June 1764. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Harvard's scientific instruments were almost exclusively purchased and repaired in England. However, Harvard's apparatus was also enhanced by two local craftsmen. Joseph Pope (1748-1826), a Boston clockmaker, designed and built a large orrey (a gear driven model of the solar system) and John Prince (1751-1836), a Salem clergyman, designed and built a wide variety of instruments for Harvard. By 1779, Harvard had amassed a new and larger apparatus and by the end of the eighteenth century began to add instruments to the apparatus to compliment instruction in chemistry, biology, and geology.
Historical Note on the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History In March 1805, a group of prominent Massachusetts citizens endowed a Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, along with a Botanic Garden, at Harvard University, to promote commerce, agriculture, medicine, and the arts through the study of zoology, botany, and mineralogy. The funds of the Professorship were placed under the control of a Board of Visitors organized in April 1805 to supervise the first (and only) Natural History professor, William Dandridge Peck (1763-1822). Included among its responsibilities, the Board fixed the salary of the Natural History professor, built the professor's house and other dwellings in the garden, supervised the maintenance and repair of the garden, and supplied the garden with all necessary plants, seeds, and specimens. After Peck's death in October 1822, the Board was unable to financially support both the Professorship and Botanic Garden. Since funds were no longer available to support a professor, the Board assigned the care of the garden to Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859); efforts to secure funding for the Natural History professorship were unsuccessful and the chair was left vacant. In May 1831, diminished funds caused the Board of Visitors to relinquish its control of the Botanic Garden to the Harvard Corporation. In 1862, the Corporation united the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History and the Fisher Professorship of Natural History (established in 1834) since both professorships served an identical purpose. The Botanic Garden, which had languished over the years as an instructional laboratory, was finally abandoned in 1948 when the Botanic Garden Apartments were erected on the grounds.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

The records are arranged in two series:
  1. Records relating to the philosophical apparatus of the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, 1765-1826 and undated
  2. Records of the Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, 1799-1835
  3. ___ Professorship of Natural History, 1802-1826
  4. ___ Professorship of Natural History, Votes of visitors, 1807-1826
  5. ___ Miscellaneous papers, 1799-1835
  6. ___ Professorship of Natural History, relating to Pomeroy's Bond, 1806-1821

Acquisition information

The materials in this collection are University records and were acquired in the course of University business.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives for the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
  1. Correspondence and faculty reports by John Farrar, Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, 1810-1831 and undated (UAI 15.963): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua24011
  2. John Winthrop's proposal respecting electrical globes and jars, ca. 1758 (UAI 15.1068)
  3. Rules and orders relating to a Professor of the Mathematicks, of Natural and Experimental Philosophy, in Harvard College, 18 January 1726 (UAI 15.1067)
  4. Faculty report and worksheet by James Hayward, College Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, 1826 October (UAI 15.1069)
In the Harvard University Archives for the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History
  1. Rules of subscription to a fund for the establishment of a professorship of Natural History and a list of subscribers, 1805 March 27 (UAI 15.1073)
  2. Records of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History in the Records of the Treasurer of Harvard University (UAI 50.x): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua05009
  3. Papers of William Dandridge Peck, 1777-1827 (HUG 1677.xx)
  4. United States Loan Office Debt Certificate transferred to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History by Josiah Quincy, 1806 October 14 (UAI 15.1074)
  5. Board of Visitors report to the President and Fellows of Harvard College on the state of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, 1830 January 6 (UAI 15.1075)
  6. Pamphlet on the foundation of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, at Harvard College, in Cambridge, with documents relative to its establishment, 1805 (UAI 15.1076)
  7. Amendments to the rules and regulations of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, 1805 March 27 (UAI 15.1077)
  8. Meeting minutes of the Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, 1805-1832 (UAI 15.999)
  9. Subscription records for the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, 1802-1813 (UAI 15.997): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua52011
  10. Financial records of the Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, 1805-1814 (UAI 15.1003): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua53011

References

  • Bentinck-Smith, William and Elizabeth Stouffer. "Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History." In Harvard University, History of Named Chairs: Sketches of Donors and Donations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Secretary to the University, 1991.
  • Bentinck-Smith, William and Elizabeth Stouffer. "Hollis Professorship of Mathematicks and Natural Philosophy." In Harvard University, History of Named Chairs: Sketches of Donors and Donations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Secretary to the University, 1991.
  • Black, N. Henry. "Certain Ancient Physical Apparatus Belonging to Harvard College." Harvard Alumni Bulletin (March 24, 1933) : 660-666.
  • Cohen, I. Bernard. Some Early Tools of American Science: An Account of the Early Scientific Instruments and Mineralogical and Biological Collections in Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1950.
  • Quincy, Josiah. The History of Harvard University. Vol. II. Cambridge, Massachusetts: John Owen, 1840.
  • Transactions of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, New Series, Vol. 1, Boston: J.H. Eastburn's Press, 1858.
  • Wheatland, David P. The Apparatus of Science at Harvard, 1765-1800. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Collection of Scientific Instruments, Harvard University, 1968.

General note

This document last updated 2019 October 15.

Processing Information

This material was first classified and described in a Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. The material was re-processed in 2011. Re-processing involved a collection survey, enhanced description of items from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the creation of this finding aid.

This finding aid was created by Dominic P. Grandinetti in October 2011.
Link to catalog
Title
Harvard University. Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History. Records relating to the philosophical apparatus of the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and the Records of the Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, 1765-1835 and undated : an inventory
Description rules
dacs
EAD ID
hua54011

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Contact:
Pusey Library
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461