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UAI 15.960

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

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Descriptive Summary

Call No.: UAI 15.960
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Harvard University. Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History.
Title: 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.
Date(s): 1765-1835 and undated.
Quantity: .20 cubic feet (1 volumes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: 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.

Acquisition information:

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

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.

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.

Preferred Citation:

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. UAI 15.960, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives for the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
In the Harvard University Archives for the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History

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.

References

Series and Subseries in the Collection

The records are arranged in two series:

Scope and Content

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.

General

This document last updated 2013 November 8.

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