Papers of Sydney Chapman, FRS

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

Original catalogue by Jeannine Alton and Harriot Weiskittel; EAD version by Lawrence Mielniczuk


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Papers of Sydney Chapman, 1962-1973

Extent: 1 box, 76 fols.
Language of Material: English

Biographical History

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.

Preferred Form of Citation

MS. Eng. misc. c. 851, fols. 1-3.

Related Material

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.

Subjects (LCSH)


Papers of and relating to Professor Chapman
Date: 1962-1973
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. misc. c. 851
Former ref: C.S.A.C 11/5/74
Language of Material: English
Extent: 76 fols.

Scope and Content:

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.

Transformation from XML to HTML by Lawrence Mielniczuk
09 February 2017