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A Letter to the Board of Visitors of the - BABBAGE, Charles] SHEEPSHANKS, Rev. R - 1845. [1278387]
G. Barclay 1845-1860, London - A possibly unique collection of pamphlets, all first editions, documenting the decades-long dispute between Babbage (1791-1871) and his archenemy Sheepshanks (1794-1855), but also involving Sir James South (1785-1867) and Sir George Biddell Airy (1801-1892). ?In a section [of Exposition of 1851] called ?Intrigues of Science? Babbage accused Airy of being part of a vendetta against him and influencing government against his engines through personal allegiance to Babbage?s enemies. The villain of the piece (according to Babbage) is the Reverend Richard Sheepshanks, an astronomer with an early training in law and a close friend of Airy? (Swade, p. 186). Sheepshanks replied in A Letter to the Board of Visitors (1854), which was re-issued in 1860 together with a thirty-seven-page addition containing correspondence by South and Sheepshanks and relevant extracts from Babbage?s Exposition [in this copy, only the ?addition? from the 1860 issue of A Letter to the Board of Visitors is present, the main text being that of the 1854 first edition]. ?This was one of several ?piquant pamphlets? which ?remain to illustrate the science of our century, and will furnish ample materials to the future collector of our literary curiosities? (De Morgan). Another dealt with the award of the ?Neptune medal;? a third, in 1845, with the affairs of the Liverpool observatory. ?When asked why [Sheepshanks] allowed himself to enter into such disputes, he would reply that he was just the person for it; that he had leisure, courage, and contempt for opinion when he knew he was right? (De Morgan in Examiner, 8 Sept. 1855)? (Agnes Mary Clerke in DNB).These documents shed light not only on the behind-the scenes politics of Babbage?s attempts to secure funding for his difference and analytical engines, but also on the wider scientific politics of the period, notably the class conflict between amateur and professional scientists. In the mid-nineteenth century, ?science was becoming institutionalized and also more conservative. As in the case of the Analytical Society, once again the central group of academic men of science was based in Trinity College, Cambridge? and included Whewell, Airy and Sheepshanks. Far more conservative than the Analyticals, without anyone with anything like the scientific ability of Babbage or Herschel, this group played a crucial part in the academic establishment and the embryonic scientific bureaucaracy? (Hayman, p. 149).The animosity between Babbage and Sheepshanks dates from 1830, ?a period of turmoil in the Royal Society, whose amateurishness was seen by a number of leading scientists as scandalous; and [Sir James] South supported the attacks on the Society?s establishment mounted in 1830 by Charles Babbage [in his Reflections on the decline of science in England], by publishing a pamphlet of thirty-nine Charges against the President and Councils of the Royal Society? (Hoskin, p. 177). South, a leading observational astronomer, was elected President of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1829, with Sheepshanks as Secretary. The two rapidly began to feud, and Babbage, as a friend and supporter of South, was dragged in.?Babbage alleges in Exposition that Sheepshanks was twice thwarted by Sir James South in the politics of scientific affairs. Babbage had supported South on both occasions. On the second occasion, a meeting at the Admiralty about the Nautical Almanac, Sheepshanks, a belligerent stirrer who loved nothing better than a scrap, threatened Babbage as they left the meeting room: ?I am determined to put down Sir James South and if you and other respectable men will give him your support, I will put you down.??The third confrontation between the two men occurred during the notorious court case between South and the instrument makers Troughton and Simms over an allegedly defective telescope mounting supplied by the company for South?s Campden Hill Observatory. The cause célèbre split the scientific community and the ?astronomers' wa [Attributes: First Edition]
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Last Found On: 2016-11-30           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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