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William Thomson, Lord Kelvin 1824-1907

A web exhibition of manuscripts from the collections
of the University of Glasgow Library
Originally exhibited in 1977; adapted for the web in 2008

Introduction | Boole | Joule | Maxwell | Atlantic Cable | Jenkin | Varley | Tait | Darwin | Other correspondents | Miscellany

To see the selection of items in full, click on the thumbnails to view larger versions & then click on the 'back' button to return to this page (depending upon your browser, in viewing the larger version, you may have to click upon an additional button which will appear at the lower right corner to see the image at its largest size)

17 November 1872, from James Thomson (MS Kelvin T124)
Two page telegram from James Thomson to William Thomson. Belfast. 17 Nov. 1872. A new plan for two transverse screws.

"... New plan [for manoeuvreability of cable-laying ship]... two transverse screws one at each side sufficiently far out from ship's side their shafts at or below level of main screw only one to work at a time screws two bladed placed longitudinal when stopped... "

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7 July 1891 (MS Kelvin LB1/99)
Sir William Thomson. Certifying that a multicellular electrostatic voltmeter has been tested. With a table of results.

"I certify that the Multicellular Electrostatic Voltmeter no. 78 was tested in my laboratory on 26th 1891 and was found satisfactory..."

MS Kelvin LB1/99

15 June 1896: Memorabilia of Lord Kelvin Jubilee, Glasgow University. 15-16 June 1896 (MS Kelvin App 8)

For three days in June, 1896, Glasgow University celebrated the Jubilee of Lord Kelvin's professorship with an international festival attended by a large gathering of scientists and scholars, who brought addresses and congratulations from a host of universities and other institutions throughout the world. Although he resigned his chair in 1899 at the age of seventy-six, and ceased to live in Glasgow, choosing to retire to his country house at Largs, he continued to take an active interest in scientific developments and in the operations of his instrument factory in Glasgow.

Jubilee invitation card


Envelope: front

Envelope: back

Jubilee banquet menu


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Jubilee list of dignitaries

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Jubilee order of service


Lord Kelvin's companies and business partnerships.

Switchboard Department, Kelvin & James White Ltd,
Old Cambridge Street works.
Boring marble slabs( Photo A3)

James White set up business in 1850. By 1870 he was "Philosophical Instrument Maker to the University", and the sole maker of many of William Thomson's patents.

Kelvin entered into partnership with him and Kelvin and James White Ltd of Cambridge Street, Glasgow formed in 1900.


Clockmaking department of Kelvin and James White Ltd. (Photo A1)

Switchboard at Glasgow International Exhibition, 1901:
Kelvin and James White Ltd. (Photo A7)

Trademark of Kelvin, Bottomley and Baird (Photo A8)

Kelvin, Bottomley and Baird Ltd was established by Kelvin's nephew, James Thomson Bottomley, in 1913 and operated until 1941. It was developed from Kelvin's earlier firm of Kelvin and James White Ltd and was a firm of scientific instrument makers. Marine navigation equipment was manufactured at the Kelvin Works, Hillington, Glasgow, and the company made the "Kelvite" binnacle compasses and sounding machines.

Kelvin Hughes Ltd formed in 1947 from the amalgamation of Kelvin, Bottomley and Baird and the southeast England company Hughes and Son.

Kelvin Hughes was established in 1965 as a manufacturer of marine navigation equipment. The records of this company are held in the University Archives.

Lectures on Natural Philosophy, delivered by Thomson 1849-50: taken probably by William Smith (MS Gen. 142)

Page from lecture notes


Notes of lectures delivered in Glasgow University by William Thomson 1849-50. Probably taken by William Smith.1832-1921 Minister, Church of Scotland, Douglas. 1858-1921. Born Old Monkland, 27 January, 1832. Son of Thomas Smith and Margaret Rankin. Student, University of Glasgow, 1845-1849.




Note on lectures 1852-53, taken by William Jack (MS Gen 130)

Page from lecture notes

Notes on William Thomson's lectures, taken by William Jack, 1852.

William Jack (1834-1924) was of Professor of Mathematics at the University of Glasgow from 1879-1924.



Notes on lecture, 1862-63: taken by David Murray (MSS Murray 325, 326)

MS Murray 325

Notes on William Thomson's Lectures on Natural Philosophy, taken by David Murray. Session 1862-63.

David Murray 1842-1928 was a Glasgow lawyer, antiquary and bibliographer whose personal library of more than 15,000 printed books and some 200 manuscripts now comprise the Murray Collection held in the Special Collections Department.

MS Murray 326


18, 19 December 1907 (MS Kelvin App 24, 25). Obituaries.

Obituaries following Lord Kelvin's death. 18 and 19 December 1907 from the Daily Graphic and The Times.

MS Kelvin App 24

MS Kelvin App 25

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