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Invisible resource: William Crookes and his circle of support, 1871–81

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009

Hannah Gay
Department of History, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, V5A 1S6, Canada.


In a 1976 paper, Robert DeKosky wrote ‘William Crookes is a puzzle to historians of latenineteenth century science. Despite his achievements we are forced to ask why he did not accomplish more.’ It is an interesting question; equally interesting is the question that prompts this paper – how did he accomplish so much?

Why some scientists become prolific and successful is a question with both historical and ahistorical dimensions. Among the former are a number of cultural aspects rarely studied by historians. They include the nature of childhood experience, family attitudes, mentoring, and the existence of intellectual and practical support networks in adulthood. Ail are important, but how they contribute to individual success varies with time and place.

Research Article
Copyright © British Society for the History of Science 1996

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1 DeKosky, Robert, ‘William Crookes and the fourth state of matter’, Isis (1976), 67, 36CrossRefGoogle Scholar. In particular, DeKosky had in mind the discovery of X-rays and the identification of the electron.

2 Two recent studies of support networks are those relating to ‘invisible technicians’ in Shapin's A Social History of Truth and the detailing of Charles Darwin's many dependencies by Browne. These throw much light on the role of assistance in the social and moral economy of science in their respective periods. Shapin, Steven, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England, Chicago, 1994, ch. 8Google Scholar, and ‘Who is Robert Hooke?’, in Robert Hooke: New Studies (ed. Hunter, M. and Schaffer, S.), Wolfeboro, NH, 1989Google Scholar; Browne, Janet, Charles Darwin: Voyaging, London, 1995.Google Scholar

3 Christie, J. R. R., ‘Aurora, Nemesis and Clio’, BJHS (1993), 26, 404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

4 See, for example, James, Frank A. J. L. (ed.), The Development of the Laboratory: Essays on the Place of Experiment in Industrial Civilization, London, 1989CrossRefGoogle Scholar. An exception to my claim is the essay in this volume by Gooding, David, ‘History in the laboratory: can we tell what really went on?’Google Scholar, ibid., 63–81. Gooding goes beyond the official accounts of experiments (performed by Faraday and Herschel). By examining notebooks and attempting to reproduce experiments under historical conditions, he gives new insights into the nature of Faraday's experiments and the laboratory culture in which they were performed. See also Gooding, David, Pinch, Trevor and Schaffer, Simon (eds.), The Uses of Experiment: Studies in the Natural Sciences, Cambridge, 1989Google Scholar, and Latour, Bruno and Woolgar, Steve, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts, Princeton, NJ, 1986Google Scholar, though here the emphasis is mainly on the legitimation of facts.

5 D'Albe, E. E. Fournier, The Life of Sir William Crookes, London, 1923Google Scholar. See also Brock, W. H., ‘William Crookes’, DSB, iii, 474–82Google Scholar, and Tilden, William A., Famous Chemists: The Men and Their Work, Freeport, NY, 1921Google Scholar. Tilden's chapter ‘William Crookes’, was based on a 1919 obituary notice that he wrote for Proceedings of the Royal Society.

6 D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 4753Google Scholar. The brothers were associated with Griffin, Bohn and Co., the first publisher of Chemical News. The publisher managed the financial side of the business until Crookes later took over. See also Brock, William H., ‘The Chemical News, 1859–1932’, Bulletin of the History of Chemistry (1992), 12, 30–5.Google Scholar

7 It is not clear exactly how much money Crookes's father contributed towards his later house purchase, the construction and fitting of the attached private laboratory (modest at first) and the various business ventures. Fournier D'Albe, op. cit. (5), is vague on this, simply noting that help was given. Joseph Crookes was clearly very involved in the 1860s when his son attempted to promote a gold-refining process in South America.

8 D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 16Google Scholar. This is quoted from a letter to Francis Galton who was interested in the genesis of talent. It is an interesting cultural fact that chemists liked to portray themselves as living near the edge. In the same letter Crookes wrote of ‘generating smells and destroying furniture’.

9 For a discussion of the themes of knowledge and gentility in early modern England see Shapin, Steven, ‘“A Scholar and a Gentleman”: the problematic identity of the scientific practitioner in early modern England’, History of Science (1991), 29, 279327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

10 Tilden, , op. cit. (5), 270.Google Scholar

11 D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 22–3.Google Scholar

12 staces, Brock, op. cit. (5), 474Google Scholar, that Crookes was introduced to Stokes by Faraday. But in a speech given to a Royal College of Science dinner in 1913 Crookes says he met Stokes in 1850 at one of Mr Barlow's ‘At Homes’, where he was introduced by his host. See D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 399.Google Scholar

13 For a discussion of the social climate at the Royal College of Chemistry, see Roberts, Gerrylynn, ‘The Royal College of Chemistry (1845–1853): A Social History of Chemistry in Early Victorian England’, PhD dissertation, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, 1973, 342–55.Google Scholar

14 Roberts, , op. cit. (13), 1213 and 5390.Google Scholar

15 See D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), ch. 5Google Scholar, for an account of this period and of Crookes's work in photographic journalism; see p. 35 for the Royal Society grant. Crookes was an excellent scientific photographer. He also kept a photographic record of apparatus and equipment used in his laboratory.

16 At the start of his career, in 1855, Crookes did spend one year as a science teacher at the College of Science, Chester, but by then he had already embarked on a variety of photography projects. In 1862 he gave a course of lectures with demonstrations to students of the Peckham Schools. See D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 28 and 82.Google Scholar

17 Williams, C. H. Greville, A Handbook of Chemical Manipulation, London, 1857Google Scholar. For biographical detail see an obituary by Church, A. H., Proceedings of the Royal Society (1911), 85, pp. xviixxGoogle Scholar. Church was two years younger than Crookes and had also been a student at the Royal College of Chemistry. For a while he, too, was a close Crookes associate and a frequent contributor to Chemical News in its early days.

18 Williams was elected FRS in 1862, one year before Crookes.

19 James, Frank A. J. L., ‘The letters of William Crookes to Charles Hanson Greville Williams, 1861–2: the detection and isolation of thallium’, Ambix (1981), 28, 131–57, quotation on 133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

20 According to D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 68Google Scholar, Crookes's right-hand man at the Chemical News at this time was W. T. Fewtrell.

21 He purchased the freehold for 20 Mornington Road, London (now Mornington Terrace), in 1861, though he had already been living there for about two years; see St Paneras Parish Register, 1862. It is likely that some family money went towards the purchase. He stated in one letter to Angus Smith that he had some private income; D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 90Google Scholar. Since the rates for 1862, £56 per annum, were the highest in Mornington Road, the house must have been among the largest in what was a professional middle-class neighbourhood (inferred from St Paneras 1861 and 1871 census details). Crookes did not sell this house when he moved to Notting Hill in 1881 and owned it till his death.

22 1871 Census, St Paneras Borough.

23 There are frequent references in letters indicating that his wife, Ellen, dealt with much of his correspondence, for example a letter to his son, Henry, , in D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 260Google Scholar. This letter also throws an interesting light on Crookes as a family man. He wrote lovingly about all the family members. Henry had been sent to Australia, partly for health reasons. Rayleigh makes reference to Ellen Crookes carrying out weighings in the laboratory. From the Crookes-Gimingham correspondence one has the impression that Crookes's mother-inlaw, Elizabeth Humphrey, was responsible for some of the accounts and that at least three of his sons helped with experiments. Science Museum Library MS409; Letters to Charles Henry Gimingham, 1871–77 (hereafter SML, Letters). The family economy pattern is not unlike some described in Davidoff, Leonore and Hall, Catherine, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850, London, 1987, part 2.Google Scholar

24 D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 45Google Scholar. This contract brought in only about £20 per annum. According to Fournier D'Albe, ibid., 70, Crookes had a number of similar contracts but refused to put his name behind any promotion. Clearly this was prudent in someone wishing to make a name in science.

25 According to D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 86Google Scholar, in 1864 Crookes negotiated with the father of a prospective apprentice, Henry Seward, a pupil at the Peckham Schools where Crookes had given some chemistry instruction. I do not know whether the boy actually became Crookes's apprentice, but in a letter Crookes mentions a threeyear terni at £500 per year.

26 There are many negative comments about Crookes in the published and archival material from this period. Oliver Lodge's nuanced foreword to Fournier D'Albe's biography, op. cit. (5), is an example.

27 A photograph, taken later in life in his Notting Hill house, shows Crookes seated in a fairly large library. This was a working, not a self-improving, library and was situated next to his laboratory. The photograph was reproduced by Lord Rayleigh and shown during his presidential address to the Physical Society in 1936. Strutt, R. J., ‘Some reminiscences of scientific workers of the past generation, and their surroundings’, Proceedings of the Physical Society (1936), 48, 217–46.Google Scholar

28 Crookes, as a young man, may have felt ill at ease in the gentlemanly and club culture of early nineteenthcentury élite science. He did not, for example, take up many of the dinner and speaking invitations that came his way after the thallium discovery, and the reason cannot simply have been, as Fournier D'Albe put it, that Crookes needed to earn a living for his growing family. Others might have seen the social route as having professional and financial potential. D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 65.Google Scholar

29 For a discussion of these themes, see Weiner, M. J., English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, Cambridge, 1981.Google Scholar

30 Hofmann's views can be read from his annual reports to the Royal College. See Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives: Royal College of Chemistry, Minutes of the Annual General Meetings, 1846–53. See also Bud, Robert and Roberts, Gerrylynn K., Science versus Practice: Chemistry in Victorian Britain, Manchester, 1984, 24–5Google Scholar, for a discussion of the social divide in metropolitan chemistry during the nineteenth century.

31 DNB, Second Supplement, iii, 411Google Scholar; DSB, xiii, 74.Google Scholar

32 For details of the journal, see Smith, Crosbie and Wise, M. Norton, Energy and Empire: A Biographical Study of Lord Kelvin, Cambridge, 1989, 174–92.Google Scholar

33 For example, he had lengthy correspondences with F. A. Abel, Henry Armstrong, Heinrich Debus, Warren de La Rue, Henry Roscoe, James Dewar and Arthur Smithels. The last of these is interesting, and while it begins only in the 1890s, it starts, as did the correspondence with Crookes, much earlier, with flame spectroscopy. Cambridge University Library (CUL), Correspondence of George Gabriel Stokes (catalogue, ed. David B. Wilson) Add. MSS 7656. According to Andrew Warwick (personal communication) Stokes was unusual among Cambridge mathematical physicists of the period in engaging in some experimental work.

34 See Larmor, Joseph, Memoirs and Correspondence of the Late Sir George Gabriel Stokes, 2 vols., Cambridge, 1907, ii, 363Google Scholar; Stokes, to Crookes, , 2 03 1856.Google Scholar

35 Wilson, David B., Kelvin and Stokes: A Comparative Study in Victorian Physics, Bristol, 1987, 197.Google Scholar

36 Crookes, W., ‘On the atomic weight of thallium’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (1873), 163, 277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

37 Obituary notice for Charles Gimingham, Henry, Electrician (1890), 625.Google Scholar

38 Casual mention is made of two women glass-blowers employed from some time in 1881, the time when Crookes became seriously interested in electric lighting. The only one to be named was ‘Miss Stribling [who] made 24 lamp cases in 4 hours using up three cases of French Glass.’ Royal Institution, London, Laboratory Notebook, vol. VI, 1 June 1881–15 July 1884, entry for 8 March 1882. Some other employees will be mentioned below.

39 Crookes, W., On The Manufacture of Beet-Root Sugar in England and Ireland, London, 1870Google Scholar; Select Methods in Chemical Analysis (Chiefly Inorganic), London, 1871Google Scholar; and a translation of Wagner, R., A Handbook of Chemical Technology, London, 1871Google Scholar. Crookes published several other books before, during and after the 1870s. For the eclipse expedition see D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), ch. 11.Google Scholar

40 As a member of the board and as chemical advisor, Crookes earned £200 per year. In addition he was paid for on-site work, roughly £1000 per year. The firm also bought some of his patents, including one for a ‘carbolic sulphite deodorizer’ for £2200. Later in the decade he spent roughly the same amount of money to buy the English patent rights for a French sewage treatment method from Georges Fournier (D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 268Google Scholar). Further, Crookes ran his own firm, Crookes and Co., for a few years during the 1870s; this promoted machinery for the digestion of animal refuse but proved unprofitable in the long run (ibid., 257–8). Chemical News brought Crookes an income of about £400 per year. Later (post-1880) Crookes's income was about £4000 per year (ibid., 378). It would appear that his income in the 1870s was roughly the same.

41 For details of the Native Guano Company see D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), ch. 14Google Scholar. For a while this was successful, with several installations that Crookes supervised. For Crookes's electrical interests see ibid., 291 and passim. In the 1880s Crookes became a director of the Electric Light and Power Company. He took out his first patent on a light bulb in 1881 when he established a lamp works in Battersea and made his son, Henry, manager. Unable to hold his own in this highly competitive field, he later sold out and also sold his patents (ibid., 303–7).

42 Bentley, Jonathan, ‘History of the School of Chemistry at the Royal College of Science and its Predecessors during the Nineteenth Century’, Chemistry Part II thesis, University of Oxford, 1962, 31–3.Google Scholar

43 There is no direct evidence for this but D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 85Google Scholar shows how careful Crookes was in selecting an apprentice a few years earlier.

44 SML, Letters, 13 September 1871, from 20 Mornington Road, London.

45 SML, Letters, 8 October 1871, Manchester. Reference to the ‘Sprengel’ is to the type of mercury pump used, one invented by Hermann Sprengel in 1865; it worked by allowing mercury to fall down tubes, capturing air (between drops) as it fell. For further detail, and for how it was used, see DeKosky, Robert, ‘William Crookes and the quest for the absolute vacuum in the 1870s’, Annals of Science (1983), 40, 118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

46 SML, Letters, 10 10 1871, Manchester.Google Scholar

47 SML, Letters, 19 10 1871, Manchester.Google Scholar

48 SML, Letters, 13 10 1871, Manchester.Google Scholar

49 Mrs Humphrey was Crookes's mother-in-law. She appears to have had some role in ordering, and paying the bills of suppliers – at least while Crookes was away. There are several references to this. See, for example, SML, Letters, 5 November 1872, Paris. The reference to ground rents here and elsewhere suggests Crookes was a landlord.

50 SML, Letters, 18 10 1871, ManchesterGoogle Scholar, and 27 September 1872, Paris. I think the new baby followed in his brother's footsteps and became a glass-blower with Edison and Swan. There are references to a Mr E. Gimingham having come from Edison and Swan to do glass-blowing for James Dewar at the Royal Institution. Also, William J. Green, an assistant at the Royal Institution, in a letter to Lord Rayleigh, 2 May 1940, mentions Mr E. Gimingham as being a ‘haie old man’ with a business in Diverton. See Royal Institution, Dewar Papers, DE 9/3/2 and DE 16/2/38.

51 SML, Letters, 27 01 1872Google Scholar, Mornington Road. The ABC (alum, blood, charcoal and clay) process, developed in the 1860s, was designed to treat sewerage and convert it to saleable manure. The process had been invented by W. C. Sillar; see D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 257–9Google Scholar. Crookes had to deal with several disputes over the quality and safety of the manure. The reference to a second ‘lieutenant’ is one of several references to other workers. This one was called Mr Slater. By April 1872, Crookes was using a monogrammed letterhead. It consisted of a cross above which was a small elephant. His initiais are entwined around the cross on which is inscribed ‘ubi crux ibi lux’. Later, when knighted, Crookes used this as his heraldic emblem. It would be good to know what his peers thought of it. Crookes appears to have been very careful of his reputation so one must conclude that ‘respectable’ taste has changed. Though perhaps not; in Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens made fun of the Veneerings for a similar vanity.

52 SML, Letters, 7 11 1872, ParisGoogle Scholar. Crookes was happy with the installation. ‘The process works very nicely and the water is very good. Fish are living nicely in the third or fourth trial. On Wednesday we begin to receive official visitors.’

53 Crookes, W., ‘On attraction and repulsion resulting from radiation’, Philosophical Transactions (1874), 164, 501–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar. A version of the paper titled ‘On the action of heat on gravitating masses’ had been read at the Royal Society, 11 December 1873, and was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society (1873), 22Google Scholar. It was later summarized and serialized by Crookes in Chemical News. He did this for all the papers in the series. For a full account of Crookes's work, see the papers published in Phil. Trans. between 1874 and 1881. These papers are remarkable for their fine and very detailed description of experimental procedure. Crookes was undoubtedly making a statement about what it takes to do the kind of vacuum studies he was engaged in. It is possible to read his very good descriptions of the finesse needed, as a not-too-subtle message telling others that the field was so difficult they would be wise to stay away. Another interesting point, not acknowledged by earlier historians, is that Crookes and Gimingham were already experimenting with the torsion balance in 1872. Crookes did not mention this new apparatus in print until the submission of an abstract to the Proc. Roy. Soc., 20 03 1875Google Scholar. The 1874 Phil Trans. paper described a series of experiments in which heat repelled an object suspended at the end of a regular balance beam. In his second paper in the series, Crookes does mention that he had discarded the traditional balance form of apparatus even before his first paper was read to the Royal Society and that some early versions of the new apparatus had been displayed on 11 December 1873. See paragraph 84 in Crookes, W., ‘On repulsion resulting from radiation, Part II’, Phil. Trans. (1875), 165, 519–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar. It is clear, however, that in these 1873 demonstrations, Crookes was still holding much back.

54 Crookes's original vacuum balance was from Oertling and the weights from Johnson and Matthey were made of platinum and manipulated from outside the evacuated case. But by this time (1872) very simple balances that could be enclosed in blown tubes had been devised and were being improved on – as were appropriate measuring procedures.

55 SML, Letters, 27 09 and 5 11 1872, ParisGoogle Scholar. The ‘neutral point’ was the point (in evacuation) at which change in the direction of movement in the pith balls (and other objects), occurred when hot (or cold) objects both within and without the evacuated tubes, were brought close (see published papers for details). Crookes obviously wanted to keep the details to himself at this time. In a letter from Paris, dated 3 November, he wrote that Huggins wanted to see the Sprengel pump but ‘don't tell him too much about the neutral points and repulsion by heat experiments’. William Huggins was a wealthy brewer, an amateur astronomer, a vicepresident of the Royal Society at this time, and had taken part in some of Crookes's spiritualist activities.

56 SML, Letters, 9 10 1872, Paris.Google Scholar

57 Crookes's speculations and chose of others have been widely discussed in the literature. See, for example, DeKosky, op. cit. (45). It is clear that Crookes did a literature search because he began his own series of papers with a discussion of historically related precedents, including the work of Fresnel and of the Rev. A. Bennett, FRS, whose magnetism experiments of the 1790s appear to have been very suggestive methodologically. Because he believed he had a good vacuum, Crookes speculated along two lines. First, that heat might affect the gravitational force and secondly, that heat had a direct mechanical effect on the weights (pith balls, or whatever). He and Gimingham also early experimented with spring balances because Crookes thought beams might expand with heat, but they gave these up as impractical.

58 D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 269.Google Scholar

59 SML, Letters, 03 1873, Birmingham.Google Scholar

60 SML, Letters, 29 08 1873, St Helier, Jersey.Google Scholar

61 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1075. Crookes had read the paper to the Royal Society, 18 June 1872, and it was published in Philosophical Transactions (1873), 63, 277.Google Scholar

62 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1076, 23 09 1873Google Scholar, and C1077, 25 September 1873.

63 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1078, 15 11 1873Google Scholar, and C1079, 21 November 1873.

64 The referees were J. Clerk Maxwell and William Thomson and their letters to Stokes about Crookes's paper are in the Royal Society archives. See DeKosky, , op. cit. (45), 6.Google Scholar

65 Crookes, , ‘On attraction’, op. cit. (53), 539 n.Google Scholar

66 See CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1083, 11 May 1874, and C1084, 7 July 1874. It is not absolutely clear whether he received the grant, but later Correspondence implies that he did. The theorist in question was Osborne Reynolds who, after watching Crookes's demonstrations and doing some experiments of his own, had come to the conclusion that kinetic theory could be used to explain the heat effect. Debate at the time was over the role, if any, of residual gas on the heat/motion phenomenon. As indicated above, Crookes used experiments he had performed earlier to counter some of Reynolds's daims.

67 SML, Letters, 29 08 1874, London.Google Scholar

68 McLeod, H., ‘Apparatus for measurement of low pressures of gas’, Proceedings of the Physical Society (18741875), 1, 30–4.Google Scholar

69 Some examples: for beamshe tried glass, mica, srraw and brass; for suspension, spider web, cocoon thread; and for terminals, pith, cork, ivory and metals. For terminals they came to use ones with a large surface and minimum weight; earlier Gimingham had cut discs from butterfly wings, pressed rose leaves, thin split mica and other materials. See Crookes, , ‘On repulsion’, op. cit. (53)Google Scholar. Joseph Hooker sent pith specimens from papyrus plants at Kew (SML, Laboratory Notebook IV, 3 March 1876).

70 Supplement received 20 April 1875, Proceedings of the Royal Society (1875), 23, 377.Google Scholar

71 Light mills were being made and studied also in Germany at this time. See Brush, S. G. and Everitt, C. W., ‘Maxwell, Osborne Reynolds and the radiometer’, Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences (1969), 1, 107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

72 SML, Letters, 2 June and 11 06 1875, Leeds.Google Scholar

73 SML, Laboratory Notebook IV, 07 187512 1877.Google Scholar

74 SML, Letters, 15 06 1875, LeedsGoogle Scholar. These results would not be accepted today.

75 Schuster, A., Proceedings of the Royal Society (1876), 24, 391–2 (Philosophical Transactions (1876), 166, 715–24)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. This experiment was conceived in 1873–74 and finally performed with the help of Reynolds. See Brush, and Everitt, , op. cit. (71), 111Google Scholar. Crookes's confirmatory experiments were discussed with Stokes before publication. See Larmor, , op. cit. (34), ii, 368–9.Google Scholar

76 Carpenter, W. B., ‘The radiometer and its lessons’, Nineteenth Century (1877), No. 1, 242–56Google Scholar. Crookes, W., ‘Another lesson from the radiometer’, Nineteenth Century (1877), 879–88Google Scholar. Carpenter had been a vocal critic of Crookes's psychic researches.

77 See DeKosky, , op. cit. (45), 1112Google Scholar for a discussion of this and of experiments earlier performed by Maxwell and by Kundt and Warburg. Stokes did not know of Kundt and Warburg's work until the end of 1876 and so some of the suggestions he gave Crookes that year were inappropriate. See, for example, Larmor, , op. cit. (34), ii, 393Google Scholar: Stokes to Crookes, 23 January 1877. Maxwell's theory did not apply at very low pressures, but Crookes and Gimingham were far from having a very good vacuum.

78 CUL, Stokes Correspondance, C1088, 15 04 1876.Google Scholar

79 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1091, 19 04 1876.Google Scholar

80 Crookes, W., ‘On beat conduction in highly rarified air’, Proceedings of the Royal Society (1881), 31, 239–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and ‘On the viscosity of gases at high exhaustions’, Philosophical Transactions (1881), 172, 387434Google Scholar; in the same issue see Stokes, ‘Note on the reduction of Mr. Crookes's experiments on the decrement of the arc of vibration of a mica plate oscillating within a bulb containing more or less rarified gas’. The huge amount of data generated in this project, data that had to be reduced by arcane mathematical procedures, might well be considered in the way suggested by Latour and Woolgar. Their concept of inscription in the context of producing ‘order out of chaos’ would seem to be applicable here, see Latour, and Woolgar, , op. cit. (4), 245.Google Scholar

81 SML, Rough Notebook, 07 187604 1877Google Scholar; see, for example, entry for 31 July 1876. Perhaps twelve-year old Jack (John) was co-opted after Crookes received a letter from Stokes describing how to measure the swings for the log decrement (viscosity) studies. ‘I dare say, however, if you call “Now, Now” to your assistant, he could observe the time and you the arc’ (Larmor, op. cit. (34), ii, 383: 16 May 1876). Crookes probably did not have the time for this. Crookes's sons Henry and Bernard also helped out in the laboratory.

82 SML, Rough Notebook, 28 07 1876.Google Scholar

83 Larmor, , op. cit. (34), ii, 372Google Scholar: Stokes to Crookes, 18 April 1876.

84 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1091, 19 04 1876.Google Scholar

85 Larmor, , op. cit. (34)Google Scholar, includes thirty-three letters written between the beginning of April 1876 and the end of January 1877.

86 ‘I know you have tried mica, but there is a great difference… between clear and roasted mica. The effect of heating I take to be its grandest merit.’ Larmor, , op. cit. (34), ii, 375Google Scholar: Stokes to Crookes, 24 April 1876. Crookes thanked Stokes for the suggestion (CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1095, 26 04 1876Google Scholar). Gimingham roasted the mica.

87 SML, Laboratory Notebook IV, 6 06 1876.Google Scholar

88 See, for example CUL, C1096, 29 04 1876Google Scholar. Gimingham also made radiometers for a number of other people, including the Emperor of Brazil. He was probably the source of the radiometers acquired by Maxwell for the Cavendish in 1877, and mentioned by Brush, and Everitt, , op. cit. (71), 112.Google Scholar

89 A small income could be made from such demonstrations. In a letter to Professer Johnstone Stoney of Queen's University, Dublin (the precursor of University College Dublin), Crookes asked for expenses and an honorarium of £25 for a lecture demonstration (or £35 for two). D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 298.Google Scholar

90 D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 255.Google Scholar

91 One such display was held at the Royal Society soirée, 5 April 1876. But Crookes also displayed at the Royal Institution, the London Institution and other locations. At a Royal Institution lecture in 1879, Crookes had fourteen different demonstrations, all quite complex. See SML, Laboratory Notebook II, 12 February 1879. Every now and then the notebooks show lists of things to prepare for such demonstrations, and reminders to make ‘please do not touch’ labels.

92 Crookes also wtote about these to Stokes. CUL, Stokes Correspondent, C1103 and C1105, 19 05 and 23 05 1876.Google Scholar

93 SML, Rough Notebook, 30, 31 08 1876Google Scholar. The tubes were swept through with different gases to see which could be evacuated most effectively.

94 SML, Rough Notebook, 10 10 1876.Google Scholar

95 SML, Rough Notebook, 8 11 1876.Google Scholar

96 See CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1107, 17 10 1876.Google Scholar

97 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1109, 3 11 1876.Google Scholar

98 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1114, 4 01 1877.Google Scholar

99 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1115, C1117, 6 and 13 01 1877.Google Scholar

100 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1121, 12 12 1877.Google Scholar

101 Crookes was in Manchester and Glasgow during February, Brussels in April, Paris for all of July and much of August, and again in December. D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 271Google Scholar, mentions Gimingham working in a laboratory in Boy Court (the City location of the office of Chemical News) at this time. I have found no other evidence for this claim.

102 SML, Rough Notebook, 29 01 1877.Google Scholar

103 SML, Laboratory Notebook II, 21 04 1877.Google Scholar

104 SML, Letters, 7 02 1877, Manchester.Google Scholar

105 SML, Letters, 10 02 1877, Glasgow.Google Scholar

106 SML, Laboratory Notebook II, 2 05 1877.Google Scholar

107 SML, Laboratory Notebook II, 12 06 1877.Google Scholar

108 SML, Laboratory Notebook II, 7 08 1877.Google Scholar

109 SML, Letters, 6, 8 07 and 28 08 1877, ParisGoogle Scholar. It is possible that he bought a Gramme machine and gas engine at this time; see D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 296Google Scholar. The folk wisdom is that Crookes's Notting Hill house, 7 Kensington Park Gardens, was the first in England to have had electrical lighting. I do not know how far the two got with the electrification of 20 Mornington Road.

110 SML, Letters, 31 08 1877, London.Google Scholar

111 SML, Laboratory Notebook II. This is clear from several entries for October and 11 1877.Google Scholar

112 SML, Laboratory Notebook II, 22 11 1877.Google Scholar

113 SML, Letters, 6 12 1877, Paris.Google Scholar

114 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1122, 19 12 1877.Google Scholar

115 See, for example, Larmor, , op. cit. (34), ii, 406–7Google Scholar: Stokes to Crookes, 20 September 1878.

116 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1133 and C1134, 1 October and date illegible, both 1878.

117 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1135, 6 10 1878.Google Scholar

118 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1137, 28 10 1878Google Scholar. Crookes did not use the term ‘cathode’. He referred to electrodes as poles.

119 See Crookes, W., ‘On repulsion resulting from radiation – part V’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (1878), 169, 243319CrossRefGoogle Scholar; see also DeKosky, , op. cit. (1), 44.Google Scholar

120 The phenomena are well known and will not be described here. Crookes's paper, sent to the Royal Society, 30 November 1879, was entitled, ‘On the illumination of lines of molecular pressure and the trajectory of molecules', and published later in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (1880), 170, 135–64.Google Scholar

121 Larmor, , op. cit. (34), ii, 410–19Google Scholar: Stokes to Crookes, letters from October to November 1878.

122 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1140, 18 11 1878.Google Scholar

123 Larmor, , op. cit. (34), ii, 420–3Google Scholar: Stokes to Crookes, letters written in December 1878 and January 1879.

124 See Stokes's report on Crookes's March 1879 paper, Larmor, , op. cit. (34), ii, 439.Google Scholar

125 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1150, 26 04 1879Google Scholar. Maxwell had writtcn a report on Crookes's paper, ‘Contributions to molecular physics in high vacua’, submitted to the Royal Society in March 1879. He allowed the report to be passed on to Crookes, which may have prompted the letter to Stokes. See Larmor, , op. cit. (34), ii, 427.Google Scholar

126 Royal Institution, London, Laboratory Notebook, Vol. VI, for 1881. See also D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 304–5Google Scholar. Crookes's first light bulb patent was taken out in 1880.

127 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1153, 23 08 1879Google Scholar. Later, all his important speeches and papers were vetted by his friend Alice Bird, whom he relied on to correct his grammar and polish up his phrases. He had met Miss Bird around 1870 when she became interested in his spiritualist research. She and her brother remained very close friends with the Crookes family.

128 Kensington Census 1881; D'Albe, Fournier, op. cit. (5), 303.Google Scholar

129 Strutt, , op. cit. (27).Google Scholar

130 Gimingham set up the company's lamp factory at Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne. There he introduced a five-tube form of the Sprengel pump which became an industry standard for evacuating incandescent lamps. The original company was bought up by the Swan United Electrical Light Company and Gimingham then became manager of the Benwell factory. It was this company that amalgamated with the Edison Company. Gimingham moved to London in 1886 and supervised the planning of a new factory for the Edison and Swan Company at Ponders End. See Obituary, op. cit. (37).

131 It is interesting to note that the chemical notebook, 7 February 1881–7 July 1883, appears to be written almost entirely in Crookes's hand (SML Laboratory Notebook III: it deals with his work on samarskite and the citron band. Crookes worked on a large scale, making extractions from several pounds of ore). The earlier notebooks are almost entirely in Gimingham's hand. There is a chronologically overlapping notebook (Royal Institution, Vol. VI) dated 1 June 1881–15 July 1884) in which Gimingham made several entries before he left Crookes's employment: he was making incandescent light bulbs, carbonizing threads and blotting paper; blowing a variety of shapes of bulbs and figuring out how to seal filaments in them. As mentioned, Crookes had an interest in the electric light industry and held several patents, which he later sold. Gimingham was obviously a good catch for the Swan Company.

132 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1155, 29 04 1880 (the first letter from his new home, 7 Kensington Park Gardens)Google Scholar. This contains a preliminary draft and discussion of the letter sent to the Royal Society, 17 May 1880.

133 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1149, 15 03 1879.Google Scholar

134 CUL, Stokes Correspondence, C1163, 17 01 1881.Google Scholar

135 See, for example, Greenaway, Frank, ‘A Victorian scientist: the experimental researches of Sir William Crookes (1832–1919)’, Proceedings of the Royal Institution (19621963), 39, 172–98.Google Scholar

136 Some of his work can be seen in the Science Museum, London, catalogued under Crookes.

137 Moore, Tom Sidney and Philip, James Charles, The Chemical Society, 1841–1941: A Historical Revieiw, London, 1947, 66.Google Scholar

138 No doubt something similar could be said for his friendship and working relationship with William Thomson. See Smith, and Wise, , op. cit. (32), 507.Google Scholar

139 He did publish at least two papers: Gimingham, C. H., ‘Contribution to the development of the Sprengel air pump’, Society of Chemical Industry Journal (1884), 3, 83–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Fleming, J. A. and Gimingham, C. H., ‘On some instruments for the measurement of electro-motive force and electrical power’, Philosophical Magazine (24 11 1887), 522–38Google Scholar. John Ambrose Fleming (1849–1945) was a professer in Nottingham who later joined the Edison Electric Light Company. In 1885 he became professor of electrical technology at University College London.

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