IoA Library Bulletin

No. 36 July 2008



The reading behind Neptune

When he died in 1892 Cambridge Observatory Director and Neptune co-discoverer John Couch Adams left his personal books to the University.  Adams was a great book collector and many thousands of his books entered the Cambridge University Library.  His books also entered St. John’s College Library and the Library of the Observatory.


John Couch Adams in 1886 (IoA Library PE62)


The IoA Library has identified those books (about 140 items) from the Adams bequest in its care.  These are almost exclusively held in the Rare Book Room.  The books records in Newton will now be amended to indicate their previous ownership.




Thanks to the Society for the History of Astronomy (SHA) who paid for the restoration of the IoA Library copy of David Gill’sHistory and Description of the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope’ although not a very old book (published in 1913) the original binding had come apart and the spine was badly damaged.  Money from the SHA allowed it to be sent to a bookbinder for repair.  The SHA held its AGM at the IoA in May this year.


Thanks to Dr Simon Mitton, author and former Secretary of the IoA, who has recently paid to have repaired the IoA Library copy of Mary Somerville’s  The Mechanism of the Heavens (1831).  In this book, Mary Somerville (1780-1872) provided a condensed English language version of Laplace’s Méchanique céleste (1798-1827).  It became the standard work on the subject used in Cambridge through the 19th century.  Somerville was (with Caroline Herschel) the first female honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society.  She went on to write many other scientific books.

            Our Library copy of the book was in a poor condition with both boards detached and the spine damaged.  Repairs on the book were made by the Cambridge Bookbinding Company.  Care was taken to retain as much of the original binding as possible.  The book is now returned to the Library in a condition where it can serve many more useful years of use.

This photo shows the rebound book next to the remains of its old spine.

The Stonehenge of the North?

In Yorkshire there are a series of linked prehistoric henges, that some believe represent the three belt stars of Orion.  These earthworks may date back to 3300 BC, but are now threatened by quarrying.  For more info see:

Please consider supporting the petition to protect the Thornborough henges.


The Library has a range of books on the fascinating subject of archaeoastronomy.  These can be found in section 5, located in the Annex.


ISI Web of Knowledge, the citation database for the sciences, has recently received a number of upgrades allowing for added flexibility in searching and displaying information. These include visual mapping of citation networks. It can be accessed at:


Goodbye Athens

ATHENS accounts will all expire at the end of July.  If you need to access resources such as Web of Knowledge you will now need a University Raven account.  See


‘Who’s Who’

The University now has online access to this famous reference book, published since 1849, it lists biographies of over 33,000 prominent British people.  Included is access to ‘Who Was Who’ with another 90,000 entries.

            Because the electronic edition is word searchable you can search the book in many new ways, people that went to the same school, live in the same place etc.  A very powerful resource.


Book of the Month: August

The book of the month for August is: ‘Solar physics research trends’ edited by Pingzhi Wang and with thirty contributors, published: New York : Nova Science Publishers, 2008. ISBN: 9781600219870 this book will be on display in Library Room C for the month.


The Society for the History of Astronomy (SHA) are planning to hold a conference in honour of David Dewhirst.  The one day conference, provisionally titled ‘Books and the Sky’ will be held at the IoA on Saturday 18th April 2009.  For more information contact Mark Hurn.


and finally…

Don’t forget the total eclipse of the sun on Friday 1st August 2008.  The eclipse will be partial from Cambridge, but still an interesting sight.  Details (Greenwich) are: First contact 09.33, Finishes 11.05 (local time BST) maximum obscuration (Greenwich) = 22%. Be aware of safety issues when observing the Sun.



Mark Hurn (Departmental Librarian)


Telephone: 01223 337537