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Tait : mathematical papers

 Management Group
Reference Code: GBR/0273/TAIT

Scope and Contents

The papers in TAIT 1 and 2 display a variety of hands, but they are almost certainly all Tait's as witness his correspondence and other attested MSS and the not infrequent mingling of hands in the same document.
In both TAIT 1 and 2 most sheets (but often not those with 'Examples' or 'Ensamples') read 'Tait', often with a cardinal number, 1 to 5, suggesting that these were exercises submitted to his tutor/s. Associated sheets are sometimes in reverse order.
The Ward Library also holds the deplored (see PET 769.A.27) Oxford first edition of Thomson and Tait, 'Treatise of Natural Philosophy' (1867) (Pet.769.A.26), Volume I parts I and II of Cambridge edition (1879-83) (Pet.769.A.24-25) with occasional annotations and inserted sheets of notes, and a further copyt of Volume I, Part I (Pet.564.B.10) annotated on p. 171 as referred to on an envelope loose in Pet.769.A.24.


  • 1850 - 1890

Biographical / Historical

Peter Guthrie Tait was born on 28 April 1831 at Dalkeith, near Edinburgh and was educated first at Dalkeith grammar school and, after the death of his father, when his mother moved to Edinburgh, at Circus Place School, for a year, and then, for 1841, at the Edinburgh Academy where he competed against, and made life-long friends with James Clerk Maxwell and Lewis Campbell. Tait attended one session (1847-48) at Edinburgh University before being admitted at Peterhouse in 1848. He studied under the celebrated coach, William Hopkins, and under Frederick Fuller, both also at Peterhouse, and was Senior Wrangler and first Smith's prizeman in 1852 in which year he was elected a Fellow of the college. In the two and a half years during which he held his fellowship he collaborated with William John Steele on 'A treatise on the dynamics of a particle', which, owing to Steele's early death, was largely the work of Tait. From 1854 to 1860 Tait was Professor of Mathematics at Queen's College Belfast, and it was there that he married Margaret Archer Porter, sister of of William Archer Porter and of James Porter, later Master of Peterhouse (1876-1901). In 1860 Tait was elected Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh, over the heads of James Clerk Maxwell, Edward John Routh and Frederick Fuller. His publications and honours were very numerous. He died on 4 July 1901. For a full account see Crosbie Smith, ‘Tait, Peter Guthrie (1831-1901)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2007 [, accessed 8 June 2015] See also The Sex', no. 17, Michaelmas Term 1902, pp. 6-9.


0.07 linear metre(s) (7 cms) : Paper

Language of Materials


Former / Other Reference

MS 972; Pet.F.769.A1-2

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Perhaps presented by Mrs Tait in 1902 along with the MS of Tait and Steele (see STEELE], see The Sex', no. 17, Michaelmas Term 1902, p. 7. On the other hand, fragments of the agenda for a meeting of the Senatus Academicus of St Andrews on 5 December 1908 used as bookmarks may suggest a later date of acquisition.


Tait, Peter Guthrie (1831-1901), F.R.S.E., D.Sc., Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh, 1860-1901.; Steele, William John

2015-06-08 15:44:55+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Peterhouse (Ward) Library Repository

Ward Library
Trumpington Street
Cambridge CB2 1RD United Kingdom
+441223 338218