Skip to main content

Collection of Correspondence of Hugh Newall, Jan Hubrecht and others, concerning Astronomy.

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9709


  • 1913-1916

Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

Hugh Frank Newall (1857-1944) was Professor of Astrophysics at Cambridge University from 1909 to 1928. He was the son of Robert Stirling Newall FRS and his wife Mary, daughter of Hugh Lee Pattinson, FRS.

Newall took the Mathematics and Natural Sciences Tripos from Trinity College, Cambridge, and was elected Fellow in 1909. His father was an astronomer, and the Newall Telescope, a 25-inch refractor, built at Gateshead, was in its time the largest in existence. As things turned out, the telescope would dominate the son's life. Newall took up school mastering at Wellington after graduating. He returned to Cambridge when J.J. Thomson, the Nobel prizewinning physicist, asked him to be his assistant. After a period as demonstrator in experimental physics at the Cavendish Laboratory he turned to astronomy. This came about because in 1889 the university was offered Newall senior's telescope, but claimed to lack the funds to receive it and use it. Newall (junior) thereupon paid the removal expenses and then served as observer, and, from 1909 to 1928, as first holder of the chair of astrophysics, without a stipend. The telescope was installed beside the 1810 telescope at the Observatory on Madingley Road, and Newall built a home at Madingley Rise which became for half a century a resort of visiting astronomers.

He served as President of the Royal Astronomical Society for a customary two-year term, 1907–1909.

In 1913 he became the first director of the Solar Physics Observatory. Though elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in June 1902] for work on the spectrum of Capella, Newall was more a facilitator than a creative scientist. He led many eclipse expeditions. He married twice, first to Margaret (a pianist) the granddaughter of Thomas Arnold, the famed headmaster of Rugby School, and second, Dame Bertha Surtees Phillpotts, Scandinavian Scholar, formerly Mistress of Girton College, and the only woman member of the Royal Commission on Cambridge (1923-7), who is buried in Tunbridge Wells.

He is buried in the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge.

Biographical / Historical

Jan Bastiaan Hubrecht (1883-1978) was a solar physicist and spectoscopist who worked with Hugh Newall at the Observatory. He later became an ambassador, serving as Charge des Affairs to the Dutch Ambassador in Washington USA in 1922, and later in Tokyo, Japan. He had connections with the Darwin and Trevelyan families.

He was the son of Ambrosius Hubrecht, a botanist from Utrecht, Netherlands.


47 item(s)

Language of Materials


Language of description
Uncoded languages
Script of description
Code for uncoded script

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom