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Document number: 02632
Date: 09 Mar 1833
Recipient: HERSCHEL John Frederick William
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: Royal Society, London
Collection number: HS 17:269
Last updated: 8th March 2012

31 Sackville St <1>
9th March 1833

Dear Sir

I shall be most happy to send you, during your residence at the Cape, not only whatever little contributions I may have the good fortune to make in the cause of science, but any other publications on these subjects which you may wish to have, & which I doubt not I could send you along with the Government dispatches, without risk of loss – I almost envy you your intended residence in South Africa, which possesses I am told serene skies & a wholesome climate – It is moreover a most favoured country with respect to its vegetable productions, and botany is a science to which I am particularly attracted and have paid much attention during my travels through many parts of Europe –

I almost think of troubling you with a request that through your means I may be enabled to employ some gardener or labouring man of intelligence in collecting seeds and roots in different parts of the Colony which I may afterwards hope to see flourishing in my greenhouse in Wiltshire – For though a great part (say one half) of the Cape plants have been introduced to England at various times yet many of them are so impatient of culture that not one fourth or one fifth are to be met with in our gardens at any given time.

Your opinion of the cause of the pulsations of the heart, &c. <2> struck me, when I first read it in one of your publications, as having great probability. What you mention of the intermittence of muscular action is a new one. Mr Wheatstone last night shewed us some more ingenious experiments, <3> among other things that the flame of hydrogen is continuous, but if you put a glass tube over it, it becomes rapidly intermittent, which causes, he says, the musical sound which is heard under those circumstances. I have not had leisure to look at the scientific publications of the last 6 months, I am therefore ignorant of the conical refraction of which you speak, & should be glad to know where it is described. <4>

I believe Brewster has not yet published his curious discovery <5> of last year, & I am waiting for him to do so, having myself discovered a very singular & beautiful property of a certain absorbing medium, which however I should not have met with, had I not been aware of his researches. I imagine that the image of a revolving [illegible deletion] body may be reduced to rest by the means you mention, <6> counteracting its action by that of a mirror; but I have not tried it that way, and I think that only one point in the centre would possess absolute rest, in which case the expt would lead to no result.

Believe me, Dear Sir, I am vy truly
H. F. Talbot

London. March nine. H.F. Talbot
Sir J. Herschel


1. 31 Sackville Street, London residence of the Feildings, often used as a London base by WHFT.

2. See Doc. No: 02628.

3. In 1833, Sir Charles Wheatstone (1802–1875), scientist gave a series of lectures at the Royal Institution, London. Friday the 8th of March, WHFT recorded in his memoranda book, ‘“Wheatstone on Light” at Royal Institution’. [See WHFT memoranda notebook in the Fox Talbot Collection, the British Library].

4. Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1805–1865), Irish mathematician, in the third supplement to Theory of Systems of Rays (1832), suggested the presence of conical refraction. Two months later, Humphrey Lloyd, Professor of Physics at Trinity College, Dublin, verified the theory by experiment.

5. Sir David Brewster (1781–1868), Scottish scientist & journalist, on increasing the number of bands in the Solar Spectrum. [See Doc. No: 02670].

6. See Doc. No: 02628.