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Reference code(s): GB 0103 PEARSON

Held at: University College London


Date(s): 1840-1972

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 238 boxes, 1 outsize box, 3 volumes, 2 rolls, 1 folder

Name of creator(s): Pearson | Karl | 1857-1936 | mathematician and biologist


Administrative/Biographical history: Born in London, 27 March 1857; educated at University College School and King's College Cambridge; Third Wrangler in Mathematics Tripos, 1879; studied medieval and sixteenth-century German literature, Berlin and Heidelberg Universities, 1879-1880; read law, called to the Bar by Inner Temple, 1881; delivered lectures on mathematics, philosophy and German literature at societies and clubs devoted to adult education; deputised for the Professor of Mathematics, King's College London, 1881, and for the Professor of Mathematics at University College London, 1883; formed the Men and Women's Club, with some others, to discuss equality between the sexes; appointed to Goldsmid Chair of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics, University College London, 1884; appointed Professor of Geometry, Gresham College, 1891; collaborated with Walter Frank Raphael Weldon, Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, in biometry and evolutionary theory, 1891-1906; elected Fellow of the Royal Society, 1896; founded journal Biometrika with Weldon and Francis Galton founder of the School of Eugenics at University College London, 1901; appointed first Galton Professor of Eugenics, University College London, 1911; formed Department of Applied Statistics incorporating the Biometric Laboratory and Galton Laboratory, University College London; founded journal Annals of Eugenics, 1925; retired, 1933, died at Coldharbour, Surrey, 27 April 1936. Publications: A first study of the inheritance of vision and of the relative influence of heredity and environment on sight (London, 1909); A preliminary study of extreme alcoholism in adults with A Barrington (London, 1910); editor of The common sense of the exact sciences (Kegan Paul & Co, London, 1885); On the correlation of fertility with social value: a cooperative study with others (1913); editor of Tables of the incomplete G-function: computed by the staff of the Department of Applied Statistics, University College (London, 1922); Study of the data provided by a baby-clinic in a large manufacturing town (Cambridge, 1922); editor of Tracts for computers (London, 1919); editor of Tables for statisticians and biometricians (London, 1914); A mathematical theory of random migration (1906); A monograph on albinism in man with E Nettleship and C H Usher (1911); Charles Darwin, 1809-1882, an appreciation (London, 1923); Darwinism, medical progress and eugenics The Cavendish lecture, 1912, an address to the medical profession (1912); Enthusiasm of the market place and of the study (1885); Eugenics and public health An address to public health officers (1912); Francis Galton, 1822-1922, a centenary appreciation (London, 1922); Home conditions and eyesight: some recent misinterpretations of the problem of nurture and nature; Mathematical contributions to the theory of evolution (1904); Matter and soul (1886); Mendelism and the problem of mental defect (1914); National life from the stand-point of science An address delivered at Newcastle (A & C Black, London, 1901); Nature and nurture, the problem of the future A presidential address (1910); On a practical theory of elliptical and pseudo-elliptical arches, with special reference to the ideal masonry arch with W D Reynolds and W F Stanton (1909); On the construction of tables and on interpolation (London, 1920); On the handicapping of the first-born (1914); On the relationship of health to the psychial and physical characters in school children (Cambridge, 1923); On the skull and portraits of George Buchanan (Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh, London, 1926); Reaction! A criticism of Mr Balfour's attack on rationalism (1895); Side lights on the evolution of man (London, 1921); Social problems, their treatment, past, present, and future A lecture (1912); Studies in national deterioration (1907); Supplement to the memoir (by Ethel M Elderton) entitled: The influence of parental alcoholism on the physique and ability of the offspring A reply to the Cambridge economists (1910); editor of Tables of the incomplete beta-function (The Proprietors of Biometrika, London, 1934); The academic aspect of the science of eugenics A lecture delivered to undergraduates (1911); The chances of death and other studies in evolution (E Arnold, London, 1897); The ethic of freethought: a selection of essays and lectures (T Fisher Unwin, London, 1888); The fight against tuberculosis and the death-rate from phthisis (1911); The grammar of science (1892); The groundwork of eugenics (1909); The life, letters and labours of Francis Galton (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1914); The moral basis of socialism (W Reeves, London, 1887); The new university for London: a guide to its history and a criticism of its defects (T F Unwin, London, 1892); The positive creed of freethought: with some remarks on the relation of freethought to socialism (W Reeves, London, 1888); The problem of practical eugenics (1909); The right of the unborn child (Cambridge University Press, London, 1927); The science of man: its needs and its prospects (London, 1920); The skull and portraits of Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, and their bearing on the tragedy of Mary, Queen of Scots (1928); editor of The treasury of human inheritance (Dulau & Co, London, 1909); Tuberculosis, heredity and environment (1912); A study of the long bones of the English skeleton (London, 1919); On the sesamoids of the knee-joint (Cambridge, 1922); A second study of the influence of parental alcoholism on the physique and ability of the offspring (1910); editor of A second study of the statistics of pulmonary tuberculosis: marital infection (London, 1908); editor of A history of the theory of elasticity and of the strength of materials from Galilei to the present time (University Press, Cambridge, 1886-1893); The Trinity: a nineteenth century passion-play (E Johnson, Cambridge, 1882); A statistical study of oral temperatures in school children, with special reference to parental, environmental, and class differences with M H Williams and Julia Bell (1914); On the torsion resulting from flexure in prisms with cross-sections of uni-axial symmetry only with A W Young, M A Ethel and M Elderton (1918).


Scope and content/abstract: Papers, 1840-1972, of and relating to Karl Pearson, comprising personal and family papers, 1844-1937 (Ref: 1-45); lectures and lecture notes, 1874-1972 (Ref: 46-84); papers relating to literary and scientific work [1870]-1936 (Ref: 85-229); papers relating to the history of the Department of Applied Statistics, University College London, 1895-1936 (Ref: 230-258); papers relating to the work of the Department of Statistics and of Pearson's colleagues, 1895-1962 (Ref: 267-346); papers relating to the journal Biometrika, 1900-1954 (Ref: 347-570); papers relating to Pearson's The life, letters and labours of Francis Galton, 1840-1931 (Ref: 571-598); papers relating to Pearson's wartime research (1914-1918), 1905-1923 (Ref: 599-612); acquired papers, 1842-1923 (Ref: 613-623); general correspondence [1843-1972] (Ref: 624-933). The collection also includes papers of Walter Frank Raphael Weldon (Jodrell Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy at University College London), 1860-1935 (Ref: 259-266).


Language/scripts of material: English, and some German

System of arrangement: Arranged in 11 sub-fonds as indicated in Scope and content.

Conditions governing access: Mainly open, though parts of the correspondence sub-fonds remain closed.

Conditions governing reproduction: Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Finding aids: Published catalogue A list of the papers and correspondence of Karl Pearson (1857-1936) held in the Manuscripts Room, University College London Library compiled by M Merrington, B Blundell, S Burrough, J Golden, J Hogarth (University College London, 1983); card index of correspondence. Descriptions of the 11 sub-fonds named are also available online.


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition: The papers were presented to University College London Library between 1967 and 1980 by Karl Pearson's son and daughter, Egon Sharpe Pearson and Helga Sharpe Hacker.


Related material: University College London Special Collections also holds Pearson's correspondence with Sir Francis Galton, 1893-1911 (Ref: GALTON); papers and correspondence of Pearson's son, Egon Sharpe Pearson, Professor of Statistics at University College London (Ref: PEARSON, EGON); and the Hacker papers, 1860-1975, being materials collected for a biography of Karl Pearson by his youngest daughter Helga Sharpe Hacker (Ref: HACKER). Kings College Modern Archive Centre at Cambridge University holds letters to Henry Bradshaw, 1880-1885, (Ref: Bradshaw papers/2/72), and letters to Oscar Browning, 1877-1884, (Ref: OB); the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine holds correspondence with the Eugenics Society, 1921-1932, (Ref: SA/EUG); the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland holds correspondence with M L Tildesley, [1920-1936], (Ref: MS 294/17); the Royal Society holds some letters (see HMC MS papers of British scientists 1600-1940, 1982).


Archivist's note: Sources: British Library on-line public access catalogue 1997; Historical Manuscripts Commission, UK National Register of Archives; Who's Who 1897-1996 (A & C Black, 1996); Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 1996). Compiled by Annabel Dodds as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: Sep 2000

Biologists | Scientists | Scientific personnel
Biometrics | Biology
Mathematicians | Scientists | Scientific personnel
Research work

Personal names
Galton | Sir | Francis | 1822-1911 | Knight | eugenicist
Pearson | family
Pearson | Karl | 1857-1936 | mathematician and biologist
Weldon | Walter Frank Raphael | 1860-1906 | zoologist

Corporate names
Biometrika | journal
University College London | Department of Applied Statistics