Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP2827

Sent by:
Robert Stawell Ball
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
26 May 1903

Sent by Robert Stawell Ball, Observatory, Cambridge to Alfred Russel Wallace [none given] on 26 May 1903.

Record created:
30 November 2011 by Mayer, Anna


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LETTER (WCP2827.2717)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
British Library, The
Finding number:
BL Add. 46437 ff. 135-136
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the Robert Stawell Ball Literary Estate.

Physical description

Transcription information






26. May 1903

My dear Dr Wallace,

I am so sorry your lecture should have remained so long unanswered.

I have not published anything on the subject to which you refer, but I have no doubt that what your friend alluded to was a repeat of my lectures [[2]] at the Royal Institution2 in which I mentioned a few facts such as the following

1st that the great nebula in Orion3 (owing to its large extent) must receive daily about 200,000 times as much sun heat as the Earth receives in the same time[.]

2nd that it is infinitely unlikely that any appreciable portion of the sun heat can [[3]]4 escape into infinite space it is all stopped by matter [sic].

But since I have seen "radium"5 I must say my notions as to the problems concerning sun heat have become quite unsettled.

I was so glad to hear from you & to read your very interesting paper6[.]

Yours truly | Robert S Ball7 [signature]


1. Page numbered 135 in pencil in top RH corner.

2. An organisation based in London, founded in 1799 by the leading British scientists of the age, devoted to scientific education and research.

3. A diffuse nebula (now also known as Messier 42, M42, or NGC 1976) situated in the Milky Way in the constellation of Orion. It is one of the brightest nebulae and is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth, estimated to be 24 light years across, with a mass of about 2000 times that of the Sun. The nebula has revealed much about the process of how stars and planetary systems are formed from collapsing clouds of gas and dust.

4. Page numbered 136 in pencil in top RH corner.

5. The chemical element radium, in the form of radium chloride was discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898. All isotopes of radium are highly radioactive. When radium decays, ionizing radiation is a product, which can excite fluorescent chemicals and cause radioluminescence.

6. Wallace, A.R. (1903) Man's Place in the Universe: As Indicated by the New Astronomy Fortnightly Review 73: 395-411.

7. Ball, Robert Stawell (1840-1913). Irish astronomer. He was appointed Lowndean Professor of Astronomy and Geometry at the University of Cambridge in 1892, at the same time becoming director of the Cambridge Observatory.

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