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The Correspondence of John Stevens Henslow

John Stevens Henslow (1796–1861) spent his adult life attached to the University of Cambridge. He graduated in mathematics in 1818, then acted as a demonstrator for the Professor of Chemistry, carried out and published papers on field geology, and was a founder of the Cambridge Philosophical Society in 1821. He held two University Chairs: Mineralogy from 1823–27, and Botany from 1825 until his death in 1861.

Henslow was closely involved in University affairs and the introduction of science into the Cambridge Tripos. He was a gifted teacher and pedagogic innovator. His best-known student was Charles Darwin, with whom he maintained a life-long friendship and correspondence. Henslow also acted as the (unofficial) agent for Lord Palmerston, one of the University’s two MPs, in the election of 1826.

In 1823 Henslow was ordained and became curate of Little St Mary’s. He was awarded the living of Cholsey in 1835, and became Rector of Hitcham, near Stowmarket in Suffolk, in 1837. Henslow moved to Hitcham, but continued giving his botany course at Cambridge in May every year until his death. During this time, he attempted to introduce science into agriculture nationally and locally, whilst also taking steps to improve the lives of agricultural labourers. Universal education was a constant concern for him, through the University of London, the Department of Science and Art, regional museums, and his parish school.

Henslow had a network of correspondents across all levels of society, nearly 300 in these surviving letters. The letters he retained until his death are mostly held in the Cambridge University Library, but others have been dispersed around the world. Letters between Henslow and Darwin were published in 1967 (by Nora Barlow) and also in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin (from 1985 onwards).

The Henslow letters have been collected and transcribed by M. E. Edmunds, K. H. Joice, A. L. Jones, D. Kohn, J. G. Murrell and J. S. Parker.

Text Online
From:
W. Brougham
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
1840
Source of text:
Cambridge University Library MS Add. 8177: 44
Summary:

Unable to visit JSH as has been ordered to Hastings for health reasons related to ‘nerves’, brought on by stresses including his mother’s death and poor physical health.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Anna Carpenter
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
1850
Source of text:
Cambridge University Library MS Add. 8177: 60
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Adam Sedgwick
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
1850
Source of text:
Cambridge University Library MS Add. 8177: 292
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
William B. Carpenter
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
7 February 1840
Source of text:
Cambridge University Library MS Add. 8177: 64
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
William B. Carpenter
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
17 March 1840
Source of text:
Cambridge University Library MS Add. 8177: 65
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
Unknown
Date:
July 15 1840
Source of text:
Duke University Library, Rubenstein Library
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
Unknown
Date:
18 July 1840
Source of text:
American Philosophical Society
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Robert Brown
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
10 August 1840
Source of text:
American Philosophical Society The Scientists Collection I 509.L56
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
Unknown
Date:
21 September 1840
Source of text:
American Philosophical Society Library Mss.B.H382
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Ettwin Lumholtz
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
17 October 1840
Source of text:
Cambridge University Library MS Add. 8176: 76
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Whewell
Date:
30 October 1840
Source of text:
Trinity College Cambridge Whewell Add.Ms.a.206: 65
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
J. H. Balfour
Date:
14 November 1840
Source of text:
Library, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh 99
Summary:

Offers thoughts on a specimen, stating they are conjectural and without seeing it he cannot be clearer.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Adoplphe-Théodore Brongniart
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
12 December 1840
Source of text:
Uppsala University Library Waller Ms fr-01377
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. E. Bowman
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
1 March 1841
Source of text:
Cambridge University Library MS Add. 8177: 119
Summary:

Apologises that JSH has not been able to see fossil spike in London, potentially a large Lycopodium, because it cannot be transported due to fragility. Provides a description and drawing of it.

Discusses fossil trees found in his local area and specimens sent to the Geological Society and Robert Brown, together with a paper Bowman has written on them. States that he has found proof of the solid and subsequently hollowed state of the trees from corresponding bands of soft shale. Provides JSH with a brief description and says full details will be given when whole paper is published. States that they give decisive proof of growth where they were found, that they have overturned the scepticism of geologists including John Phillips and Louis Agassiz, and that a miniature model is being made of them.

Discusses illustrations of the internal structure of Sigillaria by Alexandre Brongniart and his wish to see them when published. Also discusses previous drawings of Sigillaria with leaves by Brongniart and W. Conway. Passes on message from Conway for Fossil Flora to send someone to do drawings of Bristol fossil collection.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
Charles Lyell
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
10 April 1841
Source of text:
American Philosophical Society The Scientists Collection I 509.L56
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
William Clark
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
22 May 1841
Source of text:
American Philosophical Society Library Mss.B.H382
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
Adam Sedgwick
Date:
5 December 1841
Source of text:
Cambridge University Library Add.7652.IE.14
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
S. P. Woodward
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
5 November 1841
Source of text:
Cambridge University Library MS Add. 8177: 359
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
David Thomas Ansted
To:
J. S. Henslow
Date:
24 Dec 1841
Source of text:
Cambridge University Library MS Add. 8177: 1a
Summary:

Asks JSH to make contact with Joseph Jukes, ahead of his 1842 expedition to New Guinea, the Torres Straits and Australia, in order to increase his understanding of botany.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
David Thomas Ansted
Date:
3 January 1842
Source of text:
American Philosophical Society
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project