Guide to the Papers of Silas W. Holman
MC.0046

Summary Information

Repository
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute Archives and Special Collections
Creator
Holman, Silas W. (Silas Whitcomb), 1856-1900
Title
Silas W. Holman papers
ID
MC.0046
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1885-1900
Date [inclusive]
1875-1910
Extent
4.3 cubic feet (4 record cartons, 1 legal manuscript box)
Location
Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.
Language
English
Abstract
Silas Whitcomb Holman was a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) physics faculty from 1876 until his death in 1900. This collection documents his faculty years at MIT, but includes family material as well. The bulk of the collection dates from 1885 to 1910 and provides detailed information about the laboratory and classroom methods used to teach physics in the early years of MIT’s existence. The earliest documents are diaries, notes, and drafts of papers from the years 1873-1876, when Holman was an undergraduate studying physics at MIT.

Citation

Silas W. Holman Papers, MC 46, box X. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute Archives and Special Collections, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Biography

Silas Whitcomb Holman (1856-1900) was an 1876 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), earning the degree of SB in physics. Upon his graduation he was appointed an assistant in the Department of Physics. He stayed at MIT throughout his life, moving up the ranks to instructor (1880), assistant professor (1882), associate professor (1885), professor (1893), and professor emeritus(1897).

Holman attended Cambridge public schools and, after three years of high school, enrolled at MIT in the fall of 1872. In 1873 he enrolled in the newly established course in physics, was commissioned as an officer in the Institute battalion, and elected president of his class association. Holman studied under Edward C. Pickering, first director of the Rogers Laboratory of Physics and Thayer Professor of Physics.

In 1876 Holman graduated and was shortly thereafter named an assistant in physics. His thesis, “The Atomic Theory as Applied to Gases,” was published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 1877 he was able to begin teaching and doing experimental work. Professor Charles R. Cross (MIT, class of 1870) became the head of the Department of Physics and the Rogers Laboratory, with Holman as his assistant. Holman directed research in the laboratory, while Cross gave most of the lectures. In 1883 the Rogers Laboratory relocated from its cramped single room in the Rogers Building to a much more expansive space in what was called the “New Building” (later renamed “Walker”). Holman played a major role in outfitting the physics department’s new space—he was responsible for special laboratories dedicated to electrical measurements and high-temperature heat measurements.

Holman was married twice, first to Marie O. Glover (MIT, class of 1881) in July 1884. She died less than a year later, and in 1886 Holman married Lydia M. Newman. Their daughter Anna was born in 1892. Towards the end of his life Holman was blind and unable to move under his own power, but he was able to continue writing and directing research thanks to the efforts of his wife, who conducted literature searches, took dictation, and assisted him with his work. Holman died on April 1, 1900.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection consists mainly of records documenting Silas W. Holman’s professional life at MIT. The earliest documents are diaries, notes, and drafts of papers from the years 1873-1876, when Holman was an undergraduate studying physics. The bulk of the collection dates from 1885 to 1910. Series 3 is the highlight of the collection, providing detailed information about the laboratory and classroom methods used to teach physics in the early years of MIT’s existence. The photographs in Series 6 also document the Rogers Laboratory, showing the space and equipment that Holman used while he taught.

During his most active years, Holman produced a diverse array of documents. As a young instructor and assistant to the head of the Department of Physics, Holman conducted and directed research, prepared papers for publication, gave lectures, and corresponded with his colleagues. All of these activities are well represented in Series 1 through 5.

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Arrangement note

The collection is organized into six series: Series 1. Correspondence; Series 2. Research Notes; Series 3. Teaching Materials; Series 4. Writings; Series 5. Published Materials; and Series 6. Family Correspondence and Memorabilia.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute Archives and Special Collections 2006

MIT Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02139-4307
617.253.5690
mithistory@mit.edu

Revision Description

 Revised 2011 2011

Access note

The collection is open for research.

Intellectual Property Rights

Access to collections in the Institute Archives and Special Collections is not authorization to publish. Separate written application for permission to publish must be made to the Institute Archives. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor or creator of the collection.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Holman, Silas W. (Silas Whitcomb), 1856-1900

Subject(s)

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology--Faculty.

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Bibliography

Tenney L. Davis (MIT 1913) and H. M. Goodwin (MIT 1890). A History of the Departments of Chemistry and Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1865-1933 (Cambridge, Mass.: The Technology Press, 1933)

John R. Freeman, “Silas W. Holman.” Reprinted from Technology Review, vol. 3, no. 1 (Boston: George H. Ellis, 1901), 6-9.

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Collection Inventory

 Series 1. Correspondence 

Scope and Contents note

Series 1 is composed of Silas Holman’s correspondence. Although most is work related, some personal and family letters are included in the correspondence folders. Holman kept letterpress books with copies of his own letters in addition to the originals of letters he received. The bulk of this material falls between the years 1885 and 1895.

Box

Correspondence 1876, 1880-1884 

1

Alumni Fund 1879-1880 

1

Correspondence 1885-1886,1888-1890 

1

Catalogs and Advertisements 1885-1895 

1

History of MIT 1885-1898 

1

Letterpress book 1887 September 30 to 1889 August 21 

1

Letterpress book 1888 December 6 to1889 June 10 

1

Letterpress book 1889 September 27 to 1893 June 8 

1

Correspondence 1891-1897 

1

Pure Metals 1895 

1

Correspondence 1898 January to October 

1

Correspondence 1898 November to December 

1

Correspondence 1899-1902 

1

Opinion about a General Course at the Institute 1900 February 19 

1

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 Series 2. Research Notes 

Scope and Contents note

Series 2 contains notes for Holman’s laboratory experiments. These are concentrated early in his career, when his health permitted his own research. When his health began to fail he first directed the research of others, rather than continuing to conduct the experiments himself. Some of this research, done under his supervision, is represented in this collection.

Box

Miscellaneous 1876-1882 

1

Thermometer Comparisons 1879 January to February 

1

Errors of Cathetameter Scale. Comparison With Standard Metre by Prof. W. A. Rogers 1879 February 

1

Measurement of Temperature circa 1880 to 1881 

1

On the Use of the Mercury Thermometer at High Temperatures, Part 3 circa 1880 to 1881 

1

On the Friction of Leather Belts on Iron Pulleys circa 1882 

1

Special Notes on Lab Work, Colton File #1 circa 1885 to 1888 

1

Special Notes on Lab Work, Colton File #2 circa 1884 to 1888 

1

Special Notes on Lab Work, Colton File #2 circa 1884 to 1887 

1

Special Notes on Lab Work, Colton File #2 circa 1880s 

1

Special Notes on Lab Work, Colton File #2 circa 1888 to 1889 

1

Original Binders for Colton Files circa 1884 to 1889 

2

Melting and Boiling Points. Data and References 1894-1895 

1

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 Series 3. Teaching Materials 

Scope and Contents note

Series 3 contains lecture notes, tests and sample problems, and laboratory procedures. Following the example of his own teacher, Edward Pickering, Holman created standard sets of notes and directions for experiments for the use of his students. Holman described these books as “printed, but not published”—they went through editions and were lithographed by a printer, but they remained only as tools for MIT students, not general textbooks.

Box

Examination Papers 1873-1893 

1

Laboratory Experiments circa 1881-1883 

1

Physical Laboratory Notes circa 1883 

1

Lowell Course on Heat 1884 

1

Heat Questions with Answers 1884-1892 

4

Heat Lecture Notes 1886 

1

Precision of Measurements as Given in 1886-1887 to 4th Year Electrical Engineers 1886-1887 

1

Heat Lecture Problems 1886-1889 

1

Heat Lectures. Additional References, etc. 1886-1893 

1

Heat Examination Papers 1886-1893 

1

Thermometry 0° - 100° circa 1887 

1

Thermometry 0° - 100° circa 1887 

1

Heat Lecture 1892 

1

Heat Lecture. Additional References, etc. circa 1892 

1

Discussion of the Precision of Measurements. Lecture Memos, Corrections and Suggestions 1895 

1

Laboratory Notes undated 

1

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 Series 4. Writings 

Scope and Contents note

Series 4 contains drafts of papers, manuscripts of books, unpublished writings, and Holman’s own notes on the writings and research of others.

Box

Index Rerum 1875 

2

Paper on Kinetic Theory of Gases. Other MSS. written at MIT 1875-1879 

2

Illustrations of the Dynamical Theory of Gases circa 1876 

2

Calibration Studies 1878-1881 

2

Viscosity of Gases. Computations and Notes 1878-1884 

2

Reduction Tables 1879 

2

New Suggestions 1879 

2

Air Thermometer circa 1879 

2

Electricity 1881 

2

Friction of Leather Belts 1881-1882 

2

E.M.F. and Resistance of Battery. Special Directions. Old Papyrographed List of Methods circa 1884 

2

American Association Paper on Thermometry 1885 

2

Viscosity of Gases. Notes 1885 

2

On the Effect of Temperature on the Viscosity of Air 1885 

2

On the Effect of Temperature on the Viscosity of Gases 1885 

2

Heat Notes 1886 

2

Precision of Measurements 1888 February 

2

Energy, Work, and Force circa 1890s 

2

Force 1891-1892 

2

Telephone circa 1893 

2

Energy. Force 1894 

2

Draft of First Portion of Electrical Measuring Instruments 1894-1897 

2

Cooling Correction Notes 1894-1895 

2

Thermo-Electrics of Pt-Ir Alloy. Barus Data and Computation 1894 

2

Thermo-Electrics of Pt-Rh Alloys. H.[?]W. Data and Computation 1894 

2

Thermometry and Pyrometry. Miscellaneous References 1894 

2

Telephone 1894-1895 

2

Thermo-Electrics. General Notes 1894-1895 

2

Thermo-Electrics of Chemically Pure Metals. Noll Data and Computations 1895 

2

Notes on Articles on Gases and Heat 1895 

2

Res of Pt circa 1895 

2

Slide Rule 1897 June 

2

Preface [Matter, Energy, Force and Work] 1897 

2

Microphone 1899 

2

Philosophy of Science 1899 

2

Places of Figures 1900 January 

2

Notes on Articles on Gases and Heat 

2

Mercurial Thermometer 

2

Thompson Reflecting Galvanometer. Special Additional Notes 

2

Life and Mind as Related to Energy 

2

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 Series 5. Published Materials 

Scope and Contents note

Series 5 is composed only of published materials, such as copies of Holman’s books and reprints of his contributions to scientific journals. It also includes scientific published matter written by others and collected by Holman.

Box

Papers on Physics 1876-1896 

3

Simple Method for Calibrating Thermometers 1882 March 8 

3

The Manual Element in Education, by John D. Runkle 1882 

3

The Effect of Temperature on the Viscosity of Gases 1885 May 13 

3

On the Friction of Leather Belts on Iron Pulleys 1885 September 

3

Physical Laboratory Notes 1885 

3

Physical Laboratory Notes 1885 

3

Physical Laboratory Notes, Editions 1 to 4 1885 

3

Heat:Lecture Notes Prepared for the Use of Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1886 

3

Lecture Notes 1886, 1888-1891 

3

Physical Laboratory Notes, Editions 5 to 8 1892 

3

Discussion of the Precision of Measurements 1892 

3

Revue Scientifique 1892-1895 

3

Fundamental Standards of Length and Mass 1893 

3

Calorimetry: Methods of Cooling Correction 1895 November 13 

3

Thermo-Electric Interpolation Formulæ 1895 November 13 

3

Melting Points of Aluminum, Silver, Gold, Copper, and Platinum 1895 November 13 

3

Pyrometry: Calibration of the Le Chatelier Thermo-Electric Pyrometer 1895 November 13 

3

Galvanometer Design: Waste Space Near The Needle 1895 December 

3

Nouvelles Déterminations des Mètres Étalons [J.-René Benoît and Ch.-Ed. Guillaume] 1895 

4

Thermo-Electric Interpolation Formulæ 1896 June 

3

Melting Points of Aluminum, Silver, Gold, Copper, and Platinum 1896 July 

3

Computation Rules and Logarithms 1896 

3

General Principles of the Method of Least Squares, with Applications [Dana P. Bartlett, S.B.] 1896 

3

The Telescope-Mirror-Scale Method; Adjustments and Tests 1898 May 

4

Johns Hopkins University circulars 1898 June 

4

Matter, Energy, Force and Work 1898 

4

The Function of the Laboratory Technology Review 1899 January 

4

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 Series 6. Family Correspondence and Memorabilia 

Scope and Contents note

Series 6 contains family correspondence and memorabilia including material relating to his wife, Lydia Newman Holman, and his daughter, Anna E. Holman. The material created by Silas Holman takes the form of diaries and drawings from his adolescent and college years (MIT class of 1876). Of interest is a folder of material created after a visit to Mt. Wachusetts in Massachusetts in 1876 during which he made calculations regarding the altitude and a drawing (the Ideal View) of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. A letter about the drawing from MIT colleague and fellow outdoor enthusiast William Pickering is included. Holman’s involvement in the outdoors later with his family is reflected in the plans for their summer home (1890), and in a set of canoe catalogs. The bulk of material in this series dates after Silas Holman’s death in 1900. Lydia Holman’s continuing relationship with MIT after her husband’s death is documented by invitations and programs for dinners, reunions, and Alumni Association events. The correspondence between his daughter Anna E. Holman and her friends when she was a young girl covers the period 1901-1910.

Box

Calculations sheets, drawing "Ideal View of White Mountains from Wachusett", letter from William Pickering 1876 

4

Diary, vacation notes, summer 1875 

5

Holy Bible belonging to Silas W. Holman 1874 

5

Diary, course notes 1873-1874 

5

Diary, trip to Azores 1877 March 

5

Photograph of Silas Holman 1876 

5

Sleeve for 1876 photograph 1876 

5

Lydia Newman, State of Maine Teaching Certificate 1877 

5

Patents 1882 May 3 

4

Assignment of Dynamo to U.S Electric Light Co. 1882-1883 

4

General Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates of Vassar College [Marie Glover, class of 1871] 1861-1883 

5

Photograph, unidentified circa 1883 

5

Duplicates and original box for photograph in Box 5/Folder 9 

5

Photographs MIT, Persons and Rooms circa 1883 

5

Copyrights 1885-1898 

5

Memoir of William Barton Rogers 1887 

5

The Residence [Bear Island, NH] 1890 

5

Special Catalogue of Mathematical Instruments, Drawing Materials, Scientific Books 1891 

5

Contracts with Publishers 1892-1989 

4

In Memoriam. Lewis Mills Norton 1893 May 10 

5

Patents 1895 

5

In Memory of Francis Amasa Walker 1897 December 

5

Clippings related to Matter, Energy, Force and Work 1898-1988 

5

Sumner Hollingsworth 1899 

5

Memorials 1900 

5

What is Truth? An Address for College Students, by Henry Pritchett 1902 

5

Programs, MIT events 1903-1905 

5

Programs for MIT events 1906-1910 

5

Invitations to MIT events 1904-1909 

5

The Tech 1906-1910 

5

Bookcase catalogs 1905-1906 

5

Catalogs 1905-1910 

5

Boat and canoe catalogs 1907-1908 

5

Invitation to the White House, Rev. and Mrs. S.M. Newman 1904 

5

Family correspondence 1907-1908 

5

Family correspondence 1907-1909 

5

Correspondence to Anna Holman 1901 

5

Correspondence to Anna Holman 1903 

5

Correspondence to Anna Holman 1904 

5

Correspondence to Anna Holman 1905 

5

Correspondence to Anna Holman 1906 

5

Correspondence to Anna Holman 1907 

5

Correspondence to Anna Holman 1908 

5

Correspondence to Anna Holman 1909 

5

Correspondence to Anna Holman 1910 

5

Milton Academy material 1908-1909 

5

Radcliffe College materials 1902-1909 

5

Radcliffe College register and catalogs 

5

Radcliffe College transcripts, Anna E. Holman 1908-1910 

5

Smith College Bulletin 1909 

5

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