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Collection Overview

Gillispie, Charles Coulston (1918-2015)
Charles Coulston Gillispie Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1779-1990 (mostly 1782-1826)
8 boxes
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1-8


Consists of the working papers used by Charles Coulston Gillispie while researching his book The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation, 1783-1784 (1983).

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of the working papers--a collection of photographs and photocopies of original documents primarily in the Musée de L'Air (Paris), the Montgolfier family archives, and the Archives de l'Ardèche (Privas)--used by Gillispie while researching his book The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation, 1783-1784 (1983). The book deals with the invention of the balloon as a means of flight and the subsequent inventions and technological developments in combustion and steam engines, locomotives and railroads, bridge-building, and the start of aviation.

Included are copies of correspondence (ca. 1779-1798) of the Montgolfier brothers, Jacques-Etienne and Joseph-Michel, concerning their balloon flights and other inventions, as well as documents about the family's papermaking business. Also present are copies of documents and correspondence relating to the 19th-century engineering firm of Freres Sequin, who furthered industrial development in France. (The Montgolfier and Sequin families are related by marriage.) There are copies of works by Marc Sequin (1786-1875) on bridge-building and engines, and a biography, Marc Sequin, by P. E. Marchal.

In addition, there are miscellaneous notes and correspondence of Gillispie on the history of aviation, printed matter, and a few photographs of a Montgolfier descendant riding in a hot air balloon on her wedding day in 1979.


Series: Sequin, I-II; Montgolfier, I-IV.

Collection Creator Biography:


Charles Coulston Gillispie (1918-2015) was an American historian of science and the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History of Science, Emeritus, at Princeton University, where he taught from 1947 until transferring to emeritus status in 1987. The son of Raymond Livingston Gillispie and Virginia Coulston, Gillispie grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1940 with a major in chemistry, where he also completed a thesis in British history. After a year of graduate work in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Gillispie left to pursue graduate study in history at Harvard University in 1941. His studies were interrupted the following year when he was drafted into the United States Army and enlisted as a private on July 29th, 1942. Serving in the 94th Chemical Mortar Battalion, Gillispie's company was involved in the invasion of southern Germany during the final weeks of World War II in Europe. His unit afterward returned to the United States to prepare for anticipated future battles in the Pacific, though they never redeployed following the atomic bombing and subsequent surrender of Japan. Gillispie resumed his studies at Harvard in 1946 and completed his PhD in 1949, going on to become an expert in scientific technological activity in 18th century France and to establish the Program in History of Science at Princeton in the 1960s.

Collection History


Gift of the author.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

The contents list was compiled by Jerome Jackson in July 2010.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying is not permitted. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Charles Coulston Gillispie Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1-8