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Collection Overview

Magie, William Francis, 1858-1943
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
William Francis Magie Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1875-1945 (mostly 1875-1920)
2 boxes and 0.4 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-2


Consists of miscellaneous academic records and manuscripts of William Francis Magie, distinguished Princeton physics professor and dean.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection consists of miscellaneous papers of Magie: records and report cards from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), school records from Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin, manuscripts of some of his addresses, a manuscript of the "Account of the process of making the Ph.D. at Berlin, 1885," and selected correspondence. The records from the College of New Jersey include an entrance exam schedule, Magie's letter of admission (1875), and his award certificate (1878) for the Dickinson Prize. There are six autograph (and one typewritten) addresses on various scientific topics given at conferences and club meetings. The records from Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin include a registration form, a student ID card, a receipt, a student manual (1882), three lists of classes, a record of courses taken, his Ph.D. degree (1884), and a printed copy of his dissertation (1885). The correspondence includes three letters (1882) to Magie's mother and father from Princeton, and a letter and two photographs from Frederick S. Osborne to Edward Steese, dated July 2, 1945, regarding the Magie grave tablet. In addition, there is short document about physics signed by Hermann von Helmholtz, Magie's German mentor.


Arranged by accession number.

Collection Creator Biography:

Magie, William Francis, 1858-1943

William Francis Magie graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1879 as valedictorian of his class. (His father, William Jay Magie, was valedictorian of the Princeton Class 1852.) He was a founder of the American Physical Society and was its president from 1910 to 1912. He taught physics at Princeton University for almost half a century, and was one of the group of alumni who nurtured Princeton's development from a college to a university. At the end of his senior year, on Commencement Day, one of his professors, Cyrus Fog Brackett, offered him the job to become his assistant. In 1884 Magie took a leave of absence and went to Germany, where he studied at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin under Hermann von Helmholtz and subsequently earned his Ph.D. A decade later he collaborated with two physicians in publishing the first paper in the U.S. on the possible use of X-rays in surgery. He was also the author of a highly regarded textbook on the rise and content of physical theories, Principles of Physics (1911). His greatest work, however, was in teaching and administration. After Brackett retired in 1908, Magie succeeded him as chairman of the physics department and, later, as Joseph Henry Professor of Physics. From 1912 to 1925 he served as dean of the faculty, and he continued to serve as chairman of the physics department until his retirement in 1929, when, at Commencement Day, he was awarded an honorary Sc.D.

Collection History


The collection materials were a gift of David Magie on December 30, 1954 .

Custodial History

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Dina Britain on June 29, 2006 . Finding aid written by Tenley Eakin on June 30, 2006 . Folder inventory added by James Clark '14 in 2012. Folder Inventory for additions (Box 2) added by Hilde Creager '2015 in 2012.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. 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.

Credit this material:

William Francis Magie Papers; 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:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-2