by David B. Wilson
© Oxford University Press 2004 All rights reserved
Stokes, Sir George Gabriel, first baronet (1819-1903), physicist, was born on 13 August 1819 in Skreen, co. Sligo, the youngest of the eight children of Gabriel Stokes (1762-1834), rector of Skreen and vicar-general of Killala, and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of John Haughton, rector of Kilrea, co. Londonderry. His parents were both Irish.
Family and education
The Stokes side of the family 'inherited good brains' (Humphry, 1), in Stokes's daughter's words. Stokes's great-grandfather, Gabriel (or Gaberill), was deputy surveyor-general for Ireland in the eighteenth century and his descendants included several fellows and scholars of Trinity College, Dublin. These included Stokes's grandfather, the Revd John Stokes (1716-1782), Stokes's father, and Stokes's three brothers: John Whitley (1800-1883), who became archdeacon of Armagh; William Haughton (1802-1884), who went from Trinity College to Cambridge University, placing as sixteenth wrangler in the mathematical tripos of 1828 and becoming rector of Denver in Norfolk; and Henry George (b. 1804), who became rector of Ardcolm, co. Wexford. Nearly two decades younger than William, Stokes followed his brother to Cambridge but, though deeply religious, did not take holy orders.
Stokes's mother was described as beautiful and stern. His father, a man of taciturn demeanour and evangelical religion, appears to have passed these traits on to his youngest son. While Stokes was apparently close to his brother William when he was young his closest lifelong relationship was evidently with his sister Elizabeth Mary (1811-1904), who was delegated to care for her youngest brother during his childhood.
Stokes's early education was in Skreen and Dublin. He learned reading from his mother, Latin from his father, and mathematics from the parish clerk. He was evidently slow (at first) with words but quick with numbers, reportedly improving on the methods in his arithmetic textbook and solving geometrical problems before reading Euclid. From 1832 to 1835 he attended the Revd R. H. Wall's school in Dublin, where his ability impressed the mathematical master. Stokes's brother, William, influenced the next two stages of his education. After Dublin, Stokes spent two years at Bristol College (1835-7), of which the principal was Joseph Henry Jerrard, who had been at Trinity College, Dublin, and at Cambridge with William. The Bristol curriculum included Greek, Latin, and English literature, but emphasized mathematics, which was organized along the lines of the Cambridge curriculum. In addition to pure mathematics Bristol students studied Newton's Principia, hydrostatics, optics, and physical astronomy--subjects prominent in Cambridge's mathematical tripos. Stokes studied mathematics at Bristol under Francis Newman, brother of Cardinal Newman.
Stokes matriculated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1837. He found early Victorian Cambridge eminently hospitable in both religion and science. It was a centre of Anglican evangelicalism, with its earnestness of religious purpose and close attention to scripture. Moreover, he was required to read two of William Paley's works, Evidences of Christianity and Moral Philosophy, and was surrounded by the influence of another, Natural Theology. Stokes regularly attended church services, even taking notes on the sermons. Though he was to reject particular doctrines prevalent in this environment he maintained a conservative Anglicanism the rest of his life.
Stokes read for the mathematical tripos with William Hopkins, seventh wrangler in 1827, who had become the leading coach of his day. In addition to mathematics, hydrodynamics, and geometrical optics, Hopkins led his charges through Newtonian gravitational theory and the new undulatory theory of light. In 1841 Stokes graduated BA as senior wrangler and first Smith's prizeman. Pembroke promptly elected him a fellow, and he was based in Cambridge the rest of his life, most of the time as Lucasian professor of mathematics.
Stokes's research career divided into two parts. For a decade or so after taking his degree he published paper after paper reflecting intense and original research, mainly in those areas of physics that had dominated his studies at Bristol and Cambridge. Hopkins steered Stokes towards his first research topic, hydrodynamics, and Stokes's results soon perturbed Cambridge's Plumian professor, James Challis. Over the next decade Challis repeatedly disagreed with Stokes's conclusions, and they pursued their differences in correspondence and publications. Stokes generally prevailed. In fact his research during this period established his reputation, earning him fellowship in the Royal Society of London in 1851 and making him a leading member of Britain's scientific community in subsequent decades. Entwined with his role as a public scientist, Stokes's second period of research began in the mid-1850s and, though less far reaching than the first, was still of considerable importance.
In a series of papers from 1842 to 1850 Stokes developed the science of the motion of fluids 'into an ordered mathematical and experimental theory' (DNB). For one thing he defined what was later called irrotational fluid flow. This involved understanding the physical significance of a particular differential equation. Most important, though, was Stokes's investigation of the internal friction (or viscosity) in fluids. Interested in the problem from the beginning of his research he showed in 1845, for example, that the equations of motion for a viscous fluid were the same as those for elastic solids and the luminiferous ether (which transmitted light waves). He displayed his mastery of existing research in a 'Report on recent researches in hydrodynamics' to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1846 (Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1846, 1-20). The following year he published a paper on water waves for which the height of the wave was a significant portion of its wavelength. In 1850 he applied his findings on internal fluid friction to the problem of a pendulum moving through air. In addition to showing how to correct pendulum readings for the friction of air Stokes showed how to determine the terminal velocity of an object falling through a viscous medium, the medium's friction becoming large enough to offset any further acceleration due to gravity. This result, in turn, meant that very small drops of water had such a small terminal velocity that they were virtually suspended in air, thus forming clouds.
Stokes's theory of viscous fluids led directly to his concept of a jelly ether. Well established, the wave theory of light raised the question of the ether's physical characteristics and presented the possibility that any answer to that question might undermine the wave theory itself. Stokes argued that the law of continuity required any medium, from the most fluid to the most solid, to possess both fluid and solid characteristics to some degree. The ether's slight solidity thus allowed it to transmit transverse light waves, in agreement with the wave theory. Its fluidity, on the other hand, allowed planets to move through it. The ether was analogous to ordinary jelly. Moreover, because of the ether's particular physical properties, light waves from a star passing through it near the earth's surface would be influenced in exactly the way necessary to account for stellar aberration--an astronomical phenomenon that was easily explained by the older particle theory of light. Though Augustin Fresnel's earlier version of the wave theory had explained the same observations that Stokes's did, the physical plausibility of Stokes's theory of a jelly ether won it wide support during the next few decades.
In the late 1840s Stokes turned to specific optical questions. Using the basic principles of the wave theory of light, he investigated such phenomena as Newton's rings (1848), Talbot's bands (1848), Haidinger's brushes (1850), and the colours of thick plates (1851). His main contribution in this area was 'On the dynamical theory of diffraction' (Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 9, 1849, 1-62). His dynamical theory employed the concept of an incompressible jelly-like ether which transmitted transverse waves. His experimental-mathematical investigation scrutinized the mathematical intricacies of the mid-century wave theory and pronounced, for example, that the ethereal vibrations that caused light were perpendicular (not parallel) to the plane of polarization.
Stokes published two papers in 1849 that reformed the science of geodesy. He showed that one could determine the variation of the force of gravity from place to place on the earth's surface without making any assumption about the nature of the earth's interior. Previous research had assumed that the earth originally had been fluid or that it was composed of nearly spherical strata of equal density. In 1852 he published a paper on fluorescence, a term he invented. Investigating curious phenomena observed by David Brewster and John F. W. Herschel, Stokes concluded that in fluorescence the frequency of light waves was changed, a novel and unexpected conclusion embodied in the very title of his pathbreaking paper, 'On the change of refrangibility of light' (PTRS, 1852, 463-562). For this research in experimental physics Stokes won the Royal Society's Rumford medal in 1852. He later used fluorescence as a tool in chemical analysis, encouraging chemists to do likewise. Stokes also contributed to research in pure mathematics during this period. Reflecting his primary interest in the physical sciences rather than in pure mathematics these contributions were typically solutions to mathematical problems that had arisen in his physical research. 'On the critical values of the sums of periodic series' drew on Cauchy and Fourier in examining the convergence of infinite series (Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 8, 1847, 533-83). His pendulum researches led to investigations of Bessel's equation.
Stokes's principal correspondent on scientific matters at this time, and for the rest of his career, was William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin. They had met at Cambridge in the mid-1840s and Stokes had written a testimonial to help Thomson obtain the chair of natural philosophy at Glasgow University in 1846. What became known as Stokes's theorem in mathematics was contained in a letter from Thomson to Stokes in 1850, and an 1854 letter from Stokes to Thomson stimulated the latter's well-known work on submarine telegraph cables. They corresponded about fundamental physical issues, from the nature of ether and matter at mid-century to the nature of X-rays at century's end.
The experimental-mathematical dynamical physics of Stokes and Thomson (and of their younger colleague, James Clerk Maxwell) expressed a specific view of physical science. Unobservable physical entities obeyed the same dynamical principles as ordinary matter, and physicists could construct accurate theories of them, but only with difficulty. Success required correlating mathematical theory with precise experimental results. One could use analogies or models to try to understand nature's hidden realm, but one should avoid unnecessary assumptions, ones not supported by or required by current theory. Hence it was proper for Stokes to avoid assumptions about either the earth's interior or the ether's ultimate constitution, that is, about whether it was continuous or particulate. Whichever the ether was, Stokes did know that it was a dynamical medium analogous to jelly. Moreover, this British approach to physics of which Stokes was so much a part effected, mainly in the hands of Thomson and Maxwell, the chief transformations of physical theory that occurred in the nineteenth century.
Marriage and family
Stokes married, on 4 July 1857, Mary Susanna (1823/4-1899), daughter of the Irish astronomer (John) Thomas Romney Robinson (1793-1882) and his first wife, Eliza Isabelle Rambaut (d. 1839), of Huguenot descent. They met at a meeting of the British Association. Their subsequent courtship was not without anxiety. Feeling the importance of full openness between them, Stokes wrote Mary in mid-January 1857 a 55 page letter which evidently discussed what he regarded as his emotional limitations. She was alarmed by his expression of 'coldness', and the wedding seemed threatened. Stokes regarded his emotional faults as the corollary of his lonely life of intense intellectual effort, a life that insufficiently 'exercised' his emotions. He contrasted his situation with Mary's warm familial surroundings. The theme reappeared in their correspondence to within weeks of their wedding, Stokes writing to Mary at 1 a.m. on a Sunday morning that 'it is right that you should even now draw back, nor heed though I should go to the grave a thinking machine unenlivened and unwarmed by the happiness of domestic affection' (Larmor, 1.71).
Yet wedded they were, and their daughter declared it a singularly happy marriage. Not that they avoided pain of another kind. Three of their five children died prematurely. Two daughters, Susanna Elizabeth and Dora Susanna, died in infancy. One son, William George Gabriel, graduated from Cambridge in 1884 and became a physician, but died in 1893 at only thirty years of age. The shock of his death evidently kept his mother largely homebound for the rest of her life. The first born child, Arthur Romney (1858-1916), graduated from Cambridge and became a schoolmaster. Isabella Lucy (1861-1934) was probably the child closest to Stokes. He lived with her and her husband in Cambridge in his last years, and she was the family member who wrote an admiring biographical memoir of him after his death.
Three ideas from Stokes's early years persisted in his religious views: Paley's design argument for God's existence; William Whewell's view that the moral sense, like geometrical axioms, was innate (and not derived in a utilitarian way from experience); and the evangelical's conviction that the Bible was true. Within this constant framework, Stokes worked out positions on particular Christian doctrines and scientific theories. He adopted the idea of conditional immortality as the answer to the doctrine of eternal punishment, a doctrine that had plagued him since childhood. He thought that his mathematical bent probably rendered the notion of eternal punishment more horrific to him than to other children. Stokes began his mature deliberations on the subject in his early thirties, probably in response to the writings of the Congregational minister Edward White, with whom he later corresponded at length. Their position was that the Bible itself declared not the doctrine of eternal torment with its (Platonic) idea of necessary immortality but, instead, the doctrine of conditional immortality. Those not meeting the conditions of right belief were annihilated at death--a severe enough judgment but one more divinely just than that of eternal damnation. Stokes published Conditional Immortality: a Help to Sceptics in 1897.
In regard to scientific matters the Bible was true in some sense but not in a slavishly literal sense. The days of Genesis did not have to be 24 hours, for example. Moreover, the appearance of light and the sun on the first and fourth days, respectively, agreed well enough with Laplace's nebular hypothesis of the evolution of the solar system, and caused no conflict between the Bible and this scientific theory. Biological evolution was something else, though, especially when it pronounced on the origin of man. Given the biblical truth that man was created in God's image and given the existence and significance of man's innate moral sense, more conclusive empirical evidence was required for accepting Darwin than for agreeing with Laplace. In fact, rightly understood, scientific evidence agreed with the Bible, not Darwin. The inconceivability of a naturalistic origin of life and the observability of discontinuities in the fossil record combined to support Genesis and Paley. Over the immense period of geological time God had repeatedly intervened to create and design life itself and the various species of plants and animals, including man.
'Man's mental powers, as well as his bodily frame, were designed to be what they are', Stokes concluded (Natural Theology, 2 vols., 1891, 1893, 1.231). Proper use of human reason, as in science, should therefore not lead man astray. Biology, however, seemed to accept a lower standard of evidence than did the more advanced science of physics, Stokes thought. Biologists thus too hastily embraced the extreme continuity of evolutionary theory, thereby promoting materialism. Moreover, with its theories of non-material forces like gravity and a (not very material) mysterious ether, physics sided, by analogy, with religion against materialistic biology. Stokes's physics had become less dynamical than at mid-century and was therefore especially conducive to religion.
Stokes's prominence in the scientific community made him the best-known conservatively religious scientist of the late Victorian age. As such he long served as president of the Victoria Institute and frequently spoke at annual meetings of church congresses. He was selected in the 1880s as the first Burnett lecturer in Aberdeen and in the 1890s to be a Gifford lecturer in Edinburgh, resulting, respectively, in his books On Light (2nd edn, 1892) and Natural Theology (2 vols., 1891, 1893).
Lucasian professor at Cambridge
Stokes was Lucasian professor at Cambridge from 1849 to his death in 1903. His predecessor had not lectured, but Stokes did, with great success. To supplement his Cambridge income, he also held a lectureship in physics at the Government School of Mines in London from 1854 to 1860. Unlike his Cambridge lectures Stokes's London lectures demanded little mathematics but did include the subjects of heat, electricity, and magnetism. He lectured on recent research by the experimental physicists Michael Faraday and James Prescott Joule, including the magnetic rotation of light, lines of magnetic force, the magnetic field, and the dynamical theory of heat. He was an early supporter of the theory of the conservation of energy.
In Cambridge, Stokes lectured for more than a half century on subjects he had studied as an undergraduate: hydrostatics, hydrodynamics, and optics. Challis had been lecturing on optics, but he and Stokes agreed that Stokes would take it over, freeing Challis to concentrate on astronomy. Though for several years Stokes's lectures were important to students preparing for the mathematical tripos, the significance of his course was eventually reduced by reforms in Cambridge physics education. Stokes had supported the reforms, both as a member of the board of mathematical studies, which oversaw the content of the mathematical tripos, and as a member of the ad hoc physical sciences syndicate, which recommended the new Cavendish professorship, first held by Maxwell. Stokes's lectures combined experimental precision and mathematical rigour. Using only modest experimental apparatus he earned admiration for clear lectures and successful experiments. Until the mid-1870s his course attracted some twenty students per year, including about 80 per cent of the top ten wranglers each year. Hence, though coaches remained students' principal trainers for the tripos, the strongest students tended also to attend Stokes's lectures. The leaders of mid- to late Victorian physics, including the mainstays of Cambridge's new Cavendish Laboratory, were Stokes's students in overwhelming proportions.
Foundation of the Cavendish in the early 1870s, however, initiated the reforms that undermined Stokes's course. The reforms increased the number of lecturers in physics at Cambridge and introduced mathematical treatments of heat, electricity, and magnetism into the mathematical tripos. Stokes declined to apply for the Cavendish professorship, feeling 'too old to take up a completely new set of subjects' (Wilson, Correspondence, 2.573). The experimental side of Stokes's course did make it relevant for a while to the natural sciences tripos, which began emphasizing experimental physics in the 1870s. But from the mid-1870s Stokes's enrolments dropped, and he attracted fewer high wranglers. By the 1890s his course, which for more than a quarter century had presented the future élite of British physics with a model for integrating experiment and mathematics, played only a small part in a large and flourishing system of physics education--a system developed and refined mostly by Stokes's own students.
With Cambridge University, the Royal Society of London provided the chief institutional context for Stokes's career. When elected fellow in 1851 he joined a society in the midst of reform to raise standards for membership. During his fellowship it became an élite, professional, scientific institution. As a secretary of the society from 1854 to 1885 Stokes helped translate reforming principles into actual changes. He was president from 1885 to 1890 and also served on the council from 1853 to 1892. On retiring from that position he was awarded the Copley medal, in 1893. Statutes enacted in 1847 charged the society's two secretaries with publication of the Philosophical Transactions, but the job fell to Stokes during his tenure. Conscientiously performing this duty Stokes corresponded with potential authors, solicited referees' reports, and refereed papers himself. The mass of his surviving correspondence with authors, referees, and fellow officers of the society is visible testimony to the magnitude of his undertaking. This was the period, for example, when the refereeing process became the norm.
Duties at the Royal Society seemed inexorably to lead Stokes into ever more obligations. He served for many years as a scientific adviser to the Indian geodetic survey, the Meteorological Council, and the Solar Physics Observatory--for example, regularly corresponding and frequently meeting in South Kensington with J. Norman Lockyer, head of the Solar Physics Observatory. He was one of the visitors to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich for forty-four years. While no doubt grateful for the high quality that Stokes helped maintain, fellow scientists like William Thomson and P. G. Tait deplored the situation that, as they saw it, drained their friend's creative energies into tasks that less powerful minds could have performed. Stokes nevertheless diligently persevered, and his decision shaped his role in Victorian science. Part of that role, fostered by his Royal Society secretaryship, was as correspondent and adviser to other scientists, on a scale much larger than that demanded by his official position. Much more than before, his scientific thinking came in collaboration with others, usually chemists or experimental physicists who could profit from his mathematical-theoretical expertise. Most fruitful here was his correspondence with William Crookes from the 1870s through the 1890s on Crookes's radiometer, the discharge of electricity in gases, cathode rays, and radioactivity. The chemist Arthur Smithells, realizing that his own extensive correspondence with Stokes in the 1890s on flame chemistry was only one of many such examples, summed up the collective debt owed to Stokes: 'What Stokes did for his generation can hardly be estimated' (Larmor, 1.266).
In this context, moreover, Stokes produced influential physical theories long after his better known work at mid-century. His was the theoretical mind suggesting experiments to Crookes and interpreting the latter's results. Together they established the British view of cathode rays as streams of particles, a view that led to J. J. Thomson's discovery of the electron in 1897. Linked theoretically to the particulate theory of cathode rays, Stokes's theory of X-rays (discovered by Wilhelm Röntgen in 1895) as pulses in the ether became the prevailing theory of X-rays during the first decade of the twentieth century. Experimental evidence in the years immediately after Henri Becquerel's discovery of radioactivity in 1896 suggested to Stokes that Becquerel rays were irregular ethereal vibrations caused by irregular vibrations within atoms. These rays were thus in between the pulses of X-rays and the regular waves of ordinary light. Though experimental and theoretical developments soon nullified Stokes's ideas about radioactivity, his theories of cathode rays, X-rays, and radioactivity formed a comprehensive whole that had emerged mainly within the collaborative context of his role as a public scientist.
His prominence attracted many awards and honours in addition to those already mentioned. He was president of the Cambridge Philosophical Society (1859-1861) and the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1869). He received honorary degrees from several universities and awards from numerous scientific societies. He was MP for Cambridge University from 1887 to 1891 and was created a baronet in 1889. What must have pleased him most was his election as master of Pembroke College in 1902, a position he held until he died on 1 February 1903. He was buried in Mill Road cemetery, Cambridge, on 5 February.
Though Stokes was among the handful of most original Victorian physicists he was not a revolutionary thinker. Revolutions in physical theory during his career came in thermodynamics and electromagnetic theory, areas of physics not included in his tripos studies and largely excluded from his subsequent researches. As Lucasian professor and especially as secretary to the Royal Society, Stokes became a kind of arbiter of physical theory for his fellow Victorians. He could deal equally well with the struggles of little known scientists and with the genius of his friend William Thomson. If this highly prominent position seemed at odds with his quiet disposition, it nevertheless followed logically from his conscientious performance of duty, as well as his considerable scientific expertise. If he was less successful as an arbiter of biological theory, it was, he judged, largely because biologists failed to understand proper standards of scientific evidence. If he was less original in religious thought than in scientific, it was not from less seriousness of purpose. Indeed, he willingly used his eminent position in the increasingly eminent profession of science for the higher cause of religious truth. Finally, whereas many of his peers deplored his many distractions from creative scientific research, Stokes himself more likely welcomed his trade in the 1850s of the lonely rigours of intense research for the collegiality of scientific collaboration and the 'happiness of domestic affection' (Larmor, 1.71).
DAVID B. WILSON
D. B. Wilson, Kelvin and Stokes: a comparative study in Victorian physics (1987)
D. B. Wilson, The correspondence between Sir George Gabriel Stokes and Sir William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, 2 vols. (1990)
D. B. Wilson, 'A physicist's alternative to materialism: the religious thought of George Gabriel Stokes', Victorian Studies, 28 (1984-5), 69-96
D. B. Wilson, 'Stokes and Kelvin, Cambridge and Glasgow, light and heat', Cambridge scientific minds, ed. P. M. Harman and S. Mitton (2002), 107-22
I. L. Humphry, 'Notes and recollections', Memoir and scientific correspondence of the late Sir George Gabriel Stokes, ed. J. Larmor, 2 vols. (1907)
J. Larmor, ed., Memoir and scientific correspondence of the late Sir George Gabriel Stokes, 2 vols. (1907)
W. Thomson, 'The scientific work of Sir George Stokes', in W. Thomson, Mathematical and physical papers, 6 (1911), 339-44
R. [J. W. Strutt], PRS, 75 (1905), 199-216
P. G. Tait, 'George Gabriel Stokes', Nature, 12 (1875), 201-3
H. P. Stokes, 'Reminiscences of Sir George Stokes', Cambridge Chronicle (13 Feb 1903)
Catalogue of scientific papers, Royal Society, 19 vols. (1867-1925) [incl. bibliography of Stokes's scientific papers, most of which were repr. in his Mathematical and physical papers, 5 vols., ed. J. Larmor (1880-1905)]
parish register, St Paul's, Cambridge, Cambs. AS [baptism]
birth records, Cambridge Register Office
J. Buchwald, 'Why Stokes never wrote a treatise on optics', The investigation of difficult things, ed. P. M. Harman and A. E. Shapiro (1992), 451-76
R. K. DeKosky, 'George Gabriel Stokes, Arthur Smithells and the origin of spectra in flames', Ambix, 27 (1980), 103-23
F. A. J. L. James, 'The conservation of energy, theories of absorption, and resonating molecules, 1851-1854: G. G. Stokes, A. J. Angstrom and W. Thomson', Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 38 (1983-4), 79-107
B. R. Wheaton, The tiger and the shark: empirical roots of wave-particle dualism (1983)
I. Grattan-Guinness, The development of the foundations of mathematical analysis from Euler to Rieman (1970)
J. J. Cross, 'Integral theorems in Cambridge mathematical physics, 1830-55', Wranglers and physicists: studies on Cambridge physics in the nineteenth century, ed. P. M. Harman (1985), 112-48
M. Malley, 'A heated controversy on cold light', Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 42 (1991), 173-86
private information (2004)
CUL, corresp. and papers, 7656
Pembroke Cam., corresp., pictures, medals, and scrapbooks; papers relating to refraction of light
RS, corresp. and papers | Balliol Oxf., letters to Sir John Conroy
Birr Castle, archives, corresp. with third earl of Rosse and fourth earl of Rosse
BL, corresp. with Charles Babbage, Add. MSS 37196-37199
CUL, corresp. with Sir George Airy
CUL, corresp. with Lord Kelvin
CUL, letters to James Clerk Maxwell
CUL, letters to H. P. Stokes
ICL, letters to Thomas Huxley
Inst. EE, letters to Michael Faraday
LUL, letters to Sir Francis Galton
LUL, letters to William Sharpey
NHM, letters, corresp., with Sir Richard Owen and William Clift
Pembroke College, Oxford, letters to Bartholomew Price
Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, letters to John Tyndall
RS, corresp. with Sir John Herschel
Trinity Cam., scientific corresp. with Joseph John Thomson
U. Glas. L., corresp. with Lord Kelvin
U. St Andr. L., corresp. with James David and George Forbes
pencil sketch, 1839, repro. in Larmor, ed., Memoir, vol. 1, facing p. 16
photograph, 1857, repro. in Larmor, ed., Memoir, vol. 1, frontispiece
Barraud, photograph, 1880-1889, repro. in M. B. Hall, All scientists now: the Royal Society in the nineteenth century (1984), 122; negative, RS
E. Myers, photograph, 1880-89, NPG [see illus.]
plaster bust, 1887 (after H. Wiles), U. Cam., Philosophical Library
H. von Herkomer, oils, 1891, RS
Mrs F. W. H. Myers, photograph, 1892, repro. in Larmor, ed., Mathematical and physical papers, vol. 5, frontispiece
H. Thornycroft, marble bust, 1899, Pembroke Cam.; repro. in Larmor, ed., Memoir, vol. 2, frontispiece
H. Thornycroft, marble bust, 1899, FM Cam.
L. Dickinson, oils, Pembroke Cam.
C. H. Jeans, stipple (after photograph), BM
Russell & Sons, photograph, NPG
G. W. de Saulles, gold medallion, FM Cam.; bronze version, NPG
H. Thornycroft, memorial medallion bust, Westminster Abbey
T. C. Wageman, watercolour drawing, Trinity Cam.
bronze medal, Pembroke Cam.
engraving, repro. in Nature, 200
medallion bust, Pembroke Cam.
watercolour (shows a young Stokes in academic dress), Pembroke Cam.
Wealth at death
£8166 9s. 6d.: probate, 16 March 1903, CGPLA Eng. & Wales
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