James Henry Coffin (1806-1873) was a noted author, educator, mathematician, and meteorologist. He was internationally recognized for his work on the subjects of winds and atmospheric changes. His book, Winds of the Northern Hemisphere, is considered the pioneer work in the field of meteorology. He was professor of mathematics, natural philosophy and astronomy at Lafayette College from 1846-1873. He also served as Lafayette College Vice-President (1849-1853) and Treasurer (1863-1873), and was instrumental in establishing the college’s first and only astronomical observatory.
The papers include personal, business, and scientific correspondence. With the papers are a journal which records Coffin’s daily activities from 1827 to 1860; an unpublished manuscript on the theory of the moon’s motions; various clippings; and a scrapbook. Coffin left among his papers a short autobiography taken from his diary entitled “Synopsis of Journal.” The synopsis includes his family genealogy and a daily record of his activities from August 22, 1827 to September 6, 1860. Much of the material relates to Coffin’s extensive scientific research in meteorology and astronomy in the United States and throughout the world, as well as his collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution’s Meteorological Project.
The bulk of the Coffin family correspondence is addressed to Selden J. Coffin, who succeeded his father as professor of mathematics and astronomy at Lafayette College. Materials in the collection were most probably received from Selden Coffin.