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Institutional records and personal papers, relating to major figures in the history of geology, including Robert Jameson, Charles Lyell, and Archibald and James Geikie.

1. Institutional Records

The Edinburgh Geological Society was founded in 1834 to stimulate public interest in geology and to promote the advancement of geological knowledge. The records include minute books, treasurer's accounts, membership lists and applications, correspondence, and papers read at meetings.

The Wernerian Natural History Society was established in Edinburgh in 1808 in honour of Abraham Gottlob Werner (1750-1817), the first scientist to classify minerals systematically. The society’s aim was to promote the study of science in general and natural history in particular. Its founding president was Robert Jameson, Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh, who remained in post until his death in 1854. The records consist of two volumes of Minute Books (1808-1858).

2. Personal Papers

Sir Archibald Geikie (1835-1924) was Edinburgh University's first Professor of Geology, serving from 1871 to 1882. A prominent advocate of the fluvial theories of erosion, Geikie was appointed Director of the Geological Survey of Scotland in 1867 and Director General of the Geological Survey of Great Britain and Ireland in 1882. The papers include personal and scientific correspondence, field notebooks, Geikie’s own lecture notes and notes taken from his lectures by students.  See also here for further Geikie-related materials in our archive collections.

James Geikie (1839-1915) succeeded his brother Sir Archibald Geikie as Professor of Geology at Edinburgh University, serving from 1882 to 1914.  The leading British authority on Pleistocene geology, he developed the theory that the ice age was intermittently interrupted by mild inter-glacial periods. His papers include personal and scientific correspondence, his own lectures notes, and notes taken from this lectures by students.

Robert Jameson was Professor of Natural History at Edinburgh University from 1804 to 1854. A pioneering mineralogist, Jameson assembled a huge collection of samples for the University Museum, now part of the National Museum of Scotland. The notebooks contain diaries of mineralogical tours, manuscript drafts of works, and summaries of correspondence. See also Notes from Lectures on Climate, Geology and Zoology and, for Jameson's correspondence, the Pollock-Morris Collection.

Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875) is best known for popularizing James Hutton's theory of uniformitarianism in his 'Principles of Geology' (1830-1833) which argued that the earth had been gradually formed by processes still in operation today. This substantial collection includes scientific correspondence, manuscripts of lectures and papers, and offprints. 

Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (1792-1871) endowed the Chair of Geology at Edinburgh University in 1870. Known for developing the modern classification of the Palaeozoic period, he was appointed Director General of the Geological Survey of Great Britain and Ireland in 1855. The collection includes a journal, family correspondence, and personal papers. See also Papers of Sir Archibald Geikie (above) for a further collection of Murchison correspondence.

Sir Frederick Henry Stewart (1916-2001) was Professor of Geology at Edinburgh University from 1956 to 1986. He built the university's Grant Institute of Geology into an internationally recognized centre and established a world-class experimental petrological unit. The papers include correspondence, research and lecture notes, press cuttings and offprints.  

John Walker (1731-1803) was Professor of Natural History at Edinburgh University from 1779 to 1803. Joint founder of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1803, he played a major role in establishing geology as an academic subject. The collection consists of manuscript papers on natural history, geography, agriculture, and Scottish history.

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Archive Catalogue