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AU righU rwerved 


When the President of the Johns Hopkins University 
invited me to inaugurate the Lectureship founded in that 
seminary by Mrs. George Huntington Williams in memory 
of her husband, the distinguished and widely-regretted 
Professor of Geology there, I gladly availed myself of 
the opportunity thus afforded me of renewing personal 
relationships with the geologists of the United States, and 
of thus helping to draw closer the bonds of sympathy 
which unite the students of nature in the Old World and 
in the New. 

In making choice of a subject that would be appro- 
priate for the required course of lectures, I was influenced 
by the announcement that geologists from all parts of the 
States and from Canada would be asked to meet me in 
Baltimore. As my audience might thus include repre- 
sentatives of every department in the wide domain of 
geological science, it was obviously desirable not to select 
for treatment any limited field in that domain, but rather 
to choose some topic of general interest in which students 
of every part of the science might meet as on common 

vi The Founders of Geology 

ground. I had often been struck by the limited acquaint- 
ance with the historical development of geology possessed 
even by men who have done good service in enlarging 
the boundaries of the science. English and American 
geologists have for the most part contented themselves 
with the excellent, but necessarily brief summary of the 
subject given by Lyell in the introductory chapters of his 
classic Principles, no fuller digest of geological history 
having been published in their language. It seemed to 
me, therefore, that perhaps no more generally interesting 
and appropriate theme for my purpose could be selected 
than the story of the evolution of geology. The neces- 
sarily restricted number of lectures to be given would 
not admit of a discursive survey of the whole history, 
but a useful end might doubtless be served if a limited 
period of geological progress were selected and treated 
in rather greater detail than had hitherto been usual, 
and with especial reference to the personal achieve- 
ments of the leaders to whose labours the progress had 
mainly been due. Accordingly I determined to take this 
subject for my discourses, and to select the period between 
the middle of the last and the close of the second decade 
of the present century — an interval of about seventy years, 
full of peculiar interest in the development of science, for 
they witnessed the laying of the foundations of geology. 

But even of this limited section of the history it was 
obviously impossible to attempt an exhaustive discussion. 
Without for a moment aiming to cover all the ground, I 

Preface vii 

deemed that a useful task might still be undertaken if 
the story of a few of the great pioneers were briefly 
narrated, and if from their struggles, their failures and 
their successes, it could be indicated how geological ideas 
and theories gradually took shape. Such was the origin 
and aim of the following lectures. 

The personal intercourse to which, after an absence 
of eighteen years, I looked forward with vivid interest 
proved to be a source of the keenest enjoyment. Eenew- 
ing old friendships with some of the veterans of the 
science, and forming fresh ties of sympathy with many 
younger workers who have come to the front in more 
recent years, I could not but be impressed by the extra- 
ordinary vitality which geology has now attained in the 
United States. Every department of the science has its 
enthusiastic votaries. Surveys, professorships, museums, 
societies, journals in almost every State are the outward 
embodiment of the geological zeal that appears to animate 
the whole conmiunity. This remarkably rapid develop- 
ment of the science has not arisen from any influence 
derived from without, but springs, as it seems to me, from 
the marvellous geological riches of the American continent 
itself. In minerals and rocks, in stratigraphical fulness, 
in palaeontological profusion, in physiographical illustra- 
tions, the United States have not only no need to borrow 
from Europe, but in many important respects can produce 
examples and materials such as cannot be equalled on 
this side of the Atlantic. Had the study of the earth 

viii The Founders of Geology 

begun in the New World instead of the Old, geology would 
unquestionably have made a more rapid advance than 
it has done. The future progress of the science may be 
expected to be largely directed and quickened by dis- 
coveries made in America, and by deductions from the 
clear evidence presented on that continent. 

Amidst an almost feverish earnestness in the prosecu- 
tion of investigation there is unavoidably a risk that the 
present activities of the science, with their engrossing 
interest, may lead to neglect of its past history, and that 
in this way unintentional injustice may be done to the 
labours of the earlier workers, while at the same time the 
vision of living students may be narrowed by the too 
exclusive contemplation of what they and their comrades 
are engaged upon. In inaugurating the Williams Lecture- 
ship at Baltimore I hoped that by turning aside to the 
achievements of half-forgotten pioneers, I might in some 
small measure help to counteract this tendency by 
recalling attention to examples of strenuous and suc- 
cessful labour among the Founders of Geology. 

Geological Survey Office, 
28 Jermyn Street, London, 
\Wi June 1897. 

^^ ' 33EC 




The Cosmogonists — First beginnings of accurate and detailed 
observation regarding the Earth's crust and its history — 
Guettard and his labours . . . . .1 


The rise of volcanic geology — Desmarest — Rise of geological travel 

— Pallas, De Saussure . . . . . .47 


History of the doctrine of Geological Succession — Lehmann, Fuchsel, 
Werner — The spread and decline of Wernerianism — D'Aubuis- 
son, Von Buch . . . . . . .94 


Kise of the modem conception of the theory of the earth — Hutton, 

Playfair — Birth of experimental geology — Sir James Hall . 150 


The rise of stratigraphical geology — The work of Giraud-Soulavie, 
Cuvier, Brongniart and Omalius d'Halloy in France ; the 
labours of Michell and William Smith in England . . 201 

The Founders of Geology 



The Transition or Greywacke formation resolved by Sedgwick and 
Murchison into the Cambrian, Silurian and Devonian systems 
— ^The pre-Cambrian rocks first begun to be set in order by 
Logan — Foundation of Glacial Geology, Agassiz — Rise of 
modern Petrography ; William Nicol, Henry Clifton Sorby — 
The influence of Lyell and Darwin — Conclusion . . . 242 



The Cosmogonists — First beginnings of accurate and detailed ob- 
servation regarding the Earth's crust and its history — Quettard 
and his labours. 

Ik science, as in all other departments of human know- 
ledge and inquiry, no thorough grasp of a subject can be 
gained, unless the history of its development is clearly 
appreciated. WhUe eagerly pressing forward in the search 
after the secrets of Nature, we are apt to keep the eye too 
constantly fixed on the way that has to be travelled, and 
to lose sight and remembrance of the paths already trodden. 
Tet it is eminently useful now and then to pause in the 
race, and to look backward over the ground that has been 
traversed, to mark the errors as well as the successes of 
the journey, to note the hindrances and the helps which 
we and our predecessors have encountered, and to realize 
what have been the influences that have more especially 
tended to retard or quicken the progress of research. 

Such a review is au eminently human and instructive 
exercise. Bringing the lives and deeds of our forerunners 
vividly before us, it imparts even to the most abstruse 
and technical subjects much of the personal charm which 


2 The Founders of Geology lect. 

contact with strenuous, patient, and noble natures never 
fails to reveaL Moreover, it has a double value in its 
bearing on our own progress in scientific work. A retro- 
spect of this kind leads to a clearer realization of the 
precise position at which we have arrived, and a wider 
conception of the extent and limits of the domain of 
knowledge which has been acquired. On the other hand, 
by enabling us to comprehend how, foot by foot, the 
realms of science have been painfully conquered, it 
furnishes suggestive lessons as to tracks that should be 
avoided, and fields that may be hopefully entered. 

In no department of natural knowledge is the adoption 
of this historical method more necessary and useful than it 
is in Geology. The subjects with which that branch of 
science deals are, for the most part, not susceptible of 
mathematical treatment. The conclusions formed in 
regard to them, being often necessarily incapable of rigid 
demonstration, must rest on a balance of probabilities. 
There is thus room for some difference of opinion both 
as to facts and the interpretation of them. Deductions 
and inferences which axe generally axxsepted in one age 
may be rejected in the next. This element of uncertainty 
has tended to encourage speculation. Moreover, the 
subjects of investigation are themselves often calculated 
powerfully to excite the imagination. The story of this 
earth since it became a habitable globe, the evolution of 
its continents, the birth and degradation of its mountains, 
the marvellous procession of plants and animals which, 
since the beginning of time, has passed over its surface, — 
these and a thousand cognate themes with which geology 
deals, have attracted numbers of readers and workers to its 

Early History of the Science 

pale, have kindled much general interest, and awakened 
not a little enthusiasm. But the records from which the 
chronicle must be compiled are sadly deficient and frag- 
mentary. The deductions which these records suggest 
oughTlequentiy to be held in suspense from want of 
evidence. Yet with a certain class of minds fancy comes 
in to supply the place of facts that fail. And thus 
geology has been encumbered with many hypotheses and 
theories which, plausible as they might seem at the time 
of their promulgation, have one by one been dissipated 
before the advance of fuUer and more accurate knowledge. 
Yet before their overthrow, it may often be hard to separate 
the actual ascertained core of fact within them, from the 
mass of erroneous interpretation and unfounded inference 
that forms most of their substance. 

From the beginning of its growth, geology has un- 
doubtedly suffered from this tendency to speculation 
beyond the sober limits of experience. Its cultivators 
have been often described as mere theorists. And yet in 
^ of the. detoc^, *e «^ has ^e gigau«c .Ld. 
during the last hundred years, and has gradually accumu- 
lated a body of well-ascertained knowledge regarding the 
structure and history of the eartL No more interesting 
record of human endeavour and achievement can be found 
than that presented by the aa ,:*mce of geology. A hundred 
years ago the science had no generally acknowledged name 
and place in the circle of human studies, and now it can 
boast a voluminous literature, hundreds of associations 
all over the world dedicated to its cultivation, and a 
state organization in almost every civilized country for 
its systematic prosecution. I propose to ask you to trace 

4 The Founders of Geology lect. 

with me some of the leading steps in this magnificent 
progress. Even speculations that have been thrown aside, 
and theories that have been long forgotten, may be found 
to have been not without their use in promoting the general 

If all history is only an amplification of biography, the 
history of science may be most instructively read in the 
life and work of the men by whom the realms of Nature 
have been successively won. I shall therefore dwell 
much on the individual achievements of a few great 
leaders in the onward march of geology, and indicate how 
each of them has influenced the development of the 
science. At the same time, I shall trace the rise and pro- 
gress of some of the leading principles of modem geology, 
which, though now familiar to us all as household words, 
are seldom studied in regard to their historical develop- 
ment. Thus, partly in the life-work of the men, and partly 
in the growth of the ideas which they promulgated, we 
shall be able to realize by what successive steps our science 
has been elaborated. 

The subject which I have chosen, if treated as fully as 
it might fitly be, would require a long course of lectures. 
Within the limits permissible to me, I can only attempt 
to present an outline of it. Instead of trying to summarize 
the whole progress of modem geology, I think it will be 
more interesting and profitable to dwell somewhat fully 
on the labours of a few of the early masters, to touch 
only lightly on those of their less illustrious contemporaries, 
and to do little more than aUude to the modem magnates 
whose life and work are generally familiar. I have ac- 
cordingly selected for more special treatment the period 


Early History of the Science 

which extends from the middle of last century to the 
earlier decades of this, or a period of about seventy years. 
A few later conspicuous names will require some brief 
notice in order to fill up the general outlines of our picture. 

Every geologist is familiar with the account of geological 
progress sketched by Lyell in the first four chapters of 
his Principles. I need not therefore offer even the briefest 
summary of what preceded the period which is now to be 
illustrated in fuller detail. Let me merely recall to your 
memory the early work of the Italian observers who, with 
the evidence before their eyes of active and extinct vol- 
canoes, of upraised shell -beds and abundant traces of 
former terrestrial vicissitudes, took broad views of the 
history of the earth, and arrived at conclusions which have 
been sustained and amplified by later generations. The 
labours of Steno, Vallisneri, Moro, and Gtenerelli furnished 
a body of fact amply sufficient to disprove the current 
fantastic theories of the earth and to lay some of the 
foundation-stones of modem geology. Woodward, Lister, 
Hooke and Bay may be quoted as notable writers in 
England hy whom, in spite of their imperfect knowledge 
and frequent mistakes, the rise of geology was heralded. 
Hooke is especially deserving of an honoured place among 
the early pioneers of the future science. 

The true scientific spirit of observation and experiment 
had long been abroad and at work in many branches of 
inquiry before it became dominant in the geological field. 
The necessity for a close scrutiny of nature as the basis of 
sound deduction had for generations been recognized by 
some of the more thoughtful minds before it was developed 
into a system by Bacon. Even as far back as the latter 

6 The Founders of Geology lect. 

half of the sixteenth century, the method of practical 
research, as opposed to mere book-knowledge and theory, 
had been advocated even for the investigation of the rocky 
part of the earth. It was proclaimed, in no uncertain 
\y' voice, by the learned and versatile D ane, Peter Sevei jaiis, 
who counselled his readers thus : " Go, my sons, sell your 
lands, your houses, your garments and your jewelry ; burn 
up your books. On the other hand, buy yourselves stout 
shoes, get away to the mountains, search the valleys, the 
deserts, the shores of the sea, and the deepest recesses of 
the earth ; mark well the distinctions between animals, 
the differences among plants, the various kinds of minerals, 
the properties and mode of origin of everything that exists. 
Be not ashamed to learn by heart the astronomy and 
terrestrial philosophy of the peasantry. Lastly, purchase 
coals, build furnaces, watch and experiment without weary- 
ing. In this way, and no other, will you arrive at a 
knowledge of things and of their properties." ^ The modern 
spirit of investigation in natural science could not be more 
clearly or cogently enforced than it was by this professor 
of Uterature and poetry, of meteorology and of medicine, in 
the year 1571. 

In spite of such teaching, it was long before what is 
now regarded as the domain of geology was definitely 
recognized as one that was not to be surrendered to mere 
fanciful speculation, but which oflfered an unsurpassed 
wealth of material for the most sedulous observation and 
the most scrupulous induction. The chief obstructors of 
progress in this department of human inquiry were the 

^ Petrus Seyerinns, Idea Mededncie Philosqphicae, 1671, p. 73, cap. vii. 
De principiis corporum (cited by D'Aubuisson). 


The Cosmogonists — Leibnitz 

cosmogonists who, often with the slenderest equipment of 
knowledge of nature, endeavoured to account for the origin 
of things. They were not disconcerted by phenomena that 
contradicted their theories, for they usually never saw such 
phenomena, and when they did, they easily explained 
them away. 

Many of these writers were divines, yet even when they 
were laymen they felt themselves bound to suit their 
speculations to the received interpretation of the books of 
Moses. Looking back from our present vantage ground, it 
is difficult to realize that even the little which had been 
ascertained about the structure of the earth was not 
sufficient to prevent some, at least, of the monstroujs 
doctrines of these theorists from being promulgated. It 
was a long time before men came to imderstand that any 
true theory of the earth must rest upon evidence furnished 
by the globe itself, and that no such theory could properly 
be framed imta a large body of evidence had been gathered 

By a curious coincidence, the writings of the two last and 
most illustrious of the cosmogonists appeared during the 
middle of last century in the same year. Leibnitz (b om in 
1646), fascinated by the problems connected with the history 
of the earth, had fordulated his prescient views on this 
subject in his Protogcmby but this work was not fully pub- 
lished until long after the death of its author. Adoptmg 
the idea of Descartes, he believed that at first our planet 
was a regularly shaped globe of molten liquid which gradu- 
aUy cooM and soHdified, and in so doing assumed imgu- 
Jties of surface which formed mounL chains. Ihe 
first crust solidified as the most ancient or " primary *' rocks. 


8 The Founders of Geology lect. 

and as the cooling continued, the vapours condensed into 
a universal ocean of water. The interior of the planet 
possessed a vaulted or vesicular structure, and the roofs of 
the vast caverns, from time to time giving way, produced 
dislocations and inundations, while large bodies of water 
were drawn off into the interior, and the dry land pro- 
gressively increased in area and height. By the commotion 
of the waters large quantities of sediment were produced, 
which, during the intervals between the disturbances, were 
deposited over the sea-floor to form the various strata that 
are to be seen on the land. By a repetition of the same 
sequence of events, the strata were broken up, and new 
deposits were laid down upon them, untfl, as the agencies 
became quiescent and balanced, a '' consistentior rerum 
status" emerged. 
[^ The other cosmogonist, Buffon, bom in 1707, had like- 
wise conceived broad and profound ideas regarding the 
whole realm of Nature. Endowed with a spirit of bold 
generalization, and gifted with a style of singular clearness 
and eloquence, he was peculiarly fitted to fascinate his 
countrymen, and to exercise a powerful influence on the 
scientific progress of his age. He is the central figure in a 
striking group of writers and observers who placed FroQce 
in the very front of the onward march of science, and who 
laid some of the foundation-stones of modem geology. 

The introductory portion of Buffon's voluminous 
Natv/ral History was devoted to a theory of the earth. 
Though vnitten in 1744, it was not published until 1749. 
The author had meditated long and deeply on the mean- 
ing of the fossil shells found so abundantly among the 
rocks of the earth's crust, and had recognized that, as they 


The Cosmogonists — Bufion 

demonstrated the conditioii of the globe not to have been 
always what it is now, any true theory of the earth must 
trace the history of the planet back to a time before the 
present condition was established. With great insight, 
he saw that this history must be intimately linked with 
that of the solar system, of which it formed a part. He- 
thought that the various planets were originally portions 
of the mass of the sun, from which they were detached 
by the shock of a comet, whereby the impulse of rotation 
and of revolution in the same general plane was com- 
municated to them. In composition, therefore, they are 
similar to their parent sun, only differing from that body in 
temperature. He inferred that at first they were intensely 
hot and self-luminous, but gradually became dark as they 
cooled, the central sun stiU remaining in a state of 

Though we now believe the hypothesis of a cometary 
shock to be untenable, it is impossible to refuse our admira- 
tion to the sagacity of the man who first tried to solve the 
problem of the solar system by the application of the 
laws of mechanics. His theory, however, was loaded with 
several crude conceptions. The enormous numbers and 
wide difPdsion of fossil shells, which had so vividly im- 
pressed his imagination, proved to him that the land must 
have lain long under the sea. But he had no idea of any 
general cause that leads to elevation of the sea-bottom into 
land. He was thus constrained to resort to his imagination 
for a solution of the problem. Bjizugt had supposed the 
original ocean to be contained within the earth, and that it 
only escaped at the time of the Mood, when, by the heat 
of the sun, the crust of the globe had cracked, and thus 

lo The Founders of Geology lect. 

allowed the pent-up waters to rush out. Bufifon's theory \ 
was hardly less fanciful. But he reversed the order of 
events. He inferred from the abundance of fossil shells 
that there had once been a universal ocean, and that by 
the giving way of the crust, a portion of the waters was \ 
engulfed into caverns in the interior, so as to expose what 
are now mountains and dry land. 

For some thirty years after the publication of his 
Theory, Bufifon continued to work industriously in all 
departments of natural history. At last, in 1778 , he re- 
turned to the question of the origin of the earth and pub- 
lished his Epochs of Nature, In this work he arranged 
the history of the globe in six epochs — ^intervals of time 
of which the limits, though indeterminate, seemed to him 
none the less real. The first epoch embraced the primeval 
time when the earth, newly torn from the sun, existed still 
as a molten mass which, under the influence of rotation, 
assumed its oblate spheroidal form. The transition from 
fluidity to solidity, and from luminosity to opacity was 
brought about entirely by cooling, which commenced at 
the outer surface. A crust was thus formed, outside of 
which the substances, such as air and water, which were 
not soKdified by the lowering of temperature, remained as 
a fluid or aeriform envelope, while the interior still con- 
tinued for a long time liquid. 

Buffbn's second epoch was characterized by the con- 
solidation of the molten globe, and the appearance of 
hollows and ridges, gaps and swellings, over its surface. 
These inequaUties in the crust of granite, gneiss and other 
ancient crystalline rocks, gave rise to the mountains and 
valleys of the higher portions of the land. 

I The Cosmogonists — Buj^on ii 

The third epoch included the time when the sea stood 
from 9000 to 12,000 feet higher than it does now, as was 
supposed to be indicated by the heights at which marine 
organisms are found in the rocks. It was then that the 
calcareous fossiliferous formations were formed, which 
constitute so much of the present dry land. 

The fourth epoch witnessed the emergence of the lower 
part of the land, owing to the sinking of the waters through 
cracks into cavities in the interior of the globe. Pro- 
foundly as Buffon had meditated on the structure of the 
earth, he had thus during thirty years made no advance in 
his views of the origin of the diy land. 

The fifth epoch was marked by the advent of huge 
pachyderms — elephants, rhinoceroses, and hippopotamuses, 
which, though now confined to warm regions, then 
wandered far into the north. 

The sixth epoch saw the separation of the two con- 
tinents which, as was inferred from the presence in each 
of them of what were believed to be the same fossil 
mammals, were originally united. 

Buffon added a seventh epoch, in which he traced the 
commanding influence of man in modifying the surface of 
the earth. 

Kecognizing the powerful agency of rivers and the sea 
in washing away the materials of the land, he believed 
that by this action the whole of the existing continents 
will finally be reduced and covered by the ocean ; and he 
conceived that by the same series of changes new lands 
wiU ultimately be formed. 

For breadth and grandeur of conception Buffon far sur- 
passed the earlier writers who had promulgated theories 

1 2 The Founders of Geology lect. 

of the earth. The rare literary skill with which he pre- 
sented his views enabled him to exercise a powerful influ- 
ence on his contemporaries, and to direct their attention 
to the deeply interesting problems of which he wrote.. 
Yetuke c^gi^ii n^gvershate himself free frpm^the theolo^cal 
bias which had so long lain as an incubus upon the pro- 
gress of scientific investigation. The theological doctors 
of the Sorbonne compelled him to publish a retractation 
even of the very guarded statements he had presented in 
his Theory of the Earth — statements which are now 
accepted among the obvious commonplaces of science. 
Although the second treatise shows that the long interval 
of thirty years had given him greater freedom and had 
still further enlarged his views of nature, he was evidently 
unaware of much that had been observed and described 
during that interval by his own countrymen and in other 
parts of Europe. His eloquent pages are rather a 
pictorial vision of what his brilliant imagination bodied 
forth as the origin of things, than a sober attempt to work 
out a theory on a basis of widely collected, carefully sifted 
and systematically co-ordinated facts. 

Among Bufifon's contemporaries there Uved a man of 
a totally different stamp, who, shunning any approach to 
theory, dp^^c^tfid himflf^lf with, thfi finthufliapim of a. true 

naturalist to the patient observation and accumulation of 

. — -• " — ■* • -. . . ._ 

facts regarding the rocks of the earth's crust, and to whom 
modem geology owes a deep debt of gratitude, that has 
never yet been ade5[uately paid. This man, Jean ifitiennQ 
Guettard (1715-1786), was bom in the year 1715 atthe little 
townof Etampes, about thirty miles S.W. from Paris.^ As 

^ For the biograpliical facts here given I am indebted to the iHoge of 


I GuettarcHs Early Career 1 3 

the grandson of an apothecary there, he was destined to 
succeed to the business of compounding and selling drugs. 
Before he left home for his professional education, he had 
already developed a passion for natural history pursuits. 
When still a mere child, he used to accompany his grand- 
father in his walks, and his greatest happLs was found 
in coUecting plants, asking their names and learning to 

.recognize them, and to distinguish their different parts. 

' Every nook and comer around Etampes became familiar 
to ^ and in later years he loved to ^visit, with the eye 
of a trained naturalist, the scenes which had fascinated his 
boyhood. In his writings he loses no opportunity of 
citing his native place for some botanical or geological 
illustration. Thus, at the very beginning of a long and 
suggestive memoir on the degradation of mountains, to 
which further reference will be made in the sequel, his 
thoughts revert to the haunts of his infancy, and the first 
illustration he cites of the processes of decay which are 
discussed in that paper is taken from a picturesque rock 
overlooking the valley of the Juine, under the shade of 
which he used to play with his companions.^ 

Having gained the favourable notice of the famous 
brothers Jussieu, who gave renown to the botanical depart- 
ment of the Jardin des Plantes, he was allowed by his 
grandfather to choose a career that would afford scope for 
his ardour in science. Accordingly he became a doctor 
in medicine. Eventually he was attached to the suite of 
the Duke of Orleans, whom he accompanied in his travels, 

Guettard by Condorcet {Ovw&res^ edit. 1847, vol. iii. p. 220) and to the 
personal references which I have met with in Guettard*s writings. 

^ Mimovres su/r diff&reidea parties des Sciences et Arts, tome iii. p. 210 

1 4 The Founders of Geology lect. 

and of whose extensive natural history collections he 
became custodian. On the Duke's death he enjoyed from 
his son and successor a modest pension and a small lodging 
in the Palais Koyal at Paris. 

It was to botany that his earlier ye ars of unwearied 
industry were mainly given. In the course of his botanical 
wanderings over France and other countries he observed 
how frequently the distribution of plants is dependent 
upon the occurrence of certain minerals and rocks. He 
was led to trace this dependence from one district to 
another, and thus became more and more interested in 
what was then termed "mineralogy," until this subject 
engrossed by far the largest share of his thoughts and 

But Guettard was far more than a mineralogist. 
Although the words "geology" and "geologist" did not 
come into use for half a century later, his writings show him 
to have been a geologist in the fullest sense of the word. 
He confined himself, however, to the duty of assiduous 
observation, and shunned the temptation to speculate. 
He studied rocks as well as minerals, and traced their 
distribution over the sur&ce of Europe. He observed 
the action of the forces by which the surface of the land 
is modified, and he produced some memoirs of the deepest 
interest in physiography. His training in natural history 
enabled him to recognize and describe the organisms which 
he found in the rocks, and he thus became one of the 
founders of palaeontological geology. He produced about 
200 papers on a wide range of subjects in science, and 
published some half-dozen quarto volumes of his observa- 
tions, together with many excellent plates. 


I Neglect of Guettard and his Work 1 5 

It is astonishing that this man, who in his day was one 
of the most distinguished members of the French Academy 
of Sciences, and who undoubtedly is entitled to rank 
among the few great pioneers of modem geology, should 
have fallen into complete oblivion in English geological 
literature. I shall have occasion to show that the process 
of ignoring him began even in his lifetime, and that, 
though free from the petty vanities of authorship, he was 
compeUed in the end to defend his claim to discoveries 
that he had made. After his death he was the subject of 
a kindly and appreciative Hoge by his friend Condorcet, 
the perpetual Secretary of the Academy.^ His work was 
noticed at length in the great E7icyclop6die M4thodigue of 
Diderot and D'Alembert, published thirteen years after he 
was laid in the grave.^ Cuvier in his doge of Desmarest 
gave to Guettard the credit of one of his discoveries.^ But 
his work seems to have been in large measure lost sight 
of imtil in 1862,* and again in 1866,^ the Comte d'Archiac 
dwelt at some length on his services to the progress of 
geology. More recently Guettard's labours have been the 

^ (Euvrea de Condorcet, vol. iii, p. 220. 

^ G^ographie Physiquehy Desmsnest, forming vol. i. of the BncyclopSdie, 
and pnblislied An III (1794). The article on Guettard (by Desmarest) gives 
a critical review of his work, especially of those parts of it which bear on 
physical geography. The large number and value of his observations on 
fossil organisms is admitted. But his method of constructing mineralogical 
maps is severely handled, and his claim to the discovery of the extinct 
Yolcanoes of Auvergne is contemptuously rejected. The whole tone of 
the article is somewhat ungenerous. The imperfections of Guettard's work 
are fiilly set forth, but little is said of its merits. 

* Cuvier*8 .Plages Historiques, vol. ii. p. 364 (1819) 

^ A. D'Archiac, Comrs de FaUontologie Stratigraphique, pp. 284-304, 

^ A, D'Archiac, 04ologie et Pal^ontohgie, V^ partie, pp. 112-118 
(1866). The account of Guettard in this work is little more than a con- 

1 6 The Founders of Geology lect. 

theme of sympathetic comment from Ch. Sainte-Claire 
Deville^ and Aim^ de Soland.^ 

In the geological literature of the English-speaking 
countries, however, we shall search in vain for any adequate 
recognition of the place of this early master of the science. 
That famous classic, Conybeare and Phillip's OutliTies of 
the Geology of JEngland and Wales, contains a reference to 
the French observer as the first man who constructed 
geological maps. Scrope^ and Daubeny* cite him for his 
observations in Auvergne. But Lyell in his well-known 
summary of the progress of geology does not even men- 
tion his name. 

It is difiScult to account for this neglect. Possibly it 
may be partly attributable to the cumbrous and diffuse 
style in which Guettard wrote,^ and to the enormous bulk 
of his writings. When a man contributes scores of 
voluminous papers to the transactions of a learned academy; 
when he publishes, besides, an armful of bulky and closely 
printed quartos, and when these literary labours are put 
before the world in by no means an attractive form, per- 
haps a large share of the blame may be laid to his own 

densation of the narrative in the author's previons Cov/rs, Even after 
these appreciative references Lecoq in his ^oques Giologiqties de 
V Auvergne omits Guettard's name from the list of those he specially cites, 
and when he has occasion to mention him, does so in a very grudging 
spirit See his Introduction, p. xiii. and vol. iii. p. 155. 

1 Coup cPodl historique aur la O^logie, pp. 311-314 (1878). 

^ ''l^tude sur Guettard," Annates de la SocUU Idrmkwtie de Main-et- 
Loire, IZ^^, 14°>e, ©t 15°»e ann^es, pp. 32-88 (1871, 1872, 1873). This 
appreciative essay contains a list of Guettard's publications. 

' Geology and Extinct Volcanoes of Central France, p. 30, 2nd edition, 

^ Description of Active and Extinct Folccmoes, p. 729, 2nd edition (1848). 

^ Of this defect no one was more sensible than the author himself. See 
his Mimoires sur dijf&renUs parties des Sciences et Arts, tome v. p. 421. 

I GuettarcTs Geographical Geology 1 7 

door. Guettard may be said to have buried his reputation 
under the weight of material which he left to support it. 

I cannot pretend to have read through the whole of 
these ponderous volumes. The leisure of a hard- worked 
official does not suffice for such a task. But I have 
perused those memoirs which seemed to me to give the 
best idea of Guettard's labours, and of the value of his 
solid contributions to science. And I shall now proceed 
to give the results of my reading. No one can glance 
over the kindly doge by Condorcet without a feeling of 
respect and sympathy for the man who, under many 
discouragements, and with but slender means, succeeded 
in achieving so much in such a wide circle of acquire- 
ment. And there is thus no little satisfaction in resus- 
citating among American and English geologists the 
memory of a man whom I trust that they will recognize 
as one of the founders of their science, deserving a place 
not inferior to that of some whom they have long held 
in honour. 

. And first with regard to Guettard's labours in the 
domain of geographical geology, or the distribution of 
rocks and minerals over the surface of the earth. I have 
referred to the maimer in which he was graduaUy drawn 
into this subject by his botanical excursions. As the 
result of his researches, he communicated in 1746 to the 
Academy of Sciences in Paris a memoir on the distribution 
of minerals and rocks.-^ Having been much impressed by 
the almost entire absence of certain mineral substances 
in some places, though they were abundant enough in 
others, he was led to suspect that these substances are 

* Mhn, Acad, Roy, Frcmjce^ vol. for 1761. 

1 8 The Founders of Geology lect. 

really disposed with much more regularity than had been 
previously imagined. He surmised that, instead of being 
dispersed at random, they are grouped in bands which have 
a characteristic assemblage of minerals and a determinate 
trend, so that when once the breadth and direction of one 
of these bands is known, it will be possible, even where 
the band passes into an unknown country, to tell before- 
hand which minerals and rocks should be found along its 

The first sentences of his remarkable M4moire et Carte 
Mineralogique are well worth quoting, " If nothing," he 
remarks, "can contribute more towards the formation 
of a physical and general theory of the earth than the 
multiplication of observations among the different kinds 
of rocks and the fossils which they contain, assuredly 
nothing can make us more sensible of the utility of such 
a research than to bring together into one view those 
various observations by the construction of mineralogical 
maps. I have travelled with the view of gaining in- 
struction on the first of these two points, and following 
the recommendation of the Academy, which wished to 
have my work expressed on a map, I have prepared 
such a map, which contains ^ summary of all my 

The idea of depicting the distribution of the mineral 
products of a country upon a map was not original with 
Guettard or the Academy of Sciences. As far back as the 
later years of the previous century a scheme of this kind 
was submitted to the Eoyal Society of London, and 
appears in the Philosophical Transactions with the quaint 
title of " An ingenious proposal for a new sort of Maps of 

I Guettard's Mineralogical Maps 1 9 

Country's, together with tables of sands and clays, such 
chiefly as are found in the north parts of England, drawn 
up about ten years since, and delivered to the Koyal 
Society, March 12, 1683, by the Learned Martin Lister, 
M.D/' 1 

It may be doubted, however, whether this proposal of 
lister^s, which does not appear ever to have taken any 
practical shape, was known to Guettard, who, though he 
obtained a large amount of information about English 
mineral products, probably derived it all ifrom French 
translations of English works. He does not appear to have 
read English. Guettard inferred, from his observations 
over the centre and north of France, that the several 
bands of rocks and minerals which he had detected were 
disposed round Paris as a centre. The area in the middle, 
irregularly oval in shape, comprised the districts of sand 
and gravel, whence he named it the Sandy band. It was 
there that the sandstones, millstones, hard building stones, 
limestones, and gun-flints were met with. The second or 
Marly band, exactly surrounding the first, consisted of 
little else than hardened marls, with occasional shells and 
other fofaU bodies. The third band, called the " Schitose " 
[Schistose] or metalliferous, encircled the second, and was 
distinguished by including all the mines of the different 
minerals, as well as the pits and quarries for bitumen, 
slate, sulphur, marble, granite, fossil wood, coal, etc. 

Having convinced himself that these conclusions could 
be sustained by an appeal to the distribution of the 
minerals in the northern haK of France, he proceeded to 
put upon a map the information he had collected. Using 

1 FhiX, Tram. vol. xiv. p. 739. 

20 The Founders of Geology lect. 


I chemical and other symbols, he placed a sign at each 

♦ locality where a particular mineral substance was known 


to exist. Moreover, employing a variety of engraved 
shading, he showed in a general way the position and 
limits of the great Paris basin. The marly band surround- 
\ ing the central tract of sandy Tertiary strata was represented 

1 as sweeping inland from the coast between Boulogne and 

Dieppe, through Picardy and the east of France to the 
j Bourbonnais, where, turning westward, it reached Poitou, 

I and then struck northward to the Qoast west of the mouth 

I of the Seine. Though erroneously grouping Secondary some- 

! times with Palaeozoic, sometimes with Tertiary strata, and 

I not accurately coinciding with the modem divisions of 

; the stratigraphical series, the map yet roughly expresses 

; the broad distribution of the formations. 

1 , Having put his data on the map of France, he came to 

/ see that his three bands were abruptly truncated by the 

English Channel and Strait of Dover. Carrying out the 
principles he had established, he conjectured that these 
bands would be found to pass under the sea and to 
re-emerge on the shores of England. To test the truth of 
this hypothesis, he ransacked the French versions of two 
once famous English books — Joshua Childrey's BritaTmia 
Baconica^ and Gerard Boate's Irdan^s Naiurall Historie? 

^ ** Britannia Baconica, or the natural rarities of England, Scotland 
and Wales, according as they are to be found in every shire, historically 
related according to the precepts of the Lord Bacon." London, 1660. 
A French translation was published in 1662 and 1667. 

3 *'Irelaml^8 Nalv/taXl Historie, Being a true and ample description of 
its situation, greatness, shape and nature ; of its hills, woods, heaths, 
bogs ; of its fruitfidl parts and profitable grounds, with the severall ways 
of manuring and improving the same ; with its heads or promontories, 
harbours, roades and bayes ; of its springs and fountains, brookes, rivers. 

I GuettarcTs Mineralogical Maps 2 1 

He found much in these volumes to confirm his surmise. 
Ailing Itaelf of the infonnation affori^. iy them, he 

affixed to the map of England the same system of symbols 
which he had used on that of France, and roughly indicated 
the limits of his bands across the south-eastern English 
counties. This portion of his work, however, being founded 
on second-hand knowledge, is more vague and inaccurate 
than that which was based on his personal observation in 

As an example of the painstaking earnestness with 
which Guettard made his geological notes, it may be men- 
tioned that among the symbols he employed on his map 
there was one for shells or marine fossil bodies, and that 
this sign is plentifully sprinkled over the map. His 
reading enabled him also to insert the symbol on many 
parts of the map of England all the way from the Wash 
to Sussex. On the map of France, he was able to introduce 
an additional sign denoting that the shells were not in 
mere loose deposits, but formed part of solid stone. In a 
second map, on a smaller scale, accompanying the same 
memoir, and embracing the whole of Western Europe 
from the north of Iceland to the Pyrenees and the 
Mediterranean, Guettard marked by his system of notation 

loghs ; of its metaUs, minerals, freestone, marble, sea-ooal, turf and other 
things that are taken out of the ground. And lastly of the nature and 
temperature of its air and season, and what diseases it is free from or 
subject unto ; Conducing to the advancement of navigation, husbandry 
and other profitable arts and professions. Written by Gerard Boate, late 
Doctor of Physick to the State in Ireland, and now published by Samuel 
Hartlib, Esq., for the common good of Ireland, and more especially for 
the benefit of the Adventurers and Planters there." It was published in 
London in 1652, and was dedicated to Oliver CromweU. A French 
version, under the title of Histoire Natwelle dUIrlmnde^ was published at 
Paris in 1666 {fiicL Nat, Biog., sub voc, Boate). 

2 2 The Founders of Geology lect. 

the localities where various metals, minerals and rocks 
were known to exist In this way he brought into one 
view a large amount of information regarding the geogra- 
phical distribution of the substances which he selected for 

This memoir, with its maps, seems to have gratified the 
Academy of Sciences, for not merely was it inserted in the 
volume of Transactions for the year, but in the Journal 
or annual summary of the more important work of the 
Academy it occupies a conspicuous place. The officied 
record announced that a new application of geography had 
been inaugurated by the author, who, neglecting the 
poUtical limits traced on maps, sought to group the different 
regions of the earth according to the nature of the sub- 
stances that lie beneath the surface. "The work of M. 
) Guettard," it is further remarked, " opens up a new field 

I for geographers and naturalists, and forms, so to speak, a 

) link between two sciences which have hitherto been 

i regarded as entirely independent of each other." ^ 

; I have dwelt at some length on this early work of 

I ^ Guettard because of its i mportance in the history of g eo- 

; lo gictd cartography. These maps, so far as I know, were the 

j first ever constructed to express the superficial distribution 

i of minerals and rocks. The gifted Frenchman who pro- 

duced them is thus the father of all the national Geological 
Surveys which have been instituted by the various civilized 
nations of the Old and the New Worlds.^ 

^ Jf(^. Acad, Eoy, Sciences, 1751 ; Journal, p. 105. 

^ So far as I have been able to ascertain, the earliest geological map 
published with colours to express the several areas of the rocks was that 
issued at Leipzig in 1778 by J. F. W. Charpentier, Professor in the Mining 
Academy of Freiberg, to accompany his quarto volume on the Mmeral- 

I GttettarcP s Mineralogical Maps 23 

This early e£fort at mineralogical map -making was 
merely the beginning of Guettard's labours in this depart- 
ment of investigation. " If you will only let me have a 
proper map of France," he used to say, " I will undertake 
to show on it the mineral formations underneath." When 
Cassini's map appeared, it enabled him to put his design 
into execution. After incredible exertions, during which 
he had the illustrious chemist Lavoisier^ as an assistant, 
he completed the mineralogical survey of no fewer than 
sixteen sheets of the map. These labours involved 
journeys so frequent and prolonged that it was estimated 
that he had travelled over some 1600 leagues of French 
soiL At last, finding the work beyond his strength, he left 
it to his successor Monnet, by whom the sixteen maps and 
a large folio of explanatory text were eventually published.^ 
It must be acknowledged, however, that Guettard does 
not seem to have had any clear ide^. of the sequence of 
formations and of geological structure ; at least there is 

ogische Geographic der Chursdchsischen Lande, Eight tints are used to 
discriminate granite, gneiss, schist, limestone, gypsum, sandstone, river- 
sand, clay and loam ; and there are also symbols to point out the localities 
for basalt, serpentine, etc. Palassou, in his JSssai sur la MiiUralogie des 
Monts PyrinieSf Paris, 1781, gave a series of maps with engraved lines 
and signs, and also a route-map of the part of France between Paris and 
the Mediterranean, with the general mineralogical characters of each line 
of route indicated by strips of colour. He thus distinguished by a green 
line the granite rocks, by a yellow line the ''schists," and by a red line 
the calcareous rocks. He sJso indicated the presence of these various 
formations by different symbols, among which was one for extinct 
volcanoes, that figures in the Clermont region and also to the west of 
Hontpellier. The early map of Fuchsel (1762) will be subsequently 
referred to. 

^ See on the subject of Lavoisier's co-operation, D'Archiac's PaliorU- 
ologie Stratigraphiguef p. 290, and postea^ p. 210. 

' Atkia et Description Miniralogiques de la France, entreprispar ordre 
du JRoipar MM, OueUard et Monnet , 1780. 



24 The Founders of Geology lect. 

no sign of any acquaintance with these in his maps or 
memoir. His work, therefore, excellent as it was for the 
time, contained little in common with the admirable 
^ detaUed geological maps of the present day, which not only 
depict the geographical distribution of the various rocks, 
but express also their relations to each other in point of 
structure and relative age, and their connection with the 
existing topography of the ground. 

In the course of his journeys, Guettard amassed a far 
larger amount of detailed information than could be put 
upon his maps. From time to time he embodied it 
in voluminous essays upon different regions. The longest 
and most important of these is one in three parts on the 
mineralogy of the neighbourhood of Paris, in which, 
besides giving an account of the distribution of the 
minerals and rocks, he pays special attention to the organic 
remains of that interesting tract of country, and figures a 
large number of shells from what are now known as the 
Secondary and Tertiaiy formations. 

His natural history predilections led him to take a keen 
interest in the fossils which he himself collected, or which 
were sent up to Paris from the country for his examination. 
He devoted many long and elaborate memoirs to their 
description, and figured some hundreds of them. I may 
mention, as of particular interest in palseontologica l 
investigation, t hat Guettard was the first to recognize 
trilobites in the Silurian slates of Angers. In some 
specimens which had been sent up to the Academy 
from the quarries of that district, he observed numerous 
impressions of organic remains, which he referred to sea- 
weeds and Crustacea. The latter he sagaciously compared 


I Guettard's Palceontology 25 

to modem crabs and prawns. They are well-marked 
trilobites, and his figures of them are so excellent that the 
genera, and even in some cases the species, can easily be 
made out. Btts representation of the large Illcenus of 
these Lower Silurian slates is specially good. His memoir, 
read before the Academy in 1757, and published in 1762,^ 
is thus a landmark in geological literature, for it appeared 
eighty years before Murchison's Silurian System made 
known the sequence and abundant organic remains of the 
Silurian rocks of Wales. 

Guettard's labours in palaeontology ranged over a wide 
field. We find him at one time immersed in all the details 
of fossil sponges and corals. At another, he is busy with 
the mollusca of the Secondary and Tertiary rocks. Fossil 
fishes, camivora, pachyderms, cetacea — aU interest him, 
and find in him an enthusiastic and faithful chronicler. 
His descriptions are not of the minutely systematic and 
technical order which has prevailed since the time of 
Linnaeus. Yet some of his generic names have passed 
into the language of modern palaeontology, and one of 
the genera of Chalk sponges which he described has been 
named after him, Guettardia. He had within him the 
spirit of the true naturalist^ more intent on understanding 
the nature and affinities of organic forms than on adding 
new names to the scientific vocabulary. His descriptions 
and excellent drawings entitle him to rank as the first 
great leader of the palseontological school of France. 

* "Sur les Ardoisi^res d' Angers," Trans, Acad, Roy, Sciences, 1762, 
p. 52. The Dudley trilobite of the Upper Silurian limestone of England 
had been figured and described by Lhuyd in his Idthophylacii BrUarmici 
loonographia (1699), Epist. i p. 96 and PL xxii. ; a figure of it was sub- 
sequently giren in Phil, Tra/Tis, 1754, PI. xi. Fig. 2. 

26 The Founders of Geology lect. 

As far back as the year 1751, when he was thirty-six 
years old, he presented to the Academy a memoir on 
certain little-known fossil bodies, in which he struck, as 
it were, the keynote of his future Ufe in regard to the 
organic remains enclosed within the stony records of former 
ages. Like a man entering a vast charnel-house, he sees 
on every side proofs of dead organisms. Others had 
observed these proofs before him, and had recognized their 
meaning, and he alludes to the labours of his predecessors. 
He especially singles out Palissy , who, though known chiefly 
for eminence as a potter, was the first, some two hundred 
years before, to embrace fossil shells in his view of Nature, 
to maintain that those shells were the productions of 
the sea^ not of the earth, as had been supposed, and to 
demonstrate from them that France once lay beneath the 
sea, which had left behind it such vast quantities of the 
remains of the creatures that peopled its waters. 

In Normandy, whence many of Guettard's early col- 
lections came, and where the people of the country looked 
upon certain fossil bodies as forms of fruit — pears and 
apples that had fallen from the trees and taken a solid 
form within the earth — ^he tells how half-witted he seemed 
to them when he expressed a doubt regarding what they 
believed to be an obvious truth. He recognized the 
animal nature of the organisms, and asserted that the so- 
called peaches, apples and pears all belonged to the class 
of corals, though many of them are now known to be 

Of all his numerous and voluminous essays on palseonto- 
logical subjects, perhaps that which most signally displays 
Guettard's modem and philosophical habit of mind in 

I GuettarcTs PalcBontology 27 

dealing with fossil organisms is a long paper in three parts, 
which appeared in 1765 under the title, " On the Accidents 
that have befallen Fossil Shells compared with those which 
are found to happen to Shells now living in the Sea,"^ 
In spite of his own and earHer writings, many observers 
continued to believe that the apparent shells found in the 
rocks of the land never really belonged to living creatures, 
but were parts of the original structure of the earth. It 
is incredible how long this belief lasted, and what an 
amount of energy had to be expended in killing it. I 
have been told that even within the present century a 
learned divine of the University of Oxford used to maintain 
his opinion that the fossils in the rocks had been purposely 
placed there by the devil to deceive, mislead and perplex 
mankind. In Guettard's days another opinion of a contrary 
tendency was promulgated by a Swiss naturalist, Bertraiid, 
who suggested that the fossil plants and animals had been 
placed there directly by the Creator, with the design of 
displaying thereby the harmony of His work, and the 
agreement of the productions of the sea with those of 
the land. 

It is difficult, perhaps, to imagine ourselves in the 
position of naturalists about the middle of last century, 
to whom such opinions seemed perfectly logical, naturL 
and probable. Yet unless we make the effi}rt to realize 
the attitude of men's minds in those days, we cannot 
rightly appreciate the acumen and sagacity of the argu- 
ments with which Guettard assailed these opinions. In 
much detail, and with many admirable illustrations drawn 
from his personal observations all over France, he demon- 

1 Tram. Acad, B(yy, Sciences (1765), pp. 189, 829, 399. 

28 The Founders of Geology lect. 

strated that fossil shells often have attached to them other 
shells, and likewise barnacles and serpulae ; that many of 
them have been bored into by other organisms, and that 
in innumerable instances they are found in a fragmentary 
and worn condition. In all these respects the beds of 
fossil shells on the land are shown to present the closest 
possible analogy to the floor of the present sea, so that it 
becomes impossible to doubt that the accidents which have 
affected the fossil organisms arose from precisely the same 
causes as those of exactly the same nature that stiU befall 
their successors on the existing ocean bottom. 

Of course nowadays such reasoning appears to us so 
obvious as to involve no great credit to the writer who 
elaborated it. But we must remember the state of natural 
knowledge more than one hundred and thirty years ago. 
As an example of the method of explaining and illustrating 
the former condition of the earth's surface by what can be 
seen to happen now, Guettard's memoir is imquestionably 
one of the most illustrious in the literature of geology, 
opening up, as it did, a new field in the investigation of 
the history of our globe, and unfolding the method by 
which this field had to be cultivated. 

On what is now known as Pfeisiographica]^^ or 
the discussion of the existing topography of the lan(^ this 
same illustrious Frenchman left the impress of his mind. 
I will cite only one of his contributions to tins subject— 
a memoir " On the Degradation of Mountains effected in 
our Time by heavy Eains, Kivers and the Sea."^ This 
work, which occupies about 200 quarto pages, deals with 

^ See vol. iii. of his Mifwjoires swr diffirefnies parties des SdeTices et des 
Arts, pp. 209-403. 

I Guettard's Physiographical Geology 29 

the efi&cacy of moving water in altering the face of the 
land. At the very beginning of it, he starts with a remin- 
iscence from the scenes of his infancy, and weaves it into 
the story he has to tell of the ceaseless degradation of the 
terrestrial surface. He remembers a picturesque crag of 
the Fontainebleau sandstone which, perched above the 
slopes of a little valley, had been worn by' the weather 
into a rudely-formed female figure holding an infant, and 
had been named by the peasantry the Eock of the Good 
Virgin. That crag, under which he used to play with his 
schoolmates, had in the interval of less than half a century 
gradually crumbled away, and had been washed down to 
the foot of the declivity. In the same neighbourhood he 
had noticed at successive visits that prominent rocks had 
made their appearance which were not previously visible. 
They seemed, as it were, to start out of the ground, yet he 
knew that they arose simply from the removal of the 
material that once covered them. In like manner ravines 
of some depth were in the course of a few years cut out of 
ground where there had before been no trace of them. In 
these striking examples of the general disintegration he 
sees only the continual operation of "gentle rains and 
heavy downpours." ^ 

Prom illustrations supplied by his own earliest observa- 
tion, he passes on to others drawn either from his personal 
researches or his reading, and exemplifying the potent 
influence of heavy rains and flooded streams. Not only 
are the solid rocks mouldering down and strewing the 
slopes below with their debris, but the sides of the hills 
are gashed by torrents, and narrow defiles are cut in them, 

^ ** Des pluies et des averses," op. cU, p. 210. 



30 TAe Founders of Geology lect. 

like the Devil's Gap in Normandy.^ He combats the 
notion that landslips, such as had occurred at Issoire in 
Auvergne in the year 1733, were caused by internal fires or 
subterranean winds, and agrees with a previous writer in 
regarding them as the result of the penetration of water 
from the surface into the interior of the hiU. He thus 
recognized the efficacy of subterranean as well as superficial 
watetTn changing the face of a country. 

He believed the sea to be the most potent destroyer of 
the land, and as an instance of its power he was accustomed 
to regard the chalk cliffs of the north-west of France as 
the relics of a great chain of hills, of which the greater part 
had been swept away by the sea.^ He shows, further, 
that while the hUls are worn down by the waves, by the 
rains, and by the inundations to which the rains give rise, 
the materials removed from them are not destroyed, but 
are deposited either on the land or along the shores of the 
sea.® He further points out that the detritus of separate 
river-basins may greatly differ, and that materials may be 
carried into districts where the rocks are entirely distinct 
from those in the areas whence the transport has taken 
place. He refers to the practical value of this observation 
in questions regarding the source of minerals, ores and 
useful stones.* 

He is thus led to give, from his wide knowledge of 
France, a sketch of the character of the rocks in the 
different river-basins of the country, and the nature of the 
materials which the rivers have in each case to transport. 
He passes in review all the large streams that enter the 
Atlantic from the Khine to the shores of Gascony, and 

1 P. 214. « Pp. 220, 222. » p. 222. * P. 223. 

I Guettard's Physiographical Geology 3 1 

considers, likewise, the Ehone with its tributaries on the 
Mediterranean side of the watershed.^ He infers that all 
the debris derived from the waste of the land is not carried 
to the sea, but that a great deal of it is deposited along 
the borders of the streams^ and that though it may be 
removed thence, this removal must require many ages to 
accomplish. He thinks that the levels of the valleys are 
at present being raised owing to the deposit of detritus in 
them.^ The plains watered by the rivers are one vast 
sheet of gravel, the streams having changed their courses 
again and again, so as to flow in turn over every part 
of these alluvial tracts. The thickness of detritus brought 
down by the rivers gradually increases towards their 
mouths. Near their sources, on the other hand, any 
sediment which is deposited is in a manner superficial, and 
is liable to continued removal and transportation farther 

The fragmentary material that is accumulated along 
the margin of the sea is, in Guettard's view, derived either 
from what is borne down by rivers, or from what is made 
by the sea itself, the whole being ground into powder by 
the long-continued beating of the waves. The sea not 
only acts on its shores, but on submerged rocks, and the 
detritus thus produced is mingled with the triturated 
remains of corals, shells, fish-bones and marine plants.^ 

Comparatively little information had been gathered in 
Guettard's time as to the condition of the sea-bottom. 
There is thus a peculiar interest in noting the ideas which 
he expresses on this subject He thinks that, besides what 
is laid down upon the shore, another portion of the detritus 

1 Pp. 226-324. 2 p, 326. s p, 323. 

3 2 The Founders of Geology t lkct. 

is borne away seawards, and gradually settles down on the 
sea-floor. As the nature of the part so transported must 
depend on that of the material on the shore, he is led to 
enter upon a minute examination of the mineral constitu- 
tion of the coast-lines of France, both on the Atlantic and 
Mediterranean margins of the country.^ 

He recognizes that soluble substances may be carried 
for great distances from the land, and may remain dissolved 
in the sea-water for a very long time. He even conjectures 
that it is possibly these substances that impart its salinity 
to sea-water.^ 

From all the soimdings available in his day, he con- 
cludes that the bottom of the sea is, throughout its whole 
extent, covered mostly with sand, which is probably not 
derived from the detritus of rivers.^ He observes, regard- 
ing this widely-diflfiised deposit, that it might be thought 
to be due to the grinding down of submarine rocks by the 
sea itself. But he contends that " how violent soever may 
be the movements of the sea, they can have but little effect, 
save on those rocks which emerge above the level of the 
water, the greatest storms being little felt except on the 
surface, and for a short way below it." In this sagacious 
and generally accurate inference, however, he was long 
before anticipated by Boyle. 

Considering, further, the problem presented by the 
general diffusion of sand over the bed of the sea, he thinks 
that the erosive influence of the ocean cannot be enough 
to account for this deposit, which is spread over so vast an 
area. He concludes, therefore, that the sand must date 
back to the remote ages of the destruction of the mountains. 

1 P. 328. 3 p, 360. 8 p, 401. 


I Guettard's Phydographical Geology 33 

The submarine rocks met with in sounding are, he thinks, 
unquestionably the remains of mountains formerly de- 
stroyed, and the detached boulders similarly discovered 
are no doubt the result of the destruction of these rocks, 
or in some cases they may have been derived from neigh- 
bouring islands where such exist.^ 

No argument against this view of the high antiquity 
of the sandy sediment on the sea-floor can, he believes, 
be drawn from the presence of sheUs, either singly or in 
numbers, in this sand. These he regards as obviously the 
relics of molluscs of the present time, those of former ages 
having been long ago destroyed.^ 

He remarks, in conclusion, that " it follows, from all 
the observations here recited, that the deposits laid down 
by the sea along its shores are sandy and loamy ; that 
these deposits do not extend far out to sea ; that, conse- 
quently, the elevation of new mountains in the sea by the 
deposition of sediment is a process very difl&cult to con- 
ceive ; that the transport of the sediment as far as the 
equator is not less improbable ; and that stiU more difficult 
to accept is the suggestion that the sediment from our 
continent is carried into the seas of the New World. In 
short, we are still very little advanced towards the theory 
of the earth as it now exists. All the systems which have 
been devised in this subject are full of difficulties which 
appear to me to be insoluble." He proposes, finally, to 
return, should the occasion present itself, to these questions, 
which are "all the more interesting the more difficult they 
are to elucidate." ^ 

It cannot be claimed that such enlightened views 

1 Pp. 401, 402. 2 p. 402. 3 Pp. 402, 403. 



34 The Founders of Geology lect. 

regarding the subaerial degradation of the land were now for 
the first time proclaimed to the world. Guettard had been 
to some extent preceded by the English naturalist Eay, 
who, some ninety years before, had briefly alluded to the 
manifest action of "rains continually washing down and 
carrying away earth from the mountains," and to the 
destruction of the shores by the continual working of the 
sea, and who believed that in the end, by the combination 
of these processes, the whole dry land might possibly be 
reduced below the sea-leveL^ 
i^ Generellijtpo, in his defence of Lazzaro Moro, twenty 
years before the appearance of Guettard's volume,*had, with 
great eloquence, dwelt on the evidence of the constant 
degradation of the mountains by running water as an 
argument for the existence of some other natural cause, 
whereby, from time to time, land was upraised to com- 
pensate for the universal waste. It must be admitted, 
however, that no one had elaborated the subject so fully 
until it was taken up by the French observer, and that 
he was the first to discuss the whole phenomena of 
denudation, apart altogether from theory, as a great domain 
for accurate and prolonged observation. 

I have reserved for mention in the last place the dis- 
covery for which chiefly Guettard's name has received such 
mention as has been accorded to it in EngUsh scientific 
\^ N- literature. He was the first to ascertain the existence of 
a group of old volcanoes in the heart of France. This 
contribution to the geology of the time may seem in itself 

^ MisceHaneous Discov/rses concerning the DissoMion and Changes of 
the Worlds by John Bay, Fellow of the Royal Society, London, 1692, 
pp. 44-56. 


1 Guettard in Auvergne 35 

of comparatively small moment, but it proved to be 
another important onward step made by the same inde- 
fatigable and clear - sighted naturalist, and laid the 
foundations of another department of the natural history 
of the earth. It proved also to be the starting-point of 
one of the great scientific controversies of the latter half 
of the last, and the first decades of the present, century. 
There is thus a peculiar interest in watching how the 
discovery was made and worked out by the original 

The story goes back to the early months of 1752, for 
on the 10th of May of that year Guettard read to the 
Academy a " Memoir on Certain Mountains in France which 
have once been Volcanoes." ^ He tells how he had under- 
taken further journeys for the purpose of obtaining addi- 
tional information towards the correction and amplification of 
his map of France, showing the distribution of his "bands " 
with their characteristic minerals. He was accompanied 
by his former school-fellow and then his valued friend, 
Malea herbes. On reaching Moulins on the Allier, he was 
struck by the nature of the black stone employed for mile- 
posts, and felt certain that it must be of volcanic origin. 
On inquiring whence the material came, and learning 
that it was brought from Volvic, " Volvic ! " he exclaimed, 
" Volcani Vicus ! " and at once determined to make with- 
out delay for this probably volcanic centre.^ His excitement 

^ Mifm, Acad, Boy, Science, vol. for 1766, p. 27. 

2 Twenty-eight years after this discovery Guettard found himself forced 
to defend Ids claim to be the discoverer of the old volcanoes of Central 
France, and to ask his friend Malesherbes for his testimony to the justice 
of that claim. Malesherbes accordingly wrote him a letter giving an 
account of their journey to Auvergne, which Guettard printed in the pre- 
face to his treatise, in two volumes, on the mineralogy of Dauphin^. It 


36 The Founders of Geology lect. 

in the chase after an unknown volcano seems to have in- 
creased with every step of the journey, as more and more 
of the dark stone appeared in the buildings by the road- 
side. At Eiom he found the town almost entirely buUt 
of the material, which he felt sure he had now run nearly 
to earth. Learning that the quarries were stiU some two 
leagues distant, he pushed on to them, and great was his 
delight to find aU his suspicions amply confirmed. He 
recognized the rock as a solidified current of lava which 
had flowed down from the high granitic ridge for some 
five English miles into the plain below, and he found the 
actual cone and crater from which the molten flood had 

We can follow the enthusiastic explorer with warm 
sympathy as he eagerly and joyously sees at each onward 
step some fresh evidence of the true volcanic nature of the 
rocks around him. Though he had never beheld a volcano, 
he was familiar with their outlines from the available 
engravings of the time. Ascending a hiU beyond the 
quarries, he recognizes its conical form as that of a typical 
volcano.^ As he climbs the rough slopes, he identifies the 
crumbling debris of black and red pumice, together with 
the blocks of rugged spongy slags and scoriae, as manifestly 
the products of a once active volcanic vent. When he 
reached the truncated summit of the hill, what must have 

is cnrions that, with the statements of the two travellers long ago in 
print, Scrope should have published a totally inaccurate version of the 
journey in the first edition of his Volca'noes of CentraZ Frawx^ and should 
have repeated it in the second edition. 

^ Desmarest affirms that it was not the Puy de la Nug^re, the source 
of the Volvic lava, which Guettard ascended, but the Puy de la Banniere, 
and that the former hill was unknown to him, JEncyclqp4die M^thodiqtie, 
Olographic Physique, vol. i. p. 187. 

I Gtiettard in Auvergne 37 

been his deKght when he saw below him the smooth-sloped 
hollow of the crater, not now belching forth hot vapours and 
ashes, but silent and carpeted with grass ! For centuries 
the shepherds had pastured their flocks on these slopes, 
and the quarrymen had been busy cutting and sending off 
the lava for roads and buildings, but no one had ever 
suspected that this quiet and lonely spot retained such 
striking monuments of subterranean commotion. 

Descending to the great lava-stream, Guettard scruti- 
nized its structure as laid open in the quarries, and at 
once noticed how different in character it was from any 
other rock he had ever seen in France. He observed it 
to be divided into sheets inclined with the general slope 
of the groimd, but separated from each other by layers of 
clay, earth or sand, as in the case of sedimentary forma- 
tions, yet solid, and breaking easily in any direction, so 
as to lend itself readily to the arts of the stone-mason. 

Travelling southward along the base of the picturesque 
ridge of the Puys, Guettard and Malesherbes reached 
Clermont, where they procured the services of an intel- 
ligent apothecary, who had some knowledge of the topo- 
graphy of the hills. They climbed the steep slopes of the 
Puy de D6me — a hill made famous by Pascal. Every- 
where they noticed volcanic debris partiaUy concealed 
under vegetation. If the view from the first volcano 
above Volvic delighted the travellers, we can imagine 
their amazement and pleasure when the marvellous pano- 
rama around the highest craterless summit spread itself 
like a map around them. As their eyes ranged over that 
array of old volcanoes, so perfect in form that it is difficult 
to believe them to have been silent ever since the begin- 

38 The Founders of Geology lect. 

ning of human history, they could mark the cones rising 
one behind the other in long procession on the granite 
ridge, each bearing its cup-shaped crater atop. 

i; descending from the mountain they came upon 
another crater, probably that of the Petit Puy de Dome, 
a singularly perfect example of the type, some 300 feet 
deep, and the same in diameter of rim, with such regular 
and smooth slopes that it has been named by the shep- 
herds the Hen's Nest. Everywhere they encountered 
quantities of pumice, which so entirely convinced Guet- 
tard of the true volcanic nature of the district, that he 
found it unnecessary for his immediate purpose to ex- 
amine the rest of the puys. Their Clermont guide, though 
he had previously wandered over the hills, had never 
suspected their volcanic origin; but he seems to have 
learnt his lesson promptly, for he soon afterwards, at 
Guettard's request, sent some details, and wrote about 
eruptions and explosions as if he had been long familiar 
with their efifects. 

Not only did Guettard detect some sixteen or seven- 
teen cones, but he observed that their craters looked in 
different directions, and he thought that they probably 
belonged to different periods of eruption. The travellers 
pushed on to the great volcanic centre of Mont Dore. 
But GueJ;tard was there less successful. He was unaware 
of the influence of long-continued denudation in altering 
the external forms of volcanic hills, and was disposed to 
regard his ill success as probably due to the mantle of 
vegetation by which so much of the ground was concealed. 

The journey in Auvergne was too brief and hurried to 
admit of any single point being fully worked out. But 

I Giiettard and the Auvergne Volcanoes 39 

Guettard believed that he had amassed material enough to 
prove the main question which interested him — ^that there 
had formerly been a series of active volcanoes in the heart 
of France. So he prepared an account of his observations, 
and read it to the Academy of Sciences on 10th May 1752. 
This early memoir on the extinct volcanoes of Europe 
must not be tried by the standard which has now been 
attained in the elucidation of volcanic rocks and the 
phenomena of ancient eruptions. We should be unjust if 
we judged it by the fuller knowledge obtained of the 
same region of France by the more detailed examination 
of other observers even in Guettard's lifetime. Desmarest, 
to whose splendid achievements I shaU refer in my next 
lecture, was conspicuously guilty of this injustice. He 
would never allow Guettard credit for his work in 
Auvergne, finding fault with it because it was imperfect 
and inaccurata He wished that, before writing on the 
subject at all, his predecessor had studied the ground 
more carefully and in greater detail, and had attended to 
the different conditions and dates of the eruptions. " Can 
we regard as a true discovery," he asks, " the simple 
recognition of the products of volcanic action, when the 
facts are presented with so little order and so much con- 
fusion ? Such a discovery implies a reasoned analysis of 
all the operations of fire, of which the results have been 
studied, so as to reveal the ancient conditions of all the 
volcanic regions. Without this it is impossible to dignify 
the recognition of a few stones with the name of a dis- 
covery that will advance the progress of the natural his- 
tory of the earth." ^ Could any judgment be more unfair ? 

^ OiogrtvphU Physique^ Art. "Guettard." 

40 The Founders of Geology lect. 

As if no discovery was entitled to the name unless it had 
been elaborated in the fullest detail and followed to its 
remotest consequences. When one of Guettard's country- 
men and contemporaries could write thus of his claims to 
recognition, it is not surprising that for the best part of 
a century his name should have almost entirely passed 
out of mind. 

That Guettard preceded every one else in the recognition 
of the old volcanoes of Auvergne, and that he thus became 
the originator of the Vulcanist party in the famous warfare 
of the end of last century, in no way diminishes the claim 
of Desmarest to occupy the foremost place among the 
Vulcanists and to be ranked as the real founder of volcanic 
geology. I shall have occasion to dwell at some length 
on Desmarest's work, which for accuracy and breadth has 
never been surpassed. 

Guettard, having never seen a volcano, was guided in 
his observations and inferences by what he had read of 
volcanic countries, and what he had learnt about lavas by 
familiarity with specimens of these rocks brought from 
Vesuvius and other modem volcanoes. He noted the close 
resemblance between the rocks of Auvergne and the Italian 
lavas, not only in appearance, density and other characters, 
but in their position on the ground, the specimens which 
he had gathered from the bottom, sides and crests of the 
puys having each their own distinctive peculiarities, as in 
existing volcanoes. He compared the curved lines on some 
of the rocks of Mont Dore and the Puy de Dome with the 
ropy crusts of certain Vesuvian lavas. 

When this distinguished man stepped from the observa- 
tion of fact into the region of theory, he at once fell into 

I Guettard's Volcanic Theory 41 

error, but the error was general in his time, and was shared 
in by his most illustrious contemporaries. " For the pro- 
duction of volcanoes," he remarks, " it is enough that there 
should be within these mountains substances that can bum, 
such as petroleum, coal or bitumen, and that from some 
cause these materials should take fire. Thereupon the 
mountain wiU become a furnace, and the fire, raging 
• furiously within, will be able to melt and vitrify the most 
intractable substances." ^ He finds evidence in Auvergne 
of this presumed connection between the combustion of 
carbonaceous substances and volcanic eruptions, and he cites 
in illustration the Puy de Crouel and Puy de la Poix, near 
Clermont, where the black bituminous material can actually 
be seen at the surface. Summing up his observations he 
concludes thus : " I do not believe that the reality of our 
volcanoes will now be called in question, save perhaps 
from anxiety for the safety of the districts around them. 
For myself, confident as to the first point, I confess that I 
share in the anxiety regarding the second. Hot springs 
have generally been regarded as due to some kind of 
concealed volcanoes. Those of Mont Dore rise at the very 
foot of the mountains ; those of Clermont are only some 
two leagues from the chain of the Puys. It may very well 
be that their high temperature is kept up by the same 
internal fires which formerly had a communication with 
y these extinct volcanoes, or might now easily establish one 
should they increase in activity." ^ 

His fears for the safety of the Auvemois were by no 

^ Trans, Boy, Acad, SdcTvces for 1756, p. 52. This suggestion is 
severely criticized by Desmarest, but it was subsequently adopted by 
Werner, and became a prominent item in the Wemerian creed. 

2 Op, cU, p. 53. 

42 . The Founders of Geology lect. 

means shared by the people themselves, for they refused 
to believe that the Puys, which they had known from 
infancy as quiet, well-behaved hills, had ever been anything 
else, and they looked upon the learned doctor's descriptions 
of the former eruptions as mere speculation of his own 

In taking leave of Guettard's scientific labours, I must 
refer to one further essay of his, on account of its connec- 
tion with his work among the old volcanoes of Auvergne. 
Eighteen years after his memoir on these hills had been 
read to the Academy, he published a paper " On the Basalt 
of the Ancients and the Moderns/' -^ The furious war over 
the origin of basalt, of which I shall give some account in 
another lecture, had not yet definitely begun. Various 
writers had maintained that this rock is of volcanic origin, 
and we might have supposed that Guettard's experience in 
Auvergne would have led him to adopt this correct opinion. 
So far from doing so, however, he entered into an elaborate 
discussion to show that basalt could not be a volcanic rock. 
He admitted that it is fpund among volcanic masses, but 
he accounted for its presence there by supposing that in 
some cases it was already in that position before the erup- 
tions, in others that it had been laid down upon the lavas 
after they had consolidated. " If a columnar basalt can be 
produced by a volcano," he asks, " why do we not find it 
among the recent eruptions of Vesuvius and other active 
volcanoes?" After reviewing all that had then been 
written on the subject, he concludes that "basalt is a 
species of vitrifiable rock, formed by crystallization in an 

^ M4moire8 aur diffireTdes parties des Sciences et Arts, tome ii. p. 226 


I Guettard and the later Schools 43 

aqueous fluid, and that there is no reason to regard it as 
due to igneous fusion/' ^ 

"We may gather how little was then known of the 
characters of modern lavas when Guettard was ignorant of 
the occurrence of columnar structure among them.^ He 
was as hopelessly wrong in regard to the origin of basalt, 
as he was with respect to the nature of volcanic action. 
How this error originated wiU appear in an examination of 
the controversy to which basalt gave rise. But the most 
interesting feature in the passage just cited from Guettard 
is not his mistake about basalt, but his clear enunciation 
of his belief in its deposition from aqueous solution, for he 
thus forestalled Werner in one of the most keenly disputed 
parts of his geognosy. 

I know nothing more whimsical in the history of geo- 
logy than that the same man should be the parent of two 
diametrically opposite schools. Guettard's observations in \/ 
Auvergne practically started the Vulcanist camp, and his 
promulgated tenets regarding basalt became the watchword 
of the Neptunists. 

The notable Frenchman, of whose work I have now at- 
tempted to give an outUne, must have been a singular figure 
as he moved about among his contemporaries. Endowed 
with a healthy constitution, he had strengthened it by travel, 
and by a hard and sober life. At last he became liable 
to attacks of a heavy lethargic sleep, during one of which 
his foot was burnt. The long aud painful heaUng of the 
wound he bore with stoical patience, though often convinced 
of the uselessness of the remedies applied. " I see quite 

1 Op, cU. p. 268. 

^ We shaU find that this ignorance continued for many years after 
Guettard's time, and was characteristic of the Wernerian school. 

44 The Founders of Geology lect. 

well," he would say, " that they want to ward off the stroke ; 
but they will not succeed." The idea of the kind of death 
that would terminate his Ufe never left his mind, but did 
not in the least affect his cheerfulness. He continued to 
come assiduously to the meetings of the Academy of 
Sciences alone and on foot, taking only the precaution to 
carry in his pocket his full address, that in case of anything 
happening to him, he might be taken home. By degrees 
he declined to dine with his friends, and then went seldom to 
see them, quietly assigning as his excuse the fear of troubUng 
them with the sight of his death. He passed away at last 
on the 7th of January 1786 at the age of seventy-one years. 
The kindly doge of Condorcet enables us to form some 
idea of the character and peculiarities of the man. From 
his chUdhood onwards he was eminently reUgious. His 
nature was thoroughly frank anfl jTf>jnflat,, ^iTOJb^J^^ 
unambitious. Scrupulously exact in his own dealings 
with fact, he hated everything savouring in the least of 
insincerity and subterfuge. His transparent sincerity 
gained him friends everywhere; yet he was readily 
irritated, and had a certain brusqueness of manner, which 
perhaps detracted from the charm of his character and led 
to his being sometimes much misunderstood. One of his 
acquaintances once thanked him for having given a vote in 
his favour. "You owe me nothing for that," was Guettard's 
abrupt reply. " If I had not believed that it was right to 
give it to you, you should not have had it ; for I don't like 
you." Condorcet tells how, when they met at the Academy 
on the occasion of the delivery of the customary doge^ 
of deceased members, Guettard, who looked on all these 
things as unveracious statements, would say to the 

I Personal Traits of Guettard 45 

perpetual Secretary, " You are going to tell a lot of lies. 
When it comes to my turn I want only the truth told 
about me." Condorcet, in sketching the defects as well as 
the excellences of his friend's character, remarks that in 
fulfilling his wishes in the strictest sense, he is rendering 
to Guettard the homage that he himseK would most have 
desired. So little did he try to seem better than he was 
that his defects might be most prominent to those who 
only casually met him, while his sterling qualities were 
known only to his friends. " Those who knew Guettard 
merely by some brusque answer or other indication of bad 
temper," his biographer remarks, " would be surprised to 
learn that this man, so severe in appearance, so hard to 
please, forced by the circumstances of his position to live 
alone, had actually adopted the large family of a woman 
who had been his servant, brought up the children and 
watched over the smallest details of their education ; that 
he could never see any one in distress without not only 
coming to his help, but even weeping with him. He bore 
the same sensibility towards animals also, and expressly 
forbade that any living creature should be killed for him 
or at his house. He was a man who, losing control of his 
words when in bad humour, had quarrelled more than once 
with each of his friends, yet had always ended by loving 
them and being loved more than ever by them ; who had 
hurt most of his associates in his disputes with them, but 
yet had preserved the friendship of several of them, and 
had never diminished in any one of them the esteem which 
it was impossible to refuse to his character and his virtues." ^ 
Guettard's position in the history of science is that of 

1 Condorcet's tloge, pp. 238, 240. 

46 The Founders of Geology lect. i 

an indefatigable and accurate observer who, gifted with a 
keen eye, well-trained powers of investigation, and much 
originality of mind, opened up new paths in a number of 
fields which have since been fruitfully cultivated, but 
who rigidly abstained from theory or speculation. In 
geology, he deserves to be specially remembered as the 
first to construct, however imperfectly, geological maps, 
the first to make known the existence of extinct vol- 
canoes in Central France, and one of the first to see the 
value of organic remains as geological monuments, and to 
prepare detailed descriptions and figures of them. To 
him also are due some of the earliest luminous sugges- 
tions on the denudation of the land by the atmospheric 
and marine agents. "By his minute and laborious re- 
searches he did more to advance the true theory of the 
earth (on which, however, he never allowed himself to 
hazard a single conjecture) than the philosophers who have 
racked their brains to devise those brilliant hypotheses, 
the phantoms of a moment, which the light of truth soon 
remands into eternal obUvion." ^ 

^ Gondorcet's Moge, 


The rise of volcanic geology — Desmarest — Rise of geological 

travel — Pallas, De Saussure. 

The leading position taken by France in the investigation 
of the history of the earth was well maintained in the later 
decades of last century. Geology as a distinct science didO 
not yet exist. The study of rocks and their contents was 
known as mineralogy, which as a pursuit, often of economic 
value, had been in vogue for centuries. The idea that 
beyond the mere variety of its mineral contents, the crust 
of the earth contained a record of the earth's evolution, for 
many ages before the advent of man, only very slowly took 
definite shape. Buffon partly realized it ; Guettard had a 
fuller perception of its nature, though he failed to observe 
proofs of a long succession of changes earUer than the 
present condition of the surface. 

One of the most valuable parts of Guettard's work was 
his recognition of the existence of volcanic rocks in regions 
far removed from any active volcano.- We have seen that 
he was led to this important deduction by a train of 
observation and inference, and that although he never 
worked out the subject in detail, the credit of the first 
discovery, denied to him in his lifetime and after it, must 
in common fairness be assigned to him. 

48 The Founders of Geology lect. 

Central France was the region that furnished Guettard 
with his proofs of extinct volcanoes. It was the same 
region that afterwards supplied fuel to the controversy over 
the origin of basalt which raged with fury for so many 
years. The story of this old battle is full of interest and 
instruction. We learn from it how the advance of truth 
may be impeded by personal authority ; how, under guise 
of the most rigorous induction from fact, the most perverse 
theories may be supported ; how, under the influence of 
theoretical preconceptions, the obvious meaning and rela- 
tions of phenomena may be lost sight of, and how, even 
in the realm of science, dry questions of interpretation 
may become the source of cruel misrepresentation and 
personal animosity. 

To understand the history of this controversy, we must 
trace the career of another illustrious Frenchman who, 
with less opportunity for scientific work than Guettard, 
less ample qualifications in all departments of natural 
science, and less promptitude in putting the results of his 
observations into tangible form, has nevertheless gained 
for himself an honoured place among the founders of 
modern geology. 

Nicholas Desmarest (1725-1815) was bom in humble cir- 
cumstances at Soulaines, a little town in France between 
Bar-sur-Aube and Brienne, on 16th September 1725.^ 
He was thus exactly ten years younger than Guettard. So 
pinched were the conditions of his youth that he could 
hardly read even when fifteen years old. From that time, on 
the death of his father, better prospects dawned upon him. 

^ The biographical details of this sketoh are taken from the well-known 
eloquent ilog^^ of Desmarest by Guvier, Jtecueil des jSloges Histariques, 
edit. 1819, toL ii p. 889. 

II Early Career of Desmarest 49 

The parish priest urged his guardian to have him educated 
as far as the slender means left for his sustenance would 
allow. He was accordingly sent to the college of the 
Oratorians of Troyes; but the pittance available for his 
benefit was exhausted by the first few terms of his stay 
there. He had, however, made such marked progress that 
his teachers, interested in his career, were glad to continue 
gratuitously the instruction for which he could no longer 
pay. At the end of his time with them, they passed him 
on to their brethren in Paris. 

Having made some advance, especially in geometry and 
physics, he was able to support himself by private teach- 
ing and other labours which, however, barely provided the 
necessaries of life. After some ten years of this drudgery, 
the studies which had been his occupation and solace, came 
at last to be the means of opening up a new and noble 
career to him. ^ 

The appearance of Bufifon's Themy of the Earthy in 1749, 
had had a powerful influence in France in directing atten- 
tion to the revolutions through which our globe has passed. 
Among the results of this influence, a society which had 
been founded at Amiens by the Due de Chaulnes, proposed 
in 1753 a prize for an essay on the question whether 
England and France had ever been joined together. The 
subject caught Desmarest's fancy, he made some investiga- 
tions, sent in an essay and carried off the prize. 

Cuvier, in his Eloge, remarks on the strong contrast 
between the way in which Desmarest approached his task 
and that in which BuflTon, who had aroused public attention 
to these subjects, was accustomed to deal with them. The 
young aspirant to fame, then twenty-eight years of age, 


li .. 

50 The Founders of Geology lect. 

allowed himself no hypothesis or theory. He would not 
travel beyond the positive facts and the inferences that 
might be legitimately deduced from them. Dealing with 
the correspondence between the material forming the oppo- 
site cliffs of the two countries (which had already been 
pointed out by Guettard), and with the form of the 
bottom of the shallow strait, he passed on to consider the 
former prevalence in England of many noxious wild 
animals, which could not have swum across the sea, and 
which man would certainly have taken care not to intro- 
duce. From a review of all the considerations which the 
subject presented, he drew the inference that a neck of 
land must once have connected England and France, and 
that this isthmus was eventually cut through by the strong 
currents of the North Sea. 

This essay, so different in tone from the imaginative 
discourses of Buffon, attracted the attention of D'Alembert, 
and led him to seek the acquaintance of its author. The 
friendship of this great man was itself a fortune, for it 
meant an introduction into the most learned, intelligent, 
and influential society of the day. Desmarest was soon 
actively employed in tasks for which his knowledge and 
capacity were found to fit him, and thenceforth his struggle 
with poverty came to an end. Among those who be- 
friended him, the young Due de la Eochefoucault was 
especially helpful, taking him on his travels and enabling 
him to see much of France and Italy. 

Shortly after the middle of last century, the Gk)vern- 
ments of Europe, wearied with ruinous and profitless wars, 
began to turn their attention towards the improvement of 
the industries of their peoples. The French Government 

II Desmarest and French Industries 5 1 

■ I 

especially distinguished itself for the enlightened views 
which it took in this new line of national activity. It 
sought to spread throughout the kingdom a knowledge of 
the best processes of manufacture, and to introduce what- 
ever was found to be superior in the methods of foreign 
countries. Desmarest was employed on this mission from 
1757 onwards. At one time he would be sent to in- 
vestigate the cloth-making processes of the country : at 
another to study the various methods adopted in different 
districts in the manufacture of cheese. Besides being 
deputed to examine into the condition of the industries of 
different provinces of France, he undertook two journeys to 
Holland to study the paper-making system of that country. 
He prepared elaborate reports of the results of his investi- 
gations, which were published in the M47noires of the 
Academic des Sciences, or in the Encydopidie M6tJiodigue, 
At last in 1788 he was named by the King Inspector- 
General and director of the manufactures of France. 

He continued to hold this office until the time of the 
Revolution, when his political friends — Trudaine, Male- 
sherbes. La Eochefoucault, and others — perished on the 
scaffold or by the knife of the assassin. He himself was 
thrown into prison, and only by a miracle escaped the 
slaughter of the 2nd September. After the troubles were 
over, he was once more called to assist the Government of 
the day with his experience and judgment in all matters 
connected with the industrial development of the country. 
It may be said of Desmarest that " for three quarters of a 
century it was under his eyes, and very often under his 
influence, that French industry attained so great a develop- 

5 2 The Founders of Geology lect. 

Such was his main business in life, and the manner in 
which he performed it would of itself entitle him to the 
grateful recollection of his fellow-countrymen. But these 
occupations did not whoUy engross his time or his thoughts. 
Having early imbibed a taste for scientific investigation, .^ 
he continued to interest himseK in questions that afforded 
him occupation and solace, even when his fortunes were at 
the lowest ebb. 

" Eesuming the rustic habits of his boyhood," says his 
biographer, " he made his journeys on foot, with a little 
cheese as all his sustenance. No path seemed impracticable 
to him, no rock inaccessible. He never sought the country 
mansions, he did not even halt at the inns. To pass the 
night on the hard ground in some herdsman's hut, was to 
him only an amusement. He would talk with quarrymen 
and miners, with blacksmiths and masons, more readily 
than with men of science. It was thus that he gained 
that detailed personal acquaintance with the surface of 
France with which he enriched his writings." 

During these joumeyings, he was led into Auvergne in 
the year 1763, where, eleven years after Guettard's de- 
scription had been presented to the Academy, he found 
himself in the same tract of Central France, wandering 
over the same lava-fields, from Volvic to the heights of 
Mont Dore. Among the many puzzles reported by the 
minemlogists of his day, none seems to have excited his 
interest more than that presented by the black columnar 
stone which was found in various parts of Europe, and 
for which Agricola, writing in the middle of the sixteenth 
century, had revived Pliny's old name of " basalt." The 
wonderful symmetry, combined with the infinite variety 

II Desmarest's Interest in Basalt 53 

of the pillars, the vast size to which they reached, the 
colossal cUfifs along which they were ranged in admirable 
regularity, had vividly aroused the curiosity of those who 
concerned themselves with the nature and origin of 

• minerals and rocks. Desmarest had read all that he could 
find about this mysterious stone. He cast longing eyes 

^ towards the foreign countries where it was developed. 
In particular, he pictured to himself the marvels of the 
Giant's Causeway of the north of Ireland, as one of the 
most remarkable natural monuments of the world, where 
Nature had traced her operations with a bold hand, but 
had left the explanation of them still concealed from mortal 
ken. How fain would he have directed his steps to that 
distant shore. Little did he dream that the solution of 
the problems presented by basalt was not to be sought in 
Ireland, but in the heart of his own country, and that it 
was reserved for him to find. 

Before referring to the steps in Desmarest's progress 
towards the discovery of the origin of basalt, let me briefly 
sketch what was known on the subject at the time when he 
began his researches. Agricola, who, as I have just said, 
revived the Latin name Basaltes for this dark prismatic 
rock, mentioned that it was to be seen in different parts of 
Germany, and in particular that it formed the eminence on 
which the old castle of Stolpen in Saxony had been built.^ 
It was afterwards found to be abundantly distributed, not 
only in Saxony, but in Silesia, in Cassel, and in the valley 
of the Ehine above Cologne.^ In these places it usually 

^ Be NaJtv/ra FossUium^ lib. vii. p. 315. Folio, Basel, 1546. 

^ Various authors who had noticed the occurrence of basalt before the 
publication of his memoir are cited by Desmarest. M^. Acad, Boy, 
SdenceSf vol. for 1774, p. 726 et seq. 

54 ^'^^ Founders of Geology lect. 

formed detached eminences, frequently capping hills, and 
presenting its columns in vertical rows along its edges. 
There was nothing about it likely in those days to suggest 
a volcanic origin. The exposures of it usually belonged 
to a far older geological period than the comparatively 
recent lava-streams of Auvergne, and in the course of time 
the cones and craters and scoriae, that no doubt originally 
marked these sites, had gradually disappeared. 

The Giant's Causeway, too, though it displayed on a 
far more colossal scale the characteristic structure and 
scenery of basalt, was equally silent in regard to its origin. 
The marvels of this part of the coast of Ireland had fre- 
quently been brought to the notice of the learned, from the 
latter part of the seventeenth century onward.^ But here 
as elsewhere, it was rather the symmetrical structure than 
the mode of formation that engaged the attention of the 
older observers. Even as far back as the year 1756, one 
of these writers pointed out the remarkable resemblance 
of certain rocks in Nassau and in the district of Treves 
and Cologne to the Giant's Causeway, which by that time 
had become famous.^ 

The western islands of Scotland, which far surpass the 
Irish coast in the extent and magnificence of their basalt 
cliffs, were stiU unknown to the scientific world. The 
first report about their wonders seems to have reached 
London in the spring of 1761, when the Bishop of Ossory 

1 See Sir R. B., TUL, Tram,, xvu. (1693) p. 708; S. Foley, xviii. 
(1694) p. 170, with a map and bird's-eye view. T. Molyneux, Ibid, p. 
181 and xix. (1698) p. 209, witli drawings of the columns. R. Pocock, 
xlv. (1748) p. 124, and xlviii. part i. (1754), with further figures illus- 
trating the jointing of the columns. 

2 A. Trembly, Thil, Trans. xUx. (1766) p. 581. 

II Early Observations on Basalt 55 

sent to the Eoyal Society a letter he had received from 
E. Mendez da Costa telling him that '' in Cana Island to 
the southward of Skye and near the island of Eum the 
rocks rise into polygon pillars . . . jointed exactly like 
those of the Giant's Causeway/' ^ But it was reserved for 
Sir Joseph Banks to give the first detailed account of the 
cliffs of Stafifa and Fingal's Cave, which from that time 
shared with the Giant's Causeway in the renown that 
drew a yearly increasing number of travellers to these dis- 
tant shores.^ 

Much had thus been learnt as to the difPasion of basalt 
m Europe, and many excellent drawings had been pub- 
'ished of the remarkable prismatic structure of this rock. 
But no serious attempt seems to have been made to 
grapple with the problem of its origin. Some absurd 
notions had indeed been entertained on this subject. The 
long regular pillars of basalt, it was gravely suggested, were 
jointed bamboos of a former period, which had somehow 
been converted into stone. The similarity of the prisms 
to those of certain minerals led some mineralogists to regard 
basalt as a kind of schorl, which had taken its geometrical 
forms in the process of crystallization. Eom^ de Lisle is 
even said to have maintained that each basalt prism ought 
to have a pyramidal termination, like the schorls and other 
small crystals of the same nature.^ 

Guettard, as we have seen, drew a distinction between 

1 TUl, Trans, lii. (1761) p. 163. 

2 See Pennant's T(mr in Scotland, 1772, where Banks's narrative is in- 
serted with, a number of excellent engravings of the more remarkable features 
in Staffa. 

^ In the second edition of his OrystaZlographie (1783) he clearly dis- 
tinguishes between crystallization and basaltic structure. The latter he 
regards as due to desiccation or cooling, tome i p. 439. 

56 The Founders of Geology lect. 

basalt and lava, and this opinion was general in his tin)e. 
The basalts of Central and Western Europe were nsuaZly 
found on hiU tops, and displayed no cones or craters, or 
other familiar sign of volcanic action. On the contrary, 
they were not infrequently found to lie upon, and even to 
alternate with, undoubted sedimentary strata. They iv^ere, 
therefore, not unnaturally grouped with these strat£^ and 
the whole association of rocks was looked upon as having 
had one common aqueous origin. It was also a preralent 
idea that a rock which had been molten must retain olvious 
traces of that condition in a glassy structure. There was 
no such conspicuous vitreous element in basalt, so that this 
rock, it was assumed, could never have been volcanic.^ A3 
Desmarest afterwards contended, those who made sucl 
objections could have but little knowledge of volcanic 

We may now proceed to trace how the patient and 
sagacious inspector of French industries made his memor- 
able contribution to geological theory. It was while travers- 
ing a part of Auvergne in the year 1763 that he detected 
for the first time columnar rocks in association with the 
remains of former volcanoes. On the way from Clermont 
to the Puy de D6me, climbing the steep slope that leads 
up to the plateau of PrudeUe, with its isolated outlier of a 
lava-stream that flowed long before the valley below it 
had been excavated, he came upon some loose columns of 
a dark compact stone which had fallen from the edge of 
the overlying sheet of lava. He found similar columns 
standing vertically aU along the mural front of the lava, 

^ See for instance WaUerius' Mmerdlogia (1773) i. p. 336, replied to 
by Desmarest, M&m, Acad, Boy, Sciences (1774), p. 753. 

II Desmaresi s Discovery in Auvergne 57 

and observed that they were planted on a bed of scoriae 
and burnt soil, beneath which lay the old granite that 
forms the foundation rock of the region. He noticed still 
more perfect prisms a Uttle further on, belonging to the 
same thin cake of dark stone that covered the plain which 
leads up to the foot of the great central puy. 

Every year geological pilgrims now make their way to 
Auvergne, and wander over its marvellous display of cones, 
craters and lava-rivers. Each one of them climbs to the 
plateau of Prudelle, and from its level surface gazes in 
admiration across the vast fertile plain of the limagne on 
the one side, and up to the chain of the puys on the other. 
Yet how few of them connect that scene with one of the 
great triumphs of their science, or know that it was there 
that Desmarest began the observations that directly led to 
the fierce contest over the origin of basalt. 

That cautious observer tells us that amidst the infinite 
variety of objects around him, he drew no inference from 
this first occurrence of columns, but that his attention was 
aroused. He was kept no long time in suspense on the 
subject. " On the way back from the Puy de D6me," he 
tells us, "I followed the thin sheet of black stone and 
recognised in it the characters of a compact lava. Con- 
sidering further the thinness of this crust of rock, with its 
underlying bed of scoriae, and the way in which it extended 
from the base of hills that were obviously once volcanoes, 
and spread out over the granite, I saw in it a true lava- 
stream which had issued from one of the neighbouring 
volcanoes. With this idea in my mind, I traced out the 
limits of the lava, and found again everywhere in its thick- 
ness the faces and angles of the columns, and on the top 

58 The Founders of Geology lect. 

their cross-section, quite distinct from each other. I was 
thus led to believe that prismatic basalt belonged to the 
class of volcanic products, and that its constant and 
regular form was the result of its ancient state of fusion. 
I only thought then of multiplying my observations, with 
the view of establishing the true nature of the phenomenon 
and its conformity with what is to be found in Antrim 
— a conformity which would involve other points of 

He narrates the course of his discoveries as he journeyed 
into the Mont Dore, detecting in many places fresh con- 
firmation of the conclusion he had formed. But not only 
did he convince himself that the prismatic basalts of 
Auvergne were old lava-streams, he carried his induction 
much further and felt assured that the Irish basalts must 
also have had a volcanic origin. " I could not doubt," he 
says, "after these varied and repeated observations that 
the groups of prismatic columns in Auvergne belonged to 
the same conformation as those of Antrim, and that the 
constant and regular form of the columns must have 
resulted from the same cause in both regions. What con- 
vinced me of the truth of this opinion was the examination 
of the material constituting the Auvergne columns with 
that from the Giant's Causeway, which I found to agree in 
texture, colour and hardness, and further, the sight of two 
engravings of the Irish locality which at once recalled the 
scenery of parts of Mont Dore. I draw from this recog- 
nized resemblance and the facts that establish it a deduc- 
tion which appears to be justified by the strength of the 
analogy — namely, that in the Giant's Causeway, and in all 
the prismatic masses which present themselves along the 

II Desmaresfs Observations on Basalt 59 

cliffs of the Irish coast, in short even among the truncated 
summits of the interior, we see the operations of one or 
more volcanoes which are extinct, like those of Auvergne. 
Further, I am fully persuaded that in general these groups 
of polygonal columns are an infallible proof of an old 
volcano, wherever the stone composing them has a com- 
pact texture, spangled with brilliant points, and a black or 
grey tint" 

Here, then, was a bold advance in theoretical as well 
as observational geology. Not only was the discovery of 
Guettard confirmed, that there had once been active vol- 
canoes in the heart of France, but materials were obtained 
for explaining the origin of certain enigmatical rocks which, 
though they had been found over a large part of Europe, 
had hitherto remained a puzzle to mineralogists. This 
explanation, if it were confirmed, would show how widely 
volcanic action prevailed over countries wherein no sign 
of an eruption has been witnessed since the earliest ages 
of human history. 

IQesmarest was in no hurry to publish his discovery. 
Unlike some modem geologists, who rush in hot -haste 
into print, and overload the literature of the science with 
narratives of rapid and imperfect observations, he kept his 
material beside him, revolving the subject in his mind, 
and seeking all the information that he could bring to bear 
upon it. He tells us that in the year following his journey 
in Auvergne, he spent the winter in Paris, and while there, 
laid before the Intendant of Auvergne the desirability of 
having the volcanic region mapped. His proposition was 
accepted, and Pasumot, one of the state surveyors, was 
entrusted with the task of making a topographical map of 


6o The Founders of Geology lect. 

the region from Volvic to beyond Mont Dore. The whole 
of the summer of 1764 was taken np with this work. 
Desmarest accompanied the geographer, who himself had 
/a large acquaintance with the mineralogy of his day. The 
result was the production of a map which far surpassed 
anything of the kind that had before been attempted, in 
the accuracy, variety, and clearness of its delineations of 
volcanic phenomena. 

At last, in the summer of 1765, after two years of 
reflection, he conununicated to the Academy of Sciences 
at Paris the results at which he had arrived. But even 
then he showed his earnest desire for the Hiiaft§l2£5H£S5Sl 
andj!ulaess_attai^^ He kept back his paper from 
publication. Next year he returned to Auvergne, after a 
prolonged journey through the volcanic regions of Italy, 
from the Vicentin and Padua southwards to Naples and 
Vesuvius. In 1769 he once more revisited the volcanoes 
of Central France, extending his excursions into the 
Cantal. In the early part of the summer of 1771 he 
again brought before the Academy the results of his 
researches on the origin and nature of basalt, embodying 
in his Memoir the mass of material which his extended 
travel and mature reflection had enabled him to bring 
together. But it was not until three years later, viz., in 
1774, that his long-delayed essay at last appeared in the 
annual volume of the Memmrs of the Academy. life was 
more placid in those days than it has since become. The 
feverish haste to be famous, and the frantic struggle for 
priority, which are now unhappily so rampant, were but 
little known in Desmarest's days. He kept his work 
eleven years beside him, enriching it continually with 

II Desmaresfs published Memoirs 6 1 

fresh observations drawn from extended journeys, and thus 
making his conclusions rest on an ever- widening basis of 
accurately determined fact. 

The Memoir, as finally published, was divided into 
three parfe, two of which appeared together, the third not 
untQ three years later. In the first part, the author 
narrated his observations in Auvergne and other districts, 
bearing on the nature of basalt Time would fail us were 
we to try to foUow him in his survey of the regions 
where he found the evidence which he brought forward. 
Let me refer merely to the concluding pages, in which he 
states his opinion as to the origin of the columnar rock 
which he had tracked with such diligence from district to 
district. His account, he remarks, would be incomplete 
if he did not indicate at the same time the materials 
which have been melted by the fire in order to produce 
basalt He had collected a series of specimens of granite 
which he believed to represent these materials. They 
had undergone different degrees of alteration, some showing 
stiU their fusible spar, quartz or other minerals, whUe 
others had partly undergone complete fusion. He had 
convinced himself that various other volcanic rocks besides 
basalt had resulted from the fusion of granite, the base of 
which may have been completely melted, while the quartz 
of the original rock remained unchanged. He was not 
aware that the difiference of chemical composition demon- 
strates that the melting of granite could never have pro- 
duced basalt 

These ideas, which we now know to be erroneous, might 
readily occur to the early observers. It is undoubtedly 
true that pieces of more or less completely melted granite 

62 The Founders of Geology lect. 

are to be found among the ejections of old volcanoes, and 
the inference would naturally suggest itself that the fires 
kindled by the combustion of carbonaceous substances 
underneath a volcano might fuse the surrounding and 
overlying rocks, and expel streams of molten material. 
We shall find that Werner adopted this view, and that 
through him it became predominant over Europe even 
after more enlightened conceptions of the subject had 
been announced. 

Desmarest does not seem to have had at this time, if 
ever, any very definite conception of the origin of the 
high temperature within volcanic reservoirs. Nor had 
chemistry yet afforded much assistance in ascertaining the 
resemblances and differences among rocks and minerals. 
His mistakes were thus a faithful reflex of the limited 
knowledge of the period in which he wrote. 

In the second part of his Memoir, Desmarest gives a 
historical narrative of all that had been written before 
his time on the subject of basalt. The most interesting 
and important passages in this retrospect are the comments 
of the author on the writings he summarises, and the 
additions which he is thereby enabled to make to the 
observations already given by him. He confesses that, 
had he begun his investigations among such isolated 
patches of basalt as those capping the hills in Cassel and 
Saxony, he would never have been able to aflSrm that 
basalt is only a lava. But he had encountered such 
perfect demonstration of the volcanic nature of the rock, 
tracing it with its fresh scoriae up to the very craters 
whence it flowed, that he could not allow this clear 
evidence to be invalidated, or even weakened, by cases 

II Desmaresfs Physiography 63 

where the volcanic origin had been more or less ob- 

It is at this point in his investigation that the genius t 
of Desmarest shines with a brilliance far above that of 
any of his contemporaries who concerned themselves with 
geological problems. Guettard had clearly indicated the 
volcanic origin of the puys of Auvergne, and no great 
acumen was needed to foUow up the clue which he had 
thus given. But to trace a pathway through the maze of 
lavas of many different ages, to unite and connect them 
all in one method of interpretation, and thus to remove 
the endless difl&culties and harmonise the many apparent 
contradictions which beset the investigation, was a task 
which called forth the highest powers of observation and 
induction. Among the many claims of France to the 
respect and gratitude of all students of geology, there 
is assuredly none that ought to be more frankly 
recognized than that, in her wide and fair domain, 
she possessed a region where the phenomena were dis- 
played in unrivalled perfection, and that in Desmarest 
she could boast a son gifted with the skill, gatience, ^ 
imagination, and origmaHty that qualified him so admir- 
ably for the laborious task which he undertook. His 
achievements form one of the most notable landmarks in 
the early history of geology. 

Desmarest, wandering over the volcanic districts of 
Central France, had been profoundly impressed, as every 
traveller must be, by the extraordinary varieties in the 
condition of the various lava-currents. Some of these 
sheets of rock retain still the dark, verdureless, rugged 
surfaces which they assumed ages ago when their molten 

64 The Founders of Geology lect. 

floods stiffened into stone. Others have lost their cover- 
ing of scorise, and are seen cUnging to the sides of valleys, 
in positions which seem impossible for any lava-current 
to have taken. Others are perched in solitary outlying 
sheets on the tops of plateaux, with no cone near them, 
nor any obvious source from which they could have flowed. 

Pondering on these apparently contradictory pheno- 
mena, Desmarest, with the inspiration of true genius, 
seized on the fruitful principle that would alone explain 
ihem^ He saw that the varying conditions of the several 
lavas were due to the ceaseless influence of atoospheric 
denudation. He convinced himself that the detached 
outliers of basalt, capping the ridges and plateaux, are 
really remnants of once continuous sheets of lava, and 
that their isolation, together with the removal of their 
original covering pf scoriae and slags, is to be ascribed to 
the operations of rain and melted snow. The depth of 
the valleys cut through these lava-platforms was found by 
him to be cominensurate with the antiquity of the lavas, 
and with the size of the streams that flowed between the 
severed escarpments. 

He ascertained that, in proportion to their antiquity, the 
lava-streams had lost, one after another, the usual outward 
features of the younger sheets. The superficial scoriae had 
disappeared, and the craters were worn away, until only 
scattered outliers of compact dark rock remained. Yet be- 
tween this extreme and that of the most recent eruptions, 
where the lavas, in unbroken, rugged, cavernous sheets, 
extend from their craters down into the present valleys, 
where they have driven aside the running streams, every 
intermediate stage could be found. 

II Desmarest on the Origin of Valleys 65 

Thus the doctrine of the origin of valleys by the 
erosive action of the streams which flow in them, though 
it has been credited to various writers/ was first clearly 
taught from actual concrete examples by Desmarest. The 
first attempt to trace back the history of a landscape, to 
show its successive phases, and to connect them all with 
the continuous operation of the same causes which are still 
producing like effects, was made by this illustrious native 
of France. 

So satisfied was Desmarest with the proofs furnished 
by Auvergne regarding the volcanic origin of basalt, that 
he coined the term " basalt-lava," with an apology to the 
mineralogists, and remarked that when once the characters 
of this rock have been appreciated, it may be recognised 
everywhere, in spite of the most stupendous degradation. 
Casting his eye over the map of Europe, and noting the 
localities from which the occurrence of basalt had been 
reported, he saw two great regions of ancient volcanic 
activity in the heart of the continent. One of these lay to 
the east, along the confines of Saxony and Bohemia into 
Silesia, from Freiberg to Lignitz ; the other stretched from 
theEhine above Cologne, through Nassau, Hesse-Darmstadt, 
and Cassel. 

The map which has been already referred to as accom- 
panying this remarkable memoir, depicts with great clear- 
ness the grouping of the volcanoes over a large part of 
Auvergne. It represents them by distinct kinds of 
engraving, so as to show four classes differing from each 

^ Thus by Lyell and Murchison it was ascribed to Saussure, Playfair, 
and Montlosier, Edin, New PhU, Jov/m, vol. vii. (1829), p. 15. In Eng- 
land it bas been more commonly assigned to Button and Playfair, and to 


66 The Founders of Geology lect. 

other in age and other characters. The first of these 
classes includes the younger lava - streams, not yet cut 
through by running water, and still connected with their 
parent cones. The second embraces those lavas which bear 
decomposed earthy materials on their surface, and from 
which their original craters have disappeared. In the 
third class are ranged those lavas which have been reduced 
to detached outliers separated by valleys; while in the 
fourth, some isolated masses are placed which Desmarest 
thought had been "melted in place," or erupted where 
they now appear. 

The third part of the memoir, though read with the 
second part in l77l, was not published until 1777. In 
this essay the author discussed the basalt of the ancients, 
and the natural history of the various kinds of stones to 
which at different times the term basalt had been applied. 

It is interesting to follow the slow elaboration of his 
views through his successive memoirs. We must remember 
that, during these busy years, his time and thoughts were 
chiefly taken up with the inquiries into industrial develop- 
ment which the Government of the day had entrusted 
to him, and which necessitated frequent and prolonged 
journeys, not only in France, but in other countries of 
Europe. He felt that the great questions in physical 
geography which specially occupied his attention could 
best be studied in Auvergne. He returned to that region 
at every available opportunity, revisiting again and again 
localities already familiar to him, and testing his deduc- 
tions by fresh appeals to nature. Four years after his 
great monograph on the origin of basalt had been read to 
the Academy of Sciences, he presented another essay, 

11 Desmarest on Volcanic History 67 

developing still further the ideas of demidation and suc- 
cessive eruptive periods which had been briefly sketched 
in his first communication. The scope of this new effort 
may be judged of from its full title : " On the Determina- 
tion of Three Epochs of Nature from the Products of 
Volcanoes, and on the Use that may be made of these 
Epochs in the Study of Volcanoes." This essay was laid 
before the Academy in the year 1775. An extract from it 
appeared after the lapse of four years,^ but the full paper 
was not published until the year 1806 ^ — no less than 
thirty-one years after its original preparation. During this 
long interval the controversy about the origin of basalt 
had extended over most of the countries of Europe, and 
had involved the very subjects of which Desmarest treated. 
He himself, keenly as the matters in dispute interested 
him, took no part in the warfare. In his memoir he ignores 
the combatants and their strife, but quietly repeats and 
strengthens statements which he had published a genera- 
tion before, and which, had they been properly considered 
and verified, would have prevented any controversy from 
ever arising. I shall have more to say about this dispute 
in my next lecture. In the meantime let us consider the 
character of Desmarest's long-delayed contribution to the 
literature and theory of geology. 

The progress of his investigations had led him to 
perceive the necessity of correlating the various pheno- 
mena connected with ancient volcanoes, and especially 
with reference to the questions of their relative age and 
of the alterations they have undergone from exposure to 

^ Jc/wnwl de Physic^y tome xiii. (1779), p. 116, 
^ M4m, de VlnstU* des Sciences Math, et Fhys, tome vi. (1806), p. 219. 
It was read again on 1st Prairial, An XII (20th May 1804). 

68 The Founders of Geology lect. 

the elements. The facts known to him suggested an 
arrangement of them into three groups or epochs, which 
were not meant to imply definite periods of time or pre- 
cise dates, but would express the idea of a recognizable 
succession of events. His researches had assured him 
that the volcanic history of Auvergne " formed a whole, 
which, though incomplete, showed that Nature had fol- 
lowed the same order of procedure in the most remote 
ages as in the most recent times." 

In co-ordinating the appearances presented by the 
different volcanic masses, he began with the consideration 
of what were obviously the youngest, on the principle that 
the last operations of Nature are simpler, and have under- 
gone less modification from the influences which are con- 
tinually changing the face of the land. He perceived that 
volcanoes are only temporary accidents in the midst of the 
ordinary and normal operations of nature, that the materials 
erupted by volcanoes, at various intervals from a remote 
antiquity, must have suffered from the universal degradation, 
and that the extent of their waste would be proportionate 
to the length of time during which the loss had been 
continued. The latest lavas must unquestionably present 
most nearly the primitive forms of volcanic masses, and 
should thus serve as a standard for comparison, to be kept 
before the eyes of every observer who would judge correctly 
of the extent and progress of the alteration that is to be 
seen in other regions. 

The first of his three periods includes the products of 
still active and recently extinct volcanoes. These are 
distinguished by the association of crater-bearing cones of 
cinders and scoriae, with streams of rugged lava, which can 

II Desmarest on Volcanic History 69 

be followed from the cones into the surrounding country- 
over which they have flowed. The most modem lava- 
streams are not cut through by valleys, but form continuous 
sheets. Yet within the limits of this first epoch proofs of 
alteration manifest themselves. The loose scoriae and 
cinders are washed down to lower levels, the cones are 
attacked and the lavas begin to be trenched. As these 
changes advance, the flow of running water gradually cuts 
through the sheets of lava and forms valleys across them. 
The epoch embraced aU the ages required for this erosion, 
and during its continuance repeated outflows of lava took 
place. Each of these currents of melted rock would seek 
the lowest levels, and would thus mark the valley-bottom 
of its time, in the long process of excavation. 

in the records of the second epoch, the scoriae and ashes 
have been swept away, the cones have entirely disap- 
peared, and the streams of lava have been cut into separate 
patches by the erosion of the valleys, above which they are 
now left perched as high plains or plateaux. Notwith- 
standing the stupendous results thus achieved, Desmarest 
seeks no vast terrestrial disturbance to account for them. 
He finds their explanation in the working of the very 
same meteoric agents which axe still carrying on the same 
process of degradation. The cellular parts of the lavas, 
under the influence of the weather, crumble down into 
mere loose earth, which is easily washed away by rain and 
melted snow, lelving only the harder and 11 resisting 
core of more soHd rocl In like manner, the loose material^ 
of the cones are removed, until perhaps only masses 
of lava remain behind that may have solidified at their 
bottoms. By this series of operations an entire trans- 

70 The Founders of Geology lect. 

formation is wrought on the face of the country. Lavas 
which originally covered the floors of valleys, as the 
ground around them is lowered, are at last turned into 
high tablelands, and are still further cut through and 
separated into detached portions, according to the multipli- 
cation and deepening of the ravines and valleys by which 
they are traversed. To realize the ancient continuity of 
these venerable lava-sheets, we must in imagination fill up 
the valleys, and thus restore the plain over which the 
molten rock originally flowed. 

As all the scoriae and craters are gone, the only way of 
detecting an eruptive centre in the volcanic products of 
this epoch is to find the point of common origin for several 
streams, such points being often marked by large isolated 
patches of lava (culots). 

Desmarest arrives at the important conclusion that the 
lavas of his second epoch were erupted before the excava- 
tion of the present valleys out of the original plain over 
which the streams of basalt were poured. The volcanic 
events of which they are the memorials must thus go back 
to a remote antiquity, for the erosion of valleys is obviously 
an exceedingly slow process. But these lavas are evidently 
much younger than the horizontal sedimentary strata and 
the granite which they overlie, both of which are also 
trenched by the valleys. 

The third and most ancient epoch is denoted by a series 
of lavas, which, instead of overlying the sedimentary strata, 
underlie them or are interstratified with them. These 
sediments are now recognized as the deposits of one of the 
old Tertiary lakes of Europe. Their layers are full of land- 
plants, land and fresh-water shells, and remains of terres- 

II Desmarest on Volcanic History 7 1 

trial raammals. But to Desmarest they were proofs of the 
former presence of the sea over the heart of France. He 
inferred that the pebbles of various lavas which he found 
among these strata denoted former volcanic eruptions, 
before the accumulation of the marine deposits. But he 
noticed also indications of the discharge of lava during the 
sojourn of the sea over this region. He believed that his 
third epoch must have lasted some considerable time, so as 
to permit the deposition of 600 or 900 feet of horizontal 
sediments above the lowest lavas.-^ 

He remarks that from ignorance of this method of 
following the sequence of eruptions and the effects of con- 
tinuous waste, naturalists had failed to detect the existence 
of lavas of the second and third epochs in districts where 
eruptions of the first epoch were no longer to be recog- 
nized. These observers, he contended, had misread the 
evidence of nature, referring what were undoubtedly 
volcanic rocks to deposition from water, to schists, and to 
pierre de corne, and on the other hand mistaking for 
volcanic craters what were only hollows dug out by run- 
ning water in the lavas of the second, or even of the first 

The sagacity of these generalizations has been amply 
sustained by the researches of later times. Alike in 
volcanic geology and in the doctrines j)f dfiuiid atiQXi, the U- 
labours of Desmarest marked the rise of a new era in the 

^ In the article '* Auvergne " in his Odographie Physique^ p. 882 (pub- 
lished in 1803), he briefly summarises his three epochs thus — " I have 
distinguished three kinds of volcanoes in Auvergne, fi^rai^ , q.p c^ gnt vol - 
canfiggj s pcppdy T] [iQd ^rn yp J^^BPt^^ ; and third, submarine volcanoes." 
Kobably most of 3ft 1^^^^ pf i],^'^ t^^'^ ^rA^^J^J!;;^^;]J2!L^'^" PAtnrfl nf. ^ ^^/ 
intrusive sills. 

V*.**Uifc*W»^ ,■■*•'♦ •»»'.' 

72 The Founders of Geology lect. 

investigation of the past history of the earth. They 
showed how patient detailed research could solve some of 
the most transcendently interesting problems in geology, 
and how the minute and philosophical investigation of 
one small area of the globe could furnish principles of 
universal application. 

In one respect, perhaps, this far-seeing observer seems 
to have been almost afraid to push his views of denuda- 
tion to their logical conclusion. There occur in Central 
France many flat, isolated areas of basalt capping de- 
tached hills and fragments of plateaux, not apparently 
connected with any visible lava-current or centre of erup- 
tion. These patches were called by him culots, and he 
explained their origin by supposing them to mark the 
positions of volcanic vents up which the melted material 
had risen without flowing out^ and where it had solidified 
within the crater, being retained by the encircling wall of 
scoriae and cinders. The removal of the surrounding loose 
material would, he thought, leave the lava as a cake with 
steep scarped sides crowning the slopes below. (^Possibly 
^ some of his culots originated in the way supposed, but 
there can be little doubt that most of them are remnants 
of lava-streams reduced to almost the last stage by the 
progress of denudation. ^ 

From the long intervals which he allowed to elapse 
between the presentation of his papers to the Academy 
and their final publication, it might be supposed that 
Desmarest was probably of a procrastinating, possibly 
even of an indolent, temperament. Yet, when we consider 
the amount of work, official and scientific, which he 
accomplished, we must acquit him of such an imputation. 

II Desmarest's 'Geographic Physique' 73 

His voluminous reports on the various industries of Prance 
show how actively and zealously he laboured in his 
official harness. But perhaps the best proof of his inde- 
fatigable industry was his colossal Gf^ographie Physique^ 
which he undertook as part of the famous Encyclopedic 
M^thodiqtcc founded by Diderot and D'Alembert. The 
exhaustive treatment of his subject may be inferred from 
the fact that after devoting to it four massive quarto volumes 
of from 700 to 900 pages each, he had only got to the 
letter N when death closed his labours. 

The first volume of this great work is in many respects 
the most interesting. The author in his preface tells how 
he means to exclude from his task all discussion of 
theories of the earth, for, as he frankly confesses, he had 
long looked upon these theories as utterly opposed to the 
principles of Physical Geography. But on second thoughts, 
as unfortunately such theories really existed, having much 
the same relation to Physical Geography that fable bears 
to history, he had resolved to give a summary of the 
subject, thus conforming to the practice of some writers 
who begin their histories with a brief mention of the 
heroic times.^ Accordingly he devotes the first volume 
to notices of the more important authors who had treated 
of his subject, excluding those who were still alive. He 
made, however, exceptions to this exclusion in favour of 
Pallas and Hutton. Though he undertook to present 
merely an impartial summary of the opinions of other 
writers, it is instructive to have these summaries jfrom the 
hand of a man like Desmarest, who was contemporary 
with many of those of whom he discourses. The inter- 

* Geographic Ph/ysiqtte, vol. i. (1794), preface. 

74 7"i4^ Founders of Geology lect. 

spersed comment and criticism in his notices are specially 

The other three volumes were devoted to descriptions of 
places, districts, and countries, and to articles or subjects 
in Physical Geography — a branch of knowledge which 
Desmarest regarded as embracing two equally important 
and closely related subjects — the interior structure of the 
globe and its external form. Geology was not yet admitted 
to a formal place among the sciences, but geological 
questions occupy a prominent place in the massive quartos 
of the Encydop4die Mdthodique} 

The delays that attended the publication of Desmarest's 
important and origmal observations and deductions respect- 
ing the volcanic geology of Auvergne reached their climax 
in the case of his detailed map of that region. We have 
seen that at his instigation a topographical survey of 
Auvergne on a large scale was begun as far back as 1764, 
and that reductions of this map accompanied his Memoirs 
presented to the Academy of Sciences. The map itself, 
however, with all its elaborate detail, bearing on the 
history of the volcanoes of Central France, still remained 
in his hands. Year after year he sought to bring it nearer 
to his ideal of perfection. Every part of the region had 
been scrupulously examined by him, every puy was set 
down, every crater was carefully drawn, every current of 
lava was traced out jfrom its source to its termination, 

^ Vol. i. of the Odographie PAysigw^ appeared in An III (1794) ; vol. ii. 
in 1803 ; vol. iii. in 1809, and vol. iv. in 1811. Among the geological 
articles of interest in these volumes reference may be made to those on 
Antrim, Auvergne, Basalte, Chauss6e des G6ans, and Courans. Vol. v., left 
unfinished by Desmarest, was continued by Bory de St. Vincent, Doin, 
Ferry, and Huot, and was not published until 1828. 


II Desmaresfs Map of Auvergne 75 

every detached area of basalt was faithfully represented. 
By a system of hachures and signs the modem and ancient 
lavas were discriminated. But he still kept the work 
back, and when he died it remained unpublished. - -^ 

Of all his contribution^ to thejiro^i^^^ of geology, this ' 
map must be considered the most memoxable. It was the 
compendium of all his toil in Auvergne, and showed, as in 
a model, the structure of the country which he had so 
patiently and successfully elucidated. The reduced map 
published in his first Memoir and the portions of the map 
issued with his second Memoir, were all that he allowed 
toi appear in his lifetime, but they failed to impress the 
minds of his contemporaries, as the entire map would 
have done, with its complete and clear delineation of the 
whole district. Labouring after a perfection which he 
could not attain, he not only lost the credit which the map 
would have brought him in his lifetime, but he retarded 
the progress of the sound views which he himself held and^^ 
wished to see prevail. Had this truly admirable map been 
published by him, together with a general description of the 
volcanoes depicted on it, his name would have been placed 
at once and by universal assent at the head of the geologists 
of his day, and the miserable controversy about the nature 
of basalt would either never have arisen, or could have 
been speedily set at rest. Cuvier tells us that Desmarest 
himself was fully conscious of the desirability of publishing 
the map, but his life slipped away as he still aimed at 
further improvement of it. Yet he could not bear that 
other observers should enter his volcanic region and 
describe its features. It used to be said that he seemed 
to look on Auvergne as his own property, and certainly 

76 The Founders of Geology lect. 

he was the legitimate owner of most of the observations 
made there after him. 

Cuvier, who knew him well and who had watched 
with interest his declining years, gives us a vivid picture 
of Desmarest. The illustrious geologist was little fitted 
%}<y^ to push his way in a society where the most successful art 
was that of self-advertisement. He took no more pains 
about his private interest than he did about his rights in 
regard to scientific discovery, importuning neither the 
dispensers of fortune nor those of fame. With his crust 
and his cheese, he said, he needed no Government help to 
visit the manufactories or the mountains. In short, in 
studying all the processes of art, all the forces of nature, 
he had entirely neglected those arts that sway the world, 
because nothing which agitates the world could move him. 
Even works of wit and imagination remained unknown 
to him, because they did not lie within the range of his 
studies. His friends used jocularly to affirm that he 
would have broken the most beautiful statue in order to 
ascertain the nature of an antique stone, and this character 
was so widely given to him that at Eome the keepers of 
the museums felt some alarm in admitting him. In 
society, too, things, whatever they might be, affected him 
on one side only. For instance, when an Englishman was 
recounting at the house of the Duchesse d'Anville the 
then recent thrilling incident in Cook's first voyage, when 
his vessel, pierced by a point of rock, was only saved from 
sinking by the stone breaking off and remaining fixed in 
the hole, every one present expressed in his own way 
the interest he felt in the story, Desmarest, however, 
quietly inquired whether the rock was basaltic or calcareous. 

II Personal Traits of Desmarest 77 

A character so little affected by external things was 
naturally immovable in regard to relations and habits. 
From the earliest days when he began to be known, he had 
been engaged to pass his Sundays at Auteuil with a friend. 
Ever afterwards he would appear there on the usual day, 
even when his friend was dead, and when age no longer 
allowed him to enjoy the country ; and as he had from the 
first gone on foot, he always went there on foot until he 
was eighty-five years old. All that his family could then 
prevail upon him to do was to take a carriage. ' 

Nor was he less constant in more trivial affairs. Never 
did he dine or go to bed later one day than another. No- 
body remembered ever to have seen him change the cut of 
his clothes, and down to his last days his wig and his coat 
recalled the fashions in vogue under the Cardinal de Fleury. 

After recalling his kindliness and helpfulness to poor 
inventors, for whom he ever evinced the heartiest sympathy, 
his biographer concludes in eloquent words, with which I 
may fitly close this sketch of Desmarest's career. " The 
Academy of Sciences saw in him, as it were, the monument 
of a bygone age, one of those old philosophers, now too 
few, who occupied only with science, did not waste them- 
selves in the ambitions of the world, nor in rambling 
through too wide a range of study, men more envied than 
imitated, who have supplied us with that succession of 
octogenarians and nonagenarians, of which our history is 
fuU. Living like these worthies, Desmarest fulfilled a 
similar career, and reached without infirmities or any grave 
malady the age of ninety years. He died on the 20th 
September 1815. 

" During his protracted lifetime he saw the Academy 

78 The Founders of Geology lect. 


twice renewed. Among so large a number of colleagues 
he doubtless recognised that there were many who equalled 
or even surpassed him in enlightenment or in mental 
power, but he had the happiness to be assured that his 
name would last as long as that of any one among them," 

For the sake of continuity in the narrative, I have traced 
the labours of Desmarest from their beginning to their 
close without adverting to those of his contemporaries. 
His views regarding the volcanic origin of basalt were 
adopted by a number of good observers, among whom 
reference may be made to Raspe, Fortis, Dolomieu, Faujas 
de St. Fond, Montlosier, and Breislak. But a still more 
numerous and more blatant band, urged on its way by 
Werner, opposed these doctrines. [ Alth ough the contro- 
versy raged through Desmarest's life, he took, as I have 
said, no share in it.] He made an occasional allusion to 
the disorder and confusion that had been introduced into 
a question which in itself was simple enough to those who 
knew how to look at the actual facts. He asked reproach- 
fully what would become of natural history and mineralogy, 
if every question were treated as that concerning basalt 
had been ? And he wrote somewhat scornfully of the 
authors who, without having ever undertaken any re- 
searches of the kind themselves, ventured in discussing 
those of others to indulge in imfounded hypotheses.^ 
When any belated straggler from the enemy's camp came 
to consult Desmarest on the subject in dispute, the old man 
would content himself with the answer, " Go and see." 

Leaving this controversy for consideration in the next 

^ See the article ** Basalte " in voL iii. of the €^4ographie Physique^ pub- 
lished 1809. 

11 Beginnings of Scientific Travel 79 

lecture, I will pass from the subject for the present, for the 
purpose of calling attention to one of the most interesting 
features of the scientific life of the closing decades of last 
century — the rise of the spirit of scientific travel. 

Of all the physical events that happened in the latter 
half of the eighteenth century, there was probably none so 
fruitful in fostering, among the civilized countries of the 
world, an emulation in discovery and research, as the transit 
of Venus, which occurred in the summer of 1769. To that 
event we owe the voyages of Cook, and all the rich harvest 
of results which they added to our knowledge of the geo- 
graphy of the globe. What England did on the ocean, it 
was reserved for Eussia to rival on the land. The Empress 
Catherine II. had been irritated by the sarcastic remarks 
made by a French astronomer who had travelled to Eussia to 
observe the previous transit of Venus in 1763, and she is 
even said to have been at the trouble of refuting them 
herseK. At all events, she resolved to do without foreign 
assistance for the second transit. Determined that the work 
should be done thoroughly, and in such a way as to 
redound to the glory of her reign, she commissioned the 
Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg to organize the 
expedition. This undertaking was conceived in a truly 
imperial spirit, Not only were astronomers sent out for 
the more immediate objects of the research, but advantage 
was taken of the occasion to despatch a competent band 
of observers for the purpose of penetrating into every 
region of the vast empire, and making known its condi- 
tion and resources. 

The instructions drawn up for the guidance of the 

8o The Founders of Geology lect. 

explorers were of the most exhaustive kind. Accurate 
observations were to be made in the geography and 
meteorology of each region visited, the positions of the 
principal places were to be astronomically determined, the 
nature of the soils, the character of the waters, and the 
best means of reclaiming the waste places were to be 
accurately observed. The travellers were to inquire into 
the rocks and minerals, and to attend to the outer forms 
and internal composition of the moimtains. They were 
further to carry on careful researches among the plants and 
animals of each territory, and, in short, to obtain as much 
accurate information as possible in every department of 
natural history. Nor were the social problems of life for- 
gotten. The expedition was further instructed to pay 
special attention to the various races of mankind met with 
in the journeys, and to report on their manners, customs, 
religions, forms of worship, languages, traditions, monu- 
ments and antiquities. They were likewise enjoined to 
take note of the condition of agriculture, of the maladies 
that affected man and beast, and the best remedies for 
them, of the cultivation of bees and silk-worms, the breed- 
ing of cattle and sheep, and generally of the occupations, 
arts, and industries of each province. 

A survey of this complete nature, carried over so vast a 
region as the Eussian Empire, demanded much skill, labour 
and time. It was fortunately entrusted to a man in every 
wayqualified for the task — Kerre Simon Pallas(l741-1811).y 
The whole expedition comprised seven astronomers and 
geometers, five naturalists and several assistants. Start- 
ing from St. Petersburg in June 1768, they traversed the 
vast empire to its remotest bounds, making many journeys 


Pallas 8 1 

in every direction. After six years of unwearied labour, 
and almost incredible suffering L privation, during which 
Pallas had from time to time sent home accounts of his 
more important observations, he returned in July 1774. 

Never before had so large a store of observations in aU 
departments of natural history, extending over so wide a 
region of the earth's surface, been gathered in so brief a time. 
Pallas wrote his results in German (his native language, 
for he was born at Berlin in 1741), and sent them home 
as they were ready. They were published at St. Peters- 
burg between 1772 and 1776, in three quarto volumes. 
They were afterwards translated into French, and appeared 
at Paris during the years from 1788 to 1793,^ in five 
handsome quartos, with a folio atlas of plates. 

Pallas was an accomplished naturalist, and made some 
original and valuable contributions to zoology. But it is 
only with his geological work that we are here concerned. 
One of the geological questions which especially interested 
him was the occurrence of the remains of huge pachy- 
derms in the superficial deposits of the north of Siberia. 
These remains, as far back as the latter years of the 
seventeenth century, had been known to exist, for a trade 
in the ivory tusks of fossil elephants from the Siberian 
coasts and rivers had before that time been carried on. 
The actual bones of these animals were subsequently dis- 
interred by observers capable of describing their mode of 
occurrence, so that Pallas had his curiosity much excited 
by the accounts which had already been published. There 
was still much to be found out regarding these strange 

^ Another edition of this translation appeared in 8 volumes Svo, and 
was reprinted at B^e in 1806. 


82 The Founders of Geology lect. 

relics of the frozen north, and Pallas determined to in- 
vestigate the subject in the fullest detail. He kept his 
eye open for every trace of fossils of any kind, and one of 
the most valuable parts of his labours is to be seen in the 
precision with which he chronicles every fossiliferous 
locality. But the most astonishing feature of his journeys 
j in this respect was the proofs he obtained of the almost 
^ incredible number of bones and tusks of the huge pachy- 
derms. The whole vast basin of Siberia lying to the east 
of the Ural mountains and north of the Altai chain to 
the shores of the Arctic Ocean was found by him to be, as 
it were, strewn with these remains. He noticed that the 
bones belonged to species of elephant, rhinoceros and 
buffalo, and in one case he saw parts of the carcase of a 
rhinoceros still retaining its leather -like skin and its 
short hairs. From the abundance of hair on some parts 
of the skin of these animals, he inferred that the rhino- 
ceros of Siberia could live in a more temperate climate 
than its descendants now enjoy. 

But undoubtedly the most important contribution made 
by Pallas to geological investigation is to be found in his 
memoir on the formation of mountains and the changes 
that have taken place on the globe, particularly with 
regard to the Empire of Eussia.^ The highest mountains, 
he remarked, are composed of granite, with various schists, 
serpentine^_grite, and other bedded masses in vertical or 
highly inclined positions. These formed his Primitiveband, 
and in his opinion were older than the creation of organized 
beings, for no trace of organic remains was to be found in 
any part of them. 

^ Ad, Acad, Sci, Imp, PetrqpolU, 1777, pp. 21-64. 





Pallas 83 

The primitive schistose band of the great chains is 
immediately succeeded by the calcareous band, which 
consists first of solid masses of limestone, either containing 
no marine productions or only slight traces of them. The 
thick beds of limestone are placed at high angles and 
parallel to the direction of the chain, which is also gener- 
ally that of the schistose band. As they recede from the 
line of the mountains, the limestones rapidly sink down 
into a horizontal position, and soon appear full of shells, 
corals and other marine organisms. These upheaved lime- 
stones form his Secondary mountains. A third series of 
rocks, which seemed tohim "toTlbe^e record of some of 
the latest revolutions of the globe, consists of sandstones, 
marls, and various other strata, forming a chain of lower 
hills in front of the limestone range. To this series of 
deposits he gave the name of Tertiary mountains. 

These geological terms, thus proposed by Pallas, were 
not of course used by him in their more precise modem 
definition. We know, for example, that his Tertiary 
mountains consisted mainly of the younger Palaeozoic 
sediments which are now called Permian, and that with 
these ancient formations he included the sands and clays 
that inclose the remains of mammoth, rhinoceros and 
other extinct mammals. 

The main value of his observations lies in his clear 
recognition of a geological sequence in passing from the 
centre to the outside of a mountain-chain. He saw that 
the oldest portions were to be found along the axis of the 
. chain, and the youngest on the lower grounds on either 
side. He recognized also that the sea had left abundant 
proofs of its former presence on the land, he thought that 

84 The Founders of Geology lect. 

its level had never been more than 100 fathoms higher 
than at present, and he supposed that the elevation of the 
mountains had been caused by commotions of the globe.^ 

We now pass from the Ural chain which served Pallas 
as his t3rpe of mountain-structure to another and more 
famous group of mountains, where, during the same period, 
another not less zealous explorer was at work. The 
labours of De Saussure among the Alps mark an epoch, 
not only in the investigation of the history of the globe, 
but in the relations of civilized mankind to the mountains 
which diversify the surface of the land. 

Up tiQ towards the end of last century mountain- 
scenery was usually associated in men's minds with ideas 
of horror, danger, and repulsion. Every reader of English 
literature will remember passages, alike among poets and 
prose-writers, wherein the strongest abhorrence is ex- 
pressed for the high, rugged and desolate regions of the 
earth. These tracts, which had in themselves no attractions, 
were generally looked upon as best seen from a distance, 
and not to be entered or traversed save on the direst 

This prejudice, which we all now laugh at, was first broken \ f 
down by the scientific researches of Horace-Benedict de i}^' 
Saussure (1740-1799)^ from which we may date ^EenSrof ' 
the modem spirit of mountaiDeering. He it was who first 
taught the infinite charm and variety of mountain-scenery, 
the endless multiplicity of natural phenomena there to be 
seen, and the enthusiasm which the mountain-world will 

^ See the summary of Pallas's views given by D*Archiac in his Cotirs 
de PaUorUologie StrcUigraphiquey p. 159, 1862. For a fuller exposition 
consult Journal de Physique, xiii. (1779), pp. 329-360. 

> *'^ 


II Horace- Benedict de Saussure 85 

awaken in the heart of every responsive climber. How 
few among the thousands who every year repair to the 
Alps, the Pyrenees, the Caucasus, or who find their way 
to the peaks of the Bocky Mountains and the Sierra 
Nevada, are aware of the debt they owe to the great 
geologist of Geneva ! 

De Saussure was bom in that city in the year 1740. 
His career at college was so distinguished that at twenty 
years of age he became a candidate for a professorship of 
mathematics, and at two-and-twenty obtained one of philo- 
sophy. Trained in physical science, he acquired habits 
of exactitude in observation and reasoning, which stood him 
in good stead in the scientific life to which he eventually 
devoted himself. Boten^was his first love, and after a ^ 
long and fruitful devotion to other parts of the domain of 
science, it was to plants that he turned again at last in the 
closing years of his life. Amidst his laborious campaigns 
in the Alps, the plants of the mountains never lost their 
charm for him. Among the highest crests, surrounded by 
all that is most impressive in nature, and occupied with 
the profoundest problems in the history of the globe, he 
would carefully gather the smallest flower and mark it 
with pleasure in his notebook.^ 

De Saussure's attitude towards his native mountains "^ 
may be inferred from a few of the sentences with wl 
he prefaces his immortal work. f^It is the study of 
mountains which above all else can quicken the progress 
of the theory of the earth or geology. The plains 
are uniform, and allow the rocks to be seen only 
where these have been excavated by running water 

^ Cuvier, " ^loge de Saussure," J^loges, vol. i. p. 411. 

86 The Founders of Geology lect. 

or by man. The high mountains, on the other hand, 
infinitely varied in their composition as in their forms, 
present gigantic natural sections wherein the order, the 
position, the direction, the thickness and the nature of the 
diflferent formations of which they are composed, as well 
as the fissures which traverse them, can be seen with the 
greatest clearness and at one viewf/ Nevertheless, to no 
purpose are these facilities of observation oflfered, if those 
who propose to study the question do not know how to con- 
sider these grand objects as a whole and in their widest 
relations. The sole object of most travellers who call 
themselves naturalists is to collect curiosities ; they walk, 
or rather they crawl, with their eyes fixed on the ground, 
picking up little bits here and there, without aiming at 
any general observations. They are like an antiquary 
who at Eome, with the Pantheon and the Colosseum in 
front of him, should scrape the ground to seek for pieces 
of coloured glass without ever casting his eyes on the 
architecture of these superb edifices. It is not that I 
advise the neglect of detaHed observations. On the 
contrary, I look upon them as the only basis of solid 
knowledge. But while we gather these details, I desire 
that we should never lose sight of the great masses, and 
that we should always make a knowledge of the great 
objects and their relations, our aim in studying their small 

"But to observe these mighty masses we must not 
content ourselves with following the high-roads, which 
nearly always wind through the valleys, and which never 
cross the mountains, save by the lowest passes. We 
must quit the beaten tracks, and climb to the lofty 


De Saussure 87 

summits, whence the eye can take in at one sweep a multi- 
plicity of objects. Such excursions are toilsome, I admit ; 
we must relinquish carriages, and even horses, endure great 
fatigue, and expose ourselves sometimes to considerable 
danger. Many a time the naturalist, when almost within 
reach of a summit on which he eagerly longs to stand, 
may doubt whether he has still strength enough left to 
reach it, or whether he can surmount the precipices which 
guard its approaches. But the keen fresh air which he 
breathes makes a balm to flow in his veins that restores 
him, and the expectation of the great panorama which he 
will enjoy, and of the new truths which it will display to 
him, renews his strength and his courage. He gains the 
top. His eyes, dazzled and drawn equally in every 
direction, at first know not where to fix themselves. By 
degrees he grows accustomed to the great light, makes 
choice of the objects that should chiefly occupy his 
attention, and determines the order to be followed in 
observing them. But what words can describe the sensa- 
tions or the ideas with which the sublime spectacle fills 
the soul of the philosopher. Standing as it were above the 
globe, he seems to discover the forces that move it, at 
least he recognizes the principal agents that effect its 

De Saussure spent his Ufe among the scenes he so 
enthusiastically described, studying the meteorology no 
less than the geology of the Alps. As regards the^ 
geological structure of the mountains and the origin of 
their component rocks, he seems hardly to have advanced 
beyond the ideas of Pallas. He believed, with Werner, 
that the central granite had resulted from deposition and 

88 The Founders of Geology lect. 

crystallization in the waters of a primeval ocean. The 
vertical or highly inclined limestones, and other strata 
flanking the granite, were for a long time regarded by him 
as still in the position in which they were originally de- 
ijposited. It was only when he found among these strata 
\ /layers of sand and rounded pebbles that he was driven to 
\j admit that there had been some disturbance of the earth's 

Like Pallas and his contemporaries generally, De 
Saussure never attempted to set down his observations of 
the distribution of the rock formations upon a map, nor, 
though he had before him the excellent sections con- 
structed by Lehmann, to which reference will be made 
in the following lecture, did he give definite expression to 
his ideas of the mutual relations of the rocks by construct- 
ing a horizontal section even of the most general and 
diagrammatic kind. It is thus a somewhat laborious 
task to gather from his Voyages dans les Alpes what 
precisely were the opinions he held in regard to 
tectonic questions. To him, however, so far as I have 
>been able to discover, we owe the first adoption of the 
terms geology and geologist . Our science had formed a 
part of mineralogy, and subsequently of physical geography. 
The earliest writer who dignified it with the name it now 
bears was the first great explorer of the Alps.^ 

^ In the year 1778 there appeared at the Hague the first imperfect 
edition of De Luc's Lettres Physiques et Morales sur les Montagnes, in the 
introduction to which the author states that for the science that treats of 
the knowledge of the earth he employs the designation of Cosmology. 
The proper word, he admits, should have been Geology, but he ** could not 
venture to adopt it because it was not a word in use " (Preface, p. viii. ) In 
the completed edition of his work, published the next year, he repeats his 
statement as to the use of the term Cosmology, yet he uses Geology in his 


De Saussure 89 

De Saussure's theoretical views underwent some modi- 
fication during the prolonged period occupied by the 
publication of his work, though they seem never to have 
advanced much, notwithstanding his constantly increasing 
experience and the enormous amount of observations 
amassed by him regarding the rocks of the mountains. 

His first quarto volume appeared in 1779, the second 
in 1786, the third and fourth in 1796. There was thus 
an interval of fifteen years during which, with unwearied 
industry, he continued to traverse the Alps from end to 
end, and to multiply his notes regarding them. Yet he 
does not, seem ever to have reached any broadconceptiofisi/' 
of stratigaphical^ccfi^ion, or of orogra^hical, structure. 
When he came upon strata crumpled and doubled over 
upon themselves, he thought of crystallization in place as 
the cause of such irregularities. The idea of subterranean 
disturbance would sometimes occur to him, but for many , . 
years he dismissed it ^th an expression of Ms incredulity. ^ 
remarking that " if the underground fires had been able to 
upraise and overturn such enormous masses, they would 
have left some trace of their operation, but that after the 
most diligent search he had been unable to discover any 
mineral or stone which might eveu be suspected to have 
undergone the action of these fires." ^ He had thus no 
conception of any operation of nature, other than that of 
volcanoes, which could produce great disturbances of the 

text notwithstanding (vol. i. pp. 4, 5). In the same year (1779), De 
Saussure employs the tenn Geology in his first volume without any ex- 
planation or apology, and alludes to the geologist as if he were a well- 
known species of natural philosopher. (See his Discov/rs FrMminaire, pp. 
vii., ix., xiv., xvi.) 

^ Voyages dans les Alpes, vol. iii. (1796) p. 107. 


90 The Founders of Geology lect. 

/ terrestrial crust. Not only had he met with no trace of any 
y igneous rock in the Alps, but the granite veins which he 
found traversing a schist, and which he at once regarded as 
throwing light on the origin of that rock, were believed by 
him to be almost demonstrably due to infiltration, as the 
granite itself had been formed from crystallization in the 
waters of the ancient ocean.^ 

Even when he found the vertical conglomerate of 
Talorsine, and recognized that it must have been originally 
deposited horizontally, he refrained from hazarding a con- 
jecture as to the reason of its position. " We are still 
ignorant," he says, " by what cause these rocks have been 
tilted. But it is already an important step, among the 
prodigious quantity of vertical strata in the Alps, to have 
found certain examples which we can be perfectly certain 
were formed in a horizontal position." 2 

It is interesting, however, to notice that, among the 
agenda which he inserted at the close of his last volume, 
as the fruit of his long experience, he gives a chapter of 
suggestions as to what should be looked for in regard to 
organic remains among the rocks. Some of these suggestions 
are full of sagacity, and show that, though he had not 
foUowed them in his own researches, he recognized the 
importance of the advice he was giving. One of his ad- 
monitions was " to ascertain whether certain shells occur 
in the older rocks but not in the later, and whether it is 
possible by their means to fix the relative ages and eras of 
appearance of the different species." Another recom- 
mendation is " to compare exactly the fossil bones, shells, 

* Vol. i. pp. 633 et seq. 
» Vol. ii. § 690. 


De Saussure gi 

and plants with their living analogues and to determine 
whether they differ from these." ^ 

One of the most interesting features of De Saussure's 
work is exhibited in the care with which he equipped himself 
for the study of the rocks of the region that he undertook 
to examine and describe, Petrograph y was at that time in 
a very embryonic condition. linnaeus and Wallerius had 
made a beginning in the definition of rocks, but Werner's 
labours had hardly begun. l^e Swiss naturdi st set himsel f 
with his usual ardomjaj^e study, into which he introduced 
his accustomed order and precision. Among other aids in 
his researches, he devised a series of experiments in fusion, 
in order to determine for himself the probable origin of 
different rocks, and especially to enable him to decide 
whether certain varieties could be produced by the mehin? 
of others. It will be remembered that Desmanest had pr-:- 
pounded the doctrine that the basalts of Auverm-r hid 
been formed by the fusion of the underlying zr^Lziiif: :v 
volcanic fire. De Saussure, when he wean :o s:-iv th^f^ 
questions, was astoniahed to discoTer b:w linle ':.ii '>^:l 
done in the way of experimental lescanzL in:-: ti^ li:^t 
of rocks. He selected Tarioos Swiss mn::-rs, ml i.z^l 
that in no instance could he reduce tlfzi :v f-i::- n:: 
basalt. In case thezeought be arj iff ::f n : t - -^^ zri^'^ 
of his own country, he tried the cfkis :: i - - : - TTiir-r;-"-"- 
on pieces of grange whii re Lii 

Auvergne, but equaDr wri:~: 5i::T:^f E- "-- ' 
perimented on a gnmze err tx— --^ - - -^ _.^ - ...^ - . - 
obtained a black 

grains of infiiszhk qasnz. Hr --r~ ' :: '-■^"'^ 

• 0. — - 

92 The Founders of Geology lect. 

diflferent porphyries, and though he got a compact black 
enamel, nothing appeared in the least resembling basalt, 
whence he concluded that it could not be from the natural 
fusion of such rocks as these that basalt was derived.^ 

These experiments are especially interesting, as they 
t/ mark the ^rliest beginnings^ of experiment al geology. The 
results obtained by them were negative, and De Saussure 
did not advance further along the path he had thus opened 
into a domain which was destined in future to become so 
fruitfuL But his name must ever be had in honour for 
the share he took in establishing the use of direct experi- 
ment in the elucidation of geological problems. He did 
not live to put in practice the directions which he left for 
the further exploration of the Alps by those who should 
come after him. A disease, which perhaps took its rise 
from the fatigues and privations of his life among the 
mountains, began to increase upon him after his fiftieth 
year. It was aggravated by anxiety on account of the 
effect of the French Eevolution on his private resources. 
After three successive strokes of paralysis he died in 1799 
at the age of fifty-nine years. 

De Saussure was the first and most illustrious of that 
distinguished band of geologists which Switzerland has 
furnished to the ranks of science. To his inspiration and 
example we owe the labours of Merian,Escher von der Lirith, 
Studer, Favre, and the later and living observers who have 
so diligently and successfully unravelled the complicated 
structure of the Alps. His descriptions of a great mountain- 
chain form admirable models of careful observation and 
luminous narrative. Though he did not add much to the 

1 Vol. i. p. 122-127. 


De Saussure 93 

advancement of geological theory, he contributed largely 
to the stock of ascertained fact, which was so needful as a 
basis for theoretical speculation. The data which he 
collected became thus of the utmost service to those who 
had to work out the principles of geology. To Hutton, 
for example, they supplied many admirable illustrations 
of the geological processes on which he based his Theory 
of the Earth, It was under the guidance of the great 
Swiss observer that the Scottish philospher stood in 
imagination on the summit of the Alps, and watched from 
that high tower of observation the ceaseless decay of the 
mountains, the never-ending erosion of the valleys, and 
that majestic evolution of topography which he so clearly 
portrayed. Among the illustrious men who contributed' 
to plant the foundations of geology, an honoured place 
must always be assigned to De Saussure. 



History of the doctrine of Geological Succession — Lehmann, Fuchsel, 
Werner — The spread and decline of Wemerianism — D'Aubuis- 
son, Von Buch. 

The most casual observation suffices to convince us that 
the surface of the earth has not always been as it is to-day. 
At one place we recognize, in sheets of sand and gravel, 
proofs of the former presence of running water, where none 
is now to be seen. Elsewhere shells and other marine 
organisms underneath the soil prove that the dry land was 
formerly the bed of the sea. Masses of sandstone, con- 
glomerate and limestone, once evidently laid down in 
horizontal layers on the sea -bottom, but now hardened 
into stone, disrupted, placed on end, and piled up into 
huge hills and mountain-ranges, show beyond all question 
that stupendous disturbances attended the conversion of 
the sea-floor into land. 

These proofs of former revolutions on the surface of the 
globe are so abundant, so easily comprehended and so 
convincing, that some of them early attracted notice. . The 
frequent references to them, in the literature of ancient 
as well as modem times, prove how familiar they have 
been from the dawn of civilization. They have suggested 
many cosmologies and theories of the earth, for there has 

LECT. Ill Geological Succession 95 

ever been a craving to explain the origin of things. But 
these older interpretations of nature were rather exercises 
of the imagination than results of observation and de- 

In the gradual growth of knowledge regarding the 
history of our globe, it is surprising how late men were 
in realising that this knowledge must be based not on 
mere speculation, but on patient investigation of what 
evidence can be gathered from the structure of the planet 
itself. Slowly and laboriously the truth was reached that 
the rocks which form the terrestrial crust bear witness to 
the passage, not of one or two, but of a whole series of 
revolutions, that these changes occupied vast intervals of 
time, and that while they varied indefinitely in their local 
effects from one region to another, they were but incidents 
in one vast onward march of development which embraced 
the whole globe within its influence. What we now know 
as the doctrine of geological succession, in other words, 
the history of the evolution of the earth, during a prolonged 
series of ages up to the present time, took shape with 
extreme slowness, each generation adding a little to the 
basis of fact and to the superstructure of inference. 

There were in especial two lines of investigation along 
which progress could be made. On one of these, the various 
masses of rock that are visible over the surface of the globe 
had to be studied with a view to the determination of their 
origin and sequence. On the other line, the details of these 
rock -masses, and more particularly of the sedimentary 
series, had to be worked out, and their organic contents" 
to be noted, in order to ascertain how far the living 
creatures of older times differed from those of the present. 

96 The Founders of Geology lect. 

The fonner of these two branches of research naturally 
came to be pursued first. It is by far the more obvious 
of the two, and considerable progress had to be made in 
it before the very possibility of the second line of enquiry 
could be recognized and pursued. 

We have seen that with all his sagacity and insight, 
Guettard gave no indication that he had any ideas as to 
the chronological relations of the various groups of strata 
which he included in his "bands." Neither he nor 
his contemporaries ventured to draw geological sections. 
We have found that even De Saussure and Pallas, 
though they saw that the rocks of the central parts of 
mountain-chains are older than those of their flanks, did 
not definitely express their ideas on this subject in graphic 
form. Desmarest had clearly perceived the evidence for 
a long sequence of volcanic eruptions in Central France, 
but he never applied this evidence towards an elucidation 
of the general history of the globe. Yet as far back as 
the time of Guettard, the first seeds had been sown which, 
before the end of the ceiitury, were to germinate in so wide 
an expansion of geological theory. 

I propose in the present lecture to trace the history of 
the idea of geological succession during the latter half 
of last century. In that time it was advanced more 
particularly by three observers, Lehmann, Fuchsel, and 

The earliest definite statements as to a recognisable order 
among the rocks of the earth's crust are to be found in a 
treatise by Johann Gottlob Lehmann (died 1767), published 
at Berlin in 1756. It is a little duodecimo volume, roughly 
printed on poor paper, extending to 240 pages, and bearing 


Lehmann 97 

the title Versuch einer Geschichte von Flotz-Gkbiirgen, etc. 
It gives the results of the authors own observations 
among the rocks of the Harz and the Erzgebirge. He v 
recognized three orders of mountains. 1st, Those which 
appeared coeval with the making of the world ; 2nd, those 
which arose from a general alteration of the ground ; and 
3rd, those which have been formed from time to time by 
local accidents. The first order is distinguished not only 
by the greater height of its members, but by their internal 
structure. The rocks are less various, their strata are not 
horizontal but vertical or inclined, and their layers are 
neither so weak nor so multifarious as those of the other 
groups. Nor are they mere superficial deposits, but they 
plunge down into unknown depths into the earth's interior. 
The second order, or Flotz-gebirge, are of much younger 
date, and have arisen from the successive deposit of sedi- 
ments from water that once covered their sites, these 
sediments being now seen in flat sheets or strata piled 
above each other to no great height. Lehmann showed 
that these sedimentary deposits contain abundant petri- 
factions, such as remains of wild animals, shells, plants 
and trees. He gave a number of sections to show the 
order in which the strata succeed each other, remarking 
that the coarser sediments were generally lowest, while 
limestone came at the top. His profiles of the succession 
of strata showed a remarkable grasp of some of the 
essential features of tectonic geology. It is singular that 
these suggestive examples should not have had more 
imitators during the latter half of last century. Nothing 
could be more precise and distinct than Lehmann's demon- 
stration of the stratified nature and aqueous origin of the 


98 The Founders of Geology lect. 

younger formations of the earth's crust, or his proofs that 
the strata succeed each other in a definite order in the 
region with which he was acquainted. 

Contemporary with Lehmann, and though less fre- 
quently quoted, worthy of a still higher place in the bede- 
roU of geological worthies, was George Christian Fuchsel 
(1722-l773y This remarkable man was the son of a baker 
in Ilmenau, at the northern foot of the Thuringian Forest. 
He studied at the Universities of Jena and Leipzig, and 
having from an early date addicted himself to minerals 
and rocks, he was lucky enough to find a seam of coal at 
Muhlberg, near Erfurt, and still more fortunate to receive 
from the proprietor of the ground a reward of 200 crowns 
for the discovery. At Erfurt he took his degree of Doctor 
of Medicine, and eventually became physician to the Prince 
of Eudolstadt. He lived to the age of only fifty-one, and 
died in the year 1773. 

His position at Eudolstadt was favourable for the 
cultivation of his taste for geological pursuits. To the 
south rose the ancient rocks of the Thuringer Wald, 
flanked by the great series of Permian and Triassic 
formations, regularly superposed upon each other, and' 
cut out into vaUeys by the rivers that drain the mountain 
range. In the year 1762, when he was forty years of age, 
he published one of the most remarkable treatises which 
up to that time had been devoted .to the description of the 
actual structure and history of the earth. It was in Latin, 
and, under the title of " A History of the Earth and the 

^ For the data here given I am indebted to a brief notice by C. 
Eeferstein in the Jourrvcbl de OAtlogie, vol. ii. (1830), p. 191, and to his 
account of Fuchsel in his OescMcMe und LiUeratur der Geognosie (1840), 
p. 55 seq. 



Fuchsel 99 

Sea, based on a History of the Mountains of Thuringia," 
appeared in the Transactions of the Electoral Society of 
Mayence, established at Erfurt.^ It was illustrated with a 
geological map and sections of the country. Eleven years 
later he published in German a Sketch of the most Ancient 
History of the Earth and Man, which contained a further 
development of his geological views.^ 

These views were founded on the author's own observa- 
tions in the region where he had been born and passed his 
life. He recognized as clearly as Lehmann, and with more 
accuracy of detail, the sequence of stratified rocks resting 
in gently-inclined strata against the older upturned masses 
of the mountains. He noted the position of the Coal with 
its exotic plants, followed by the copper-bearing shales, 
Zechstein, mottled sandstone, marls, gypsum, and finally 
the Muschelkalk. 

Taking no limited or parochial view of the phenomena 
that presented themselves before his eyes, he connected the 
history of his little principality with that of the whole 
globe. In the order of succession of the rocks around him, 
he saw the records of a series of changes which the earth 
had once undergone. These changes were conceived by 
him to have been of no abnormal kind, but to have 
resembled those which might quite possibly occur now, 
for, in his opinion, our planet had always presented 
phenomena similar to those of the present time. He saw 

^ "Historia terrae et maris, ex historia Thuringiae per montium de- 
scriptionem erecta" {Trarvs, Elect, Soc, MayencCy vol. ii. pp. 44-209). The 
map was the first detailed geognostical and petrographical map of a large 
district in Germany, and the sections were excellent for their time. 

^ Enhvurf zu der dUesten Erd- und MenscherigeschicMef 275 pages, SyO) 

I oo The Founders of Geology lect. 

that the existing dry land was in large measure formed 
of strata that had once been laid down on the floor of the 
sea, like the sandstones, marls and limestones with which 
he was familiar. Kising from underneath these strata, the 
older and inclined rocks of the mountains appeared to him 
as the relics of a more ancient continent, which had in like 
manner been built up of marine sediments. He believed 
that the tilted, highly -inclined positions of these rocks 
were due to their having tumbled down into the hoUgw 
interior of the earth. 

Fuchsel, with singular sagacity, not only interpreted 
the origin of individual strata, but divined that a con- 
tinuous series of strata of the same composition constitutes 
a formation, or the record of a certain epoch in the history 
of the globe, thus anticipating a doctrine which afterwards 
took a prominent place in the system of Werner. All 
these sediments were originally deposited horizontally. 
Where they have been placed in inclined positions, 
the alteration was, in his opinion, to be attributed to 
some subsequent disturbance, such as the effects of earth- 
quakes or oscillations of the ground. To earthquakes also 
he assigned the production of the rents which, being filled 
from above, now form veins in the rocks. It was his 
opinion that the earthy passage-beds between formations 
marked intervening periods of disturbance. * 

The Muschelkalk in Fuchsel's district forms the highest 
of the Secondary formations, and is succeeded by the 
various alluvial deposits. These youngest accumulations, 
containing only terrestrial remains, were looked upon by 
him as having arisen from the action of a great deluge. 

This singularly shrewd observer deserves further to be 


Fuchsel loi 

remembered for the place which he assigned to organic 
remains in his theoretical views of the past history of the 
earth. He clearly recognized these objects as relics of 
once Uving things. He saw that the Coal was dis- 
tinguished by its land-plants, the Zechstein by its gryphites, 
the Muschelkalk by its ammonites ; further, that some 
formations contained only marine remains, others only 
terrestrial, and thus that the latter point to the neighbour- 
hood of ancient land, while the former indicate the 
presence of the sea. 

The clear and detailed evidence brought forward by 
Lehmann and Fuchsel, that the materials of the terrestrial 
crust had not been thrown down at random, but succeeded 
each other in a certain definite order, and contained a 
record of former processes and changes, like those in pro- 
gress now, ought to have given a great forward impetus to 
the study of the history of the earth. Lehmann's work, 
however, was not in itself attractive, and Fuchsel's first 
essay, though by far the most detailed and philosophical 
treatise on the subject that had yet appeared, was written 
in Latin and buried in the publications of an obscure 
Society. Fuchsel himself lived quietly in a little town, 
with no disciples to spread his doctrines, so that his very 
name remained hardly known even in Germany, while 
other and much inferior writers achieved a wide reputa- 
tion. His writings seem to have dropped out of sight, 
until they were unearthed and brought to notice fifty- 
siBven years after his death by Keferstein. The seed 
sown by Lehmann and Fuchsel was thus long in spring- 
ing into abundant growth. During the remainder of 
last century the idea of geological succession was pro- 

I02 The Founders of Geology lect. 

claimed, indeed, from the housetops, but it was so mingled 
with fanciful hypothesis, that its truth and real value 
were almost lost sight of. 

We come now to the time of the advent of a man who 
bulks far more largely in the history of geology than any 
of those with whom up to the present we have been 
concerned — a man who wielded an enormous authority 
over the mineralogy and geology of his day. Through the 

loyal devotion of his pupils, he was elevated even in his 
lifetime into the position of a kind of scientific pope, whose 
decisions were final on any subject regarding which he 
chose to pronounce them. During the last quarter of the 
eighteenth century, by far the most notable figure in the 
ranks of those who cultivated the study of minerals and 
rocks was unquestionably Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749- 

The vast influence which this man wielded arose mainly 
from his personal gifts and character; and especially from 
the overmastering power he had of impressing his opinions 
upon the convictions of his hearers. It was an influence 
of a curiously mingled kind. From one point of view, 
Werner appears to us as the enthusiastic teacher, drawing 
men from all countries under his speU, and kindUng in 
them much of his own zeal for the study of minerals and 
rocks. In another aspect, he stands out as the dogmatic 
theorist, intolerant of opinions different from his own, 
training his pupils in an artificial and erroneous system, 
and sending them out into the world not patiently to 
investigate nature, but to apply everywhere the uncouth 
terminology and hypothetical principles which he had 
taught them. 

Ill Abraham Gottlob Werner 103 

Though he himself mixed but little publicly in the 
dispute, he was directly the cause of the keen controversy 
over the origin of basalt, the echoes of which had hardly 
ceased when some of the older geologists of our day 
were born. I have myself known a number of men 
who remembered well the acrimony of the warfare, 
and some of whom even played the part of combatants in 
the struggle. Werner had a large following. He was 
undoubtedly the most popular teacher of the science of 
minerals and rocks in his time. His services to mineralogy 
were great, and have always been freely admitted. By the 
partiality of his pupils and friends he was also raised to 
the highest eminence as a teacher of geology, and was even 
looked up to as the founder of that science. The noise of 
conflict, and the plaudits of enthusiastic disciples have now 
long been silent. We can calmly consider what Werner 
did, in what state he found the science of the rocks, and 
in what condition he left it. As the result of my own 
investigation in this subject I have been compelled to 
arrive at the conclusion that, although he did great service 
by the precision of his lithological characters and by his 
insistence on the doctrine of geological succession, yet 
that as regards geological theory, whether directly by his 
own teaching, or indirectly by the labours of his pupils 
and followers, much of his influence was disastrous to 
the higher interests of geology. The career of such a 
man, so full of contradictions, so preponderant in the 
studies to which it was devoted, and so momentous in its 
effects upon the progress of science in his own generation, 
merits the careful consideration of all who would realize 
how geology has gained its present place. 

1 04 The Founders of Geology lect. 

Werner was bom on 25th September 1749 at Wehrau 
on the Queiss in Upper Lusatia.^ His ancestors had been 
engaged in the iron industry of that region of Germany for 
some 300 years. His father was inspector of Count Solms' 
foundry, and at one time it seemed as though the future 
mineralogist were to carry on, in the same profession, the 
traditions of the family. From infancy he was familiar 
with stones. When still hardly able to speak, it was one 
of his favourite amusements to break down pieces of sand- 
stone and marl. After he had begun to learn his alphabet, 
his father, as a reward for proficiency in his lessons, would 
allow him to look over a small collection of minerals which 
he kept in a box, and would talk to him about them, their 
origin and their uses. Late in life Werner could vividly 
recaU the very minerals that were the playthings of his 
childhood-vLus ores and spars, as well as some varieties 
of which his father did not know the names. When he 
could read, his favourite books were lexicons of mining and 
manufactures, wherein he specially selected the articles on 
mineralogy. His tendencies, thus early shown, were farther 
fostered by his father, who in hours of leisure would enter- 
tain him with stories of the mines. 

In his tenth year the boy went to school at the old 
fortified town of Bunzlau in Silesia, and after a few years 
returned in 1764 to assist his father and become controller 
of the smelting-houses at Wehrau. But the aspirations he 

^ For the biographical details given in this sketch I am indebted partly 
to the "Kurzer Nekrolog Abraham Gottlob Werners," by K. A. Blode, in 
the Memoirs of the MinercUogical Society of Dresden^ vol. ii. (1819), p. 249, 
and partly to the ^loge on Werner by Cuvier. Blode, who had access to 
family documents, gives 1749 as the year of Werner's birth ; Cuvier and 
other authorities make it 1750. 


Ill Werners Early Career 105 

had formed to devote himself to minerals seem at last to 
have grown too strong to be resisted, so that after doing 
his duty at the foundries for five years he resolved to 
betake himseK in 1769 to the Mining Academy of Freiberg, 
which had been founded two years before, and of the 
attractions of which he had no doubt heard much. Amid 
what was now thoroughly congenial to him, he threw 
himself with enthusiasm into the work of the school, not 
only availing himseK of all the formal instruction in the 
art of mining to be had from the teachers, but visiting aU 
the chief Saxon mines, especially those of most importance 
in the Freiberg district, descending the shafts, joining in 
the manual labour of the miners, and thus making himself 
master of the whole art of mining, below ground as weU as 
above. His zeal and capacity were soon recognized by the 
officials at Freiberg, and before he had been long there he 
was offered a place in the Saxon Corps of Mines. He was 
not unwilling to accept the appointment, but determined 
first of all to prosecute a wider range of study for a few 
years at the University of Leipzig. 

Accordingly, after some two years spent in mining 
pursuits Werner went to Leipzig in the spring of the year 
1771, and for the next two years devoted himself almost 
entirely to the study of law. In his third and last year at 
the University, he seems to have taken up a miscellaneous 
series of subjects, especially modem languages, but he 
settled down at last to the prosecution of his first love — 
mineralogy, and with such industry and enthusiasm did he 
pursue this study, that while in his twenty-fifth year, and 
still a "student of the science and law of mining," he 
published his first essay — a little duodecimo of 300 pages, on 

io6 The Founders of Geology lect. 

the external characters of minerals.^ We can imagine the 
astonishment and delight of the lovers of mineralogy when 
they first got hold of this treatise, and found there, instead 
of the miscellaneous, isolated, and heterogeneous observa- 
tions to which they were accustomed, an admirably orderly 
method and a clear marshalling and co-ordination of facts, 
such as had never before been seen in mineralogical 

On leaving the University of Leipzig, Werner went 
back to his home by the Queiss. It seemed as though the 
authorities at Freiberg, who at one time were so anxious 
to secure his services, had now forgotten his existence. 
He had heard nothing more of the proposal to engage him, 
and began to arrange his plans for the future. But the 
officials, though slow in their movements, had not lost sight 
of him. They had made note of his progress at Leipzig, 
and especially of his admirable little book, and at last in 
February 1775, to his own astonishment, Werner received 
a call from them to become Inspector and Teacher of 
Mining and Mineralogy in the Freiberg Mining Academy 
at a yearly stipend of 300 thalers. He thus attained before 
he was twenty-six years of age the position in which he 
spent the rest of his life and achieved his great fame. 
For some forty years he continued in the same appoint- 
ment. By his genius he raised the Mining School from 
a mere local seminary, founded for the training of a few 
Saxon miners, to the importance of a great academy or 
university, to which, as in mediaeval times, his renown as a 

^ ''Von den aiisserliclien Kennzeichen der Fossilien, abgefasst von 
Abraham Gottlob Werner, Der Bergwerks-Wissenschaften und Rechte 
Beflissenen," Leipzig, 1774. 

Ill Personal Traits of Werner 107 

teacher drew pupils from all corners of the civilized world. 
Men advanced in years, as weU as youths, sometimes even 
men of science already distinguished, betook themselves to 
the acquisition of German that they might attend the 
lectures of the great oracle of geology. 

The life of such a man, seldom tempted to stir from 
home, immersed in the daily discharge of the duties of his 
office, and only varying from year to year the subject of his 
prelections, oifers little incident to the biographer. More- 
over, though he precociously began so young as an author, he 
wrote merely a few short treatises and papers in journals, 
thus leaving hardly any personal memorial behind him. It 
is from the writings of his pupils that we chiefly learn what 
manner of man he was, and what were the special character- 
istics of his teaching. 

From the portrait of him prefixed to one of his works,i 
we gather that his large keen eyes looked out beneath a 
broad and high forehead, over which his hair wa^ dressed 
in the formal wig-fashion of the day, and turned up in large 
curls on either side. The round, smooth-shaven face had 
as its most conspicuous feature a mouth in which, while the 
firm lips denoted decision of character, the upward curve 
on either side, combined with a slight dimpling of the 
cheeks, gave the impression of great sweetness of disposition, 
with a touch of humour, and a certain degree of timidity. 
There is moreover a notable trimness of person, indicative 
of the exceeding orderliness of his whole nature. 

His personal charm must have been altogether remark- 
able. Cuvier tells us with what paternal fondness Werner 

^ New Theory of the FixrmaUon of Veins, Translated by Charles 
Anderson, M.D. Edinburgh, 1809. 

io8 The Founders of Geology lect. 

was accustomed to treat his pupils. There was no sacrifice 
of time or energy which he would not make for their sake, 
even his slender purse was at their service if they ever 
stood in need of pecuniary help. When the students 
crowded round him so that only a portion of them could 
conveniently see and hear his demonstrations, he would 
divide them and repeat his lecture.^ 

His manner of discourse also was so attractive and 
stimulating that he riveted the attention of his pupils, 
incited them to pursue the studies that he loved, and fired 
them with a desire to apply his methods. Ostensibly he 
had to teach mineralogy — a science which in ordinary 
hands can hardly be said to evoke enthusiasm. But 
Werner's mineralogy embraced the whole of nature, the 
whole of human history, the whole interests and pursuits 
and tendencies of mankind. From a few pieces of stone, 
placed almost at random on the table before him, he would 
launch out into an exposition of the influence of minerals 
and rocks upon the geography and topography of the 
earth's surface. He would contrast the mountainous 
scenery of the granites and schists with the tamer land- 
scapes of the sandstones and limestones. Tracing the 
limits of these contrasts of surface over the area of Europe, 
he would dwell on their influence upon the grouping and 
characteristics of the nations. He would connect, in this 
way, his specimens with the migration of races, the spread 
of languages, the progress of civilization. He would show 
how the development of the arts and industries of life had 

^ There is an enthusiastic account of Werner as a teacher by one of his 
pupils, C. A. Bottiger : " tfber Werner's Umgang mit seinen Schiilem," — 
Auswahh Oesellsch, Mineralog. Dresden^ Band ii. p. 305 (1819). 

Ill Werners Doctrines 109 

been guided by the distribution of minerals, how campaigns, 
battles, and military strategy as a whole, had been dependent 
on the same cause. The artist, the politician, the historian, 
the physician, the warrior were all taught that a knowledge 
of mineralogy would help them to success in their several 
pursuits. It seemed as if the most efficient training for the 
affairs of life were obtainable only at the Mining School of 

By such continual excursions into domains that might 
have been thought remote enough from the dry study 
of minerals, and by the clear and confident method, playful 
vivacity and persuasive eloquence with which they were 
conducted, Werner roused/his hearers to a high pitch of 
enthusiasm. No teacher of geological science either before 
or since has approached Werner in the extent of his personal 
influence or in the breadth of his contemporary fame. 

Let us now inquire what were the leading character- v^ 
istics of his doctrines, and what permanent influence they 
exerted upon the progress of the science of his time. His 
brilliance and discursiveness might attract and retain large 
audiences, but his lectures'^ must have possessed more solid 
and enduring qualities, which inspired his disciples to devote 
their lives to the studies into which he introduced them, 
and filled them with the ardour of devoted proselytes. 

The first feature to which we may direct our attention, 
distinguishable in every part of his life and work, was his 
overmastering sense of orderliness and method. This 
habit of mind became in him a true passion. He is said 
to have bought books rather to arrange them systemati- 
cally than to read them. He observed the details of 
social etiquette as punctiliously as the characters of 

no The Founders of Geology lect. 

minerals, but with one remarkable exception, to which I 
shall afterwards allude ; and he would deliberate over the 
arrangement of a dinner with as much gravity as over 
that of his library or his cabinet 

We cannot take up any of Werner's writings without 
at once noting this prominent peculiarity of his mind. 
Every fact, every proposition is definitely classified and 
ticketed, and even if he has little or nothing to say under 
any particular subdivision, the subdivision is nevertheless 
placed in its due niche all the same. 

This methodical habit proved of the greatest service to 
the cause of mineralogy. When Werner entered upon 
his mineralogical studies, the science of minerals was an 
extraordinary chaos of detached observations and uncon- 
nected pieces of knowledge. But his very first essay 
began to put it into order, and by degrees he introduced 
into it a definite methodical treatment, doing for it very 
much what Linnaeus had done some years before for 
botany. Like that great naturalist, he had to invent a 
language to express with precision the characters which 
he wished to denote, so that mineralogists everywhere 
could recognize them. For this purpose he employed his 
mother tongue, and devised a terminology which, though 
artificial and cumbrous, was undoubtedly of great service 
for a time. Uncouth in German, it became almost bar- 
barous when translated into other languages. What would 
the modem English-speaking student think of a teacher 
who taught him, as definite characters, that a mineral could 
be distinguished as "hard, or semi-hard," "soft or very soft," 
as " very cold, cold, pretty cold, or rather cold," as " forti- 
fication-wise bent," as " indeterminate curved lamellar," as 


Werners Geognosy 1 1 1 

" common angulo-granular," or as " not particularly diffi- 
cultly frangible " ? ^ 

Werner arranged the external characters of minerals in 
so methodical a way, that they could readily be applied in 
the practical determination of species. Yet strangely 
enough he neglected the most important of them all — that 
of crystalline form. From the individual minerals, he 
proceeded to the consideration of their distribution, and 
the character and origin of the different rocks in which 
they occur. To this branch of inquiry he gave the name 
of geognosy, or knowledge of the earth, and he defined it 
as the science which reveals to us in methodical order the 
terrestrial globe as a whole, and more particularly the 
layers of mineral matter whereof it consists, informing us 
of the position and relations of these layers to each other, 
and enabling us to form some idea of their origin. The 
term geology had not yet come into use, nor would either 
Werner or any of his followers have adopted it as a 
synonym for the " geognosy " of the Freiberg school 
They prided themselves on their close adherence to fact 
as opposed to theory. One of them, with pointed refer- 
ence to the writings of Hutton and Playfair, which had 
appeared shortly before, wrote : " We should form a very 
false conception of the Wemerian geognosy were we to 
believe it to have any resemblance to those monstrosities 
known under the name of Theories of the Earth. . . . 
Armed with all the/acfe and inferences contained in these 
visionary fabrics, what account would we be able to give 
of the mineralogy of a country, if required of us, or of the 

^ These terms are aU taken from the Wemerian system as expounded 
in English by Werner's pupil, Jameson. 

112 The Founders of Geology lect. 

general relations of the great masses of which the globe is 
composed ? " ^ The geognosts boasted of the minuteness 
and precision of their master's system, and contrasted the 
positive results to which it led with what they regarded 
as the vague conclusions and unsupported or idle specula- 
tions of other writers. Werner arranged the crust of the 
earth into a series of formations, which he labelled and 
described with the same precision that he applied to the 
minerals in his cabinet. He taught that these formations 
were to be recognized all over the world, in the same order 
and with the same characters. The students whom he 
sent forth naturally believed that they carried with them, 
in this sequence, the key that would unlock the geological 
structure of every country. 

But never in the history of science did a stranger 
hallucination arise than that of Werner and his school, 
when they supposed themselves to discard theory and 
build on a foundation of accurately-ascertained fact. Never 
was a system devised in which theory was more rampant ; 
theory, too, unsupported by observation, and, as we now 
know, utterly erroneous. From beginning to end of Werner's 
method and its applications, assumptions were made for 
which there was no ground, and these assumptions were 
treated as demonstrable facts. The very point to be 
proved was taken for granted, and the geognosts, who 
boasted of their avoidance of speculation, were in reality 
among the most hopelessly speculative of all the genera- 
tions that had tried to solve the problem of the theory of 
the earth. 

^ Jameson, "Elements of Geognosy," fonning vol. iii. of his System of 
Mineralogy, p. 42. The italics in this quotation are in the original. 

Ill Werners Universal Formations 113 

Werner's first sketch of his plan of the structure of the 
earth's crust and the succession of the rocks that compose 
it appeared as a thin quarto of only 28 pages, published 
at Dresden in the year 1787.-^ It was descriptive rather 
than theoretical, and was marked by all its author's pre- 
cision and orderliness of statement. It contained the 
essence of his system in its simplest form. In later years, 
as we shall see, further experience compelled him to en- 
large and modify the system, but without changing the 
fundamental conceptions on which it was founded. The 
modifications, however, were not embodied by Werner in 
any later edition of his work. They were given by him 
from time to time in his lectures, and gradually became 
known from the writings of his students. One of the 
most devoted and distinguished of these followers was 
Eobert Jameson, who afterwards became Professor of 
Natural History in the University of Edinburgh. He 
was mainly instrumental in introducing the Wemerian 
doctrines into Britain, and continued for many years to be 
their most ardent supporter. In many respects the fullest 
accounts of Werner's views are to be found in the various 
works of the Edinburgh Professor, and I shall cite some 
passages from them in the present lecture. 

One of the fundamental postulates of the Wemerian 
doctrines was the existence of what were termed universal 
formations. When he elaborated his system, Werner had 
never been out of Saxony and the immediately adjacent 
regions. His practical knowledge of the earth was, there- 


Kurze Klassification v/nd Beschreihung der verschiedener GeMrgsarteny 
von A. G. Werner, Bergakademie Inspector, und Lehrer der Bergbaukunst 
und Mineralogie za Freiberg. Dresden, 1787. 


114 The Founders of Geology lect. 

fore, confined to what he could see there, and so little was 
then known of the geological structure of the globe as a 
whole, that he could not add much to his acquaintance 
with the subject by reading what had been observed by 
others. With this slender stock of acquiremenli; )le adopted 
the old idea that the whole globe had once been sur- 
rounded with an ocean of water, at least as deep as the 
mountains are high, and he believed that from this ocean 
there were deposited by chemical precipitation the solid 
rocks which now form most of the dry land. He taught 
that these original formations were universal, extending 
round the whole globe, though not without interruption, 
and that they followed each other in a certain order. He 
affirmed that the first-formed rocks were entirely of 
chemical origin, and he called them Primitive, including 
in them granite, which was the oldest, gneiss, mica-slate, 
clay-slate, serpentine, basalt, porphyry, and concluding with 
syenite as the youngest. Succeeding these came what he 
afterwards separated as the Transition Eocks, consisting 
chiefly of chemical productions (grey wacke, grey wacke-slate 
and limestone), but comprising the earliest mechanical 
depositions, and indicating the gradual lowering of the level 
of the universal ocean. StiU newer, and occupying, on the 
whole, lower positions, marking the continued retirement 
of the waters, were the Floetz Eocks, composed partly of 
chemical, but chiefly of mechanical sediments, and includ- 
ing sandstone, limestone, gypsum, rock-salt, coal, basalt, 
obsidian, porphyry, and other rocks. Latest of all came 
the Alluvial series, consisting of recent loams, clays, sands, 
gravels, sinters, and peat. 

This system was not put forward tentatively as a 

Ill Werners Dogmatism 115 

suggestion towards a better comprehension of the history 
of the earth. It was announced dogmatically as a body 
of ascertained truth, about which there could be no further 
doubt or dispute. Let me quote by way of illustration a 
few sentences from Werner's Theory of Veiris, where he 
definitely expresses his opinions on these matters. " In 
recapitulating the state of our present knowledge," he 
observes, "it is obvious that we know with certainty that 
the floetz and primitive mountains have been produced by 
a series of precipitations and depositions formed in succes- 
sion from water which covered the globe. We are also 
certain that the fossils which constitute the beds and 
strata of mountains were dissolved in this universal water 
and were precipitated from it ; consequently the metals 
and minerals found in primitive rocks, and in the 
beds of floetz mountains, were also contained in this 
universal solvent, and were formed from it by pre- 
cipitation. We are still further certain that at dififerent 
periods, different fossils have been formed from it, at one 
time earthy, at another metallic minerals, at a third time 
some other fossils. We know, too, from the position of 
these fossils, one above another, to determine with the 
utmost precision which are the oldest, and which the 
newest precipitates. We are also convinced that the solid 
mass of our globe has been produced by a series of precipi- 
tations formed in succession (in the humid way) ; that the 
pressure of the materials, thus accumulated, was not the 
same throughout the whole ; and that this difference of 
pressure and several other concurring causes have pro- 
duced rents in the substance of the earth, chiefly in the 
most elevated parts of its surface. We are also persuaded 

1 1 6 The Founders of Geology lect. 

that the precipitates taking place from the universal water 
must have entered into the open fissures which the water 
covered. We know, moreover, for certain, that veins bear 
all the marks of fissures formed at different times ; and, 
by the causes which have been assigned for their formation, 
that the mass of veins is absolutely of the same nature as 
the beds and strata of mountains, and that the nature of 
the masses differs only according to the locality of the 
cavity where they occur. In fact, the solution contained 
in its great reservoir (that excavation which held the 
universal water) was necessarily subjected to a variety of 
motion, whilst that part of it which was confined to the 
fissures was undisturbed, and deposited in a state of 
tranquillity its precipitate." ^ 

It would be difficult to cite from any other modem 
scientific treatise a series of consecutive sentences contain- 
ing a larger number of dogmatic assertions, of which almost 
every one is contradicted by the most elementary facts of 
observation. The habit of confident affirmation seems to 
have blinded Werner to the palpable absurdity of some of 
his statements. When, for example, he speaks of the great 
reservoir or excavation which held the universal water, 
what idea could have been present to his mind ? If the 
primeval ocean, as he asserted, surrounded the whole globe, 
and was as deep as the mountains are high, where was 
the excavation? As an acute writer in the Edinburgh 
Eeview pointed out, the excavation spoken of by Werner 
" can mean nothing else than the convexity of the solid 
nucleus round which the universal water was diffused. To 

^ Neue Theorie von der Bnstehimg der Odngen, chap. vii. § 68 (1791). 
English translation by Anderson, p. 110 (1809). 

Ill Werners Universal Ocean 117 

call this convexity an excavation, is to use such a freedom 
with language as can only be accounted for by the per- 
plexity in which every man, of whatever talents, must find 
himself involved when he attempts to describe a whole, 
of which the parts are inconsistent with one another." ^ 

The theory of a primeval universal ocean that over- 
topped the mountains, which formed the basis of Werner's 
teaching, led in every direction to such manifest contradic- 
tions and absurdities, that we need a little patience and 
some imagination to picture to ourselves how it could have 
been received and fervently believed in by men of intel- 
ligence, to whom the facts of the earth's structure were 
not wholly unknown. It was claimed for Werner that 
the doctrine of a universal and gradually subsiding ocean, 
though it had been taught long before his time, was first 
demonstrated by him to be true, (1) because he found the 
older strata occupying the highest eminences, and the 
younger coming in at successively lower levels, down to 
the modem aUuvia of the plains and the sea-shore, and 
(2) because the primitive and loftiest rocks are entirely 
formed of chemical precipitations, those of mechanical 
origin not appearing until a much later period, and becom- 
ing increasingly abundant down to the present time, when 
they constitute almost aU the deposits that are now taking 

One of the most obvious questions that would arise, we 
might suppose, in the mind of any student of ordinary 

^ Edin, Eevievj, xviii. p. 90 (1811). 

2 Jameson's Oeognosyj p. 78. Werner's followers, from the prominence 
they gaye to the sea in their geognosy, were styled Keptunists, while 
those of Hutton, who dwelt on the potency of the earth's internal fire, 
were dabbed Vulcanists. 

1 1 8 The Founders of Geology lect. 

capacity to whom the theory was propounded, would be 
how did the deep primitive ocean disappear. Steno, 
Leibnitz, and other older writers had conjectured that the 
waters found their way into vast caverns in the earth's 
interior. Such a conjecture, however, was not suited to 
the taste of the true Wernerian, who would allow no 
speculation, but took his stand on a basis of ascertained 
fact. Well, we may be curious to know how he disposed 
of the difficulty. Yet we shall search in vain through 
Wernerian literature for any serious grappling with this 
obvious, and one would have thought formidable, objection 
to the doctrine. Werner himself appears to have inclined 
to the belief that the waters vanished into space. He 
thought it possible that " one of the celestial bodies which 
sometimes approach near to the earth may have been able 
to withdraw a portion of our atmosphere and of our ocean." ^ 
But if once the waters were abstracted, how were they to 
be brought back again so as to cover aU the hills on 
which his highest Floetz formations were deposited ? 

The most famous of the English followers of Werner, 
Jameson, honestly asked the question, " What has become 
of the immense volume of water that once covered and 
stood so high over the whole earth ? " His answer may be 
cited as thoroughly characteristic of the mental attitude of 
a staunch Wernerian. " Although," he says, " we cannot 
give any very satisfactory answer to this question, it is 
evident that the theory of the diminution of the water 
remains equally probable. We may be fully convinced of 
its truth, and are so, although we may not be able to 
explain it. To know from observation that a great pheno- 

^ See D'Aubuisson's 06ognosiey i. p. 414 (1819). 

Ill Werners Universal Ocean 119 

menon took place, is a very different thing from ascertain- 
ing how it happened."^ I do not suppose that in the 
whole literature of science a better illustration could be 
found of the advice — " When you meet with an insuper- 
able difficulty, look it steadfastly in the face — and pass on." 

One might have thought that having disposed of the 
universal ocean, even in this rather peremptory fashion, 
the Wemerians would have been in no hurry to call it 
back again, and set the same stupendous and inexplicable 
machinery once more going. But the exigencies of their 
theory left them no choice. Having determined, as an 
incontrovertible fact, that certain rocks had been deposited 
as chemical precipitates in a definite order from a universal 
ocean, when these philosophers, as their knowledge of 
Nature increased, found that some of these so-called pre- 
cipitates occurred out of their due sequence and at much 
higher altitudes than had been supposed, they were com- 
pelled to bring back the universal ocean, and make it rise 
high over hills from which it had already receded. Not 
only had they to call up the vasty deep, but they had to 
endow it with rapid and even tumultuous movement, 
as it swept upwards over forest-clothed lands. Having 
raised it as high as their so-called Floetz formations ex- 
tended, and having allowed its waters to settle and deposit 
precipitates of basalt and greenstone, they had to hurry it 
away again to the unknown regions where it still remains. 
This, forsooth, was the system that discarded hypothesis 
and rested proudly on an irrefragable foundation of demon- 
strable fact. 

Among the features of the Wemerian school, one of the 

^ Jameson, oj^, dt. p. 82. 

1 20 The Founders of Geology lect. 

most singular was the position it took up with regard to 
the evidence for disturbances of the earth's crust, and for 
the universality and potency of what is now termed igneous 
action. A hundred years before Werner's time Steno had 
pointed to the inclined and broken strata of Northern Italy 
as evidence of dislocation of the crust. The Italian ob- 
servers, and especially Moro, familiar with the phenomena 
of earthquakes and volcanoes, had been impressed by the 
manifest proofs of the potency of the internal energy of 
the earth upon its outer form. But these early adumbra- 
tions of the truth were all brushed aside by the oracle of 
Freiberg. I have tried to imagine the current of thought 
by which Werner was led to this crowning absurdity of 
his system, and I think we may trace it in the history of 
his relation to the basalt hills of Saxony. The question is 
of some interest, not only as a curious piece of human 
psychology, but because it was on this very point of the 
origin of basalt that the Wernerian ship finally struck and 

The year after his appointment as teacher of mineralogy, 
Werner visited the famous Stolpen, one of the most pictur- 
esque castle-crowned basalt hills of Saxony, to which I 
have already referred in connection with Agricola's revival 
of the old word " basalt." He had probably by this time 
begun to form in his mind a more or less definite picture 
of chemical precipitation from aqueous solution, as applied 
to the history of rock -masses. But be this as it may, he 
was aware that basalt, by not a few observers before his 
time, had been claimed as a rock of volcanic origin. How 
far he had then made up his mind as to the formation of 
that rock must remain in doubt. But he tells himself that 

Ill Werners Views on Basalt 121 

at the Stolpen he " found not a trace of volcanic action, 
nor the smallest proof of volcanic origin. So I ventured 
publicly to assert and prove that all basalts could certainly 
not be of volcanic origin, and that to these non- volcanic 
rocks the Stolpen mass undoubtedly belongs. Though at 
first I met with much opposition, yet soon several geognosts 
came over to my views. These views gained special 
importance from the observations which I made in 1777 
on the old subterranean fire in the coal-field that lies 
around the hills of basalt and porphyry-slate in the middle 
of Bohemia, and the consequent pseudo-volcanic hills that 
have arisen there. After further more matured research 
and consideration, I hold that no basalt is volcanic, but 
that all these rocks, as well as the other Primitive and 
Floetz rocks, are of aqueous origin." ^ Thus ten years of 
reflection had only served to make him more positive in 
maintaining an opinion which the most ordinary observa- 
tion in his own Saxony ought to have enabled him to 
disprove and reject He had not only asserted that basalt 
is a chemical precipitate, but had placed it among his primi- 
tive rocks. 

When we remember the long and patient labours of 
Desmarest before he announced his conclusions regarding 
the volcanic origin of basalt, we cannot but wonder at the 

^ KtirzeKlassiJiccUionundBeschreibtmg der Verschiedenen Gebirgsarten, 
1787, p. 25. Later in the same year (1787) he visited a little eminence 
near Scheibenberg in the Erzgebirge, and found there a cake of basalt lying 
on clay and sand, and thought he could trace these materials passing into 
each other. Whereupon he announced as a **new discovery" that all 
basalt is of aqueous origin, and constitutes, with clay, sand and wacke, 
one single formation which originally extended far and wide over the 
primitive and floetz rocks, but has in course of time been worn away, 
leaving only cappings on the hills. — Keferstein, Geschichte der Geocftiosie, 
p. 69. 

122 The Founders of Geology lect. 

audacity of Werner in discarding these conclusions with- 
out comment, and announcing an entirely opposite opinion, 
rapidly formed on the slender evidence of one or two isolated 
patches of basalt. It was not as if he claimed to apply his 
explanation merely to those few cases which he had him- 
self examined ; he swept all the basalts of the earth's 
surface into his net. His view had not even the merit of 
originality, for, as we have seen, Guettard, among others, 
had held the opinion that basalt is of aqueous origin. But, 
announced as a new discovery, with all the authority of 
the great Freiberg professor, it commanded attention and 
met with wide acceptance. Even from the time of its 
promulgation, however, it awakened some opposition, and 
it became the subject of bitter controversy for fully a 
generation. Only a month after Werner proclaimed his 
discovery he was answered by J. K W. Voigt of Weimar, 
who maintained the volcanic nature of the very examples 
cited by the professor.^ Werner replied, and was again 
answered, but soon retired from the combat and devoted 
his energies to strengthen his theory. As an instance of the 
wide interest taken in the question, I may mention that 
even at Berne, where there are no basalts, nor any other 
traces of volcanic action, the Society of Naturalists of that 
town offered a prize of twenty-five thalers for the best essay 
in answer to the question, "What is Basalt: Is it volcanic 
or is it not ? " The successful competitor, after elaborately 
reviewing all the arguments brought forward by the 
vulcanists, pronounced in favour of Werner's views.^ 

^ Bergmann, Joum, 1788, 1789, 1791, pp. 186, 347, etc. See also 
Hofifmann's Geschichte der Gfeognosie (1838), p. 117. 

^ J. F. W. Widenmann, Hopfner's Magazin fur die Urdkunde, iv. 
(1789), p. 135. 

Ill Werner on Volcanoes 123 

Werner himself made two contributions to the discussion, 
one giving his theory of volcanoes/ and the other his 
matured views upon basalt.^ 

Volcanoes and volcanic action, if they were regarded as 
betokening any potent kind of reaction i;tween the interior 
and the exterior of our planet, were utterly antagonistic 
to Werner's conception of the structure and history of the 
earth. In a world which had entirely resulted from the 
precipitations and depositions of an ocean of water, there 
was obviously no place for internal fire. In the system 
which Werner had so laboriously devised, it was impera- 
tively necessary to treat volcanoes as modem and accidental 
phenon.ena. which never entered into the process of the 
formation of the crust of the earth. Accordingly, in his 
earliest sketch of his classification of rocks, he placed 
volcanic rocks among the latest of the whole series. And 
this view he maintained to the last. That volcanic action 
had been in progress from the very beginning of geological 
time, and that it had played an important part in building 
up the framework of the land in many countries all over 
the globe, were ideas that seem never to have occurred 
to him. 

We have seen how old was the notion that volcanoes, 
or "burning mountains,'* arose from the combustion of 
subterranean beds of coal Werner adopted this opinion, 
which suited his system, and was quite in congenial 
surroundings there. In 1789, two years after the appear- 
ance of his little Kurze Klassification, he definitely 
announced, in one of the papers above referred to, what 

^ Hopfner, Magazinfii/r die Erdkunde, iv. (1789), p. 239. 
2 Bergmdnnishes Jorwnud, 1789, i. p. 252. See also p. 272. 

124 ^^^ Founders of Geology lect. 

he called the "highly probable conjecture that most, if 
not all, volcanoes arise from the combustion of under- 
ground seams of coal."^ The coal might be set on 
fire by spontaneous combustion, and the most vigorous 
volcanoes would be those starting on the thickest masses 
of coal. In order to support this belief, it was necessary 
to furnish evidence of the existence of deposits of coal 
around volcanoes. And much research and ingenuity 
were displayed in collecting all the known examples. Not 
only coal, but every kind of natural inflammable substance 
was pressed into service, and made to do duty as fuel for 
the subterranean fires. 

It was also obviously needful to maintain that volcanoes 
must be comparatively modern phenomena. We are told 
that "it was only after the deposition of the immense 
repositories of inflammable matter in the Floetz-trap that 
volcanoes could take place ; they are therefore to be con- 
sidered as new occurrences in the history of nature. The 
volcanic state appears to be foreign to the earth." ^ 

The similarity of basalt to many undoubtedly volcanic 
rocks had long been noticed, and could not escape the 
observant eyes of Werner. But he did not therefore 
infer basalt to be of volcanic origin. He had already estab- 
lished, as one of the indisputable canons of geognosy, 
that basalt was precipitated from chemical solution in 
a universal ocean. The way in which he accounted for 
the resemblance between basalt and lava must be regarded 
as a signal proof of his ingenuity. He announced that 
volcanoes not only occur where there are seams of coal, but 

^ See the paper just cited in Hopfner's Magaa, iv. (1789), p. 240. 

^ Jameson's Geognosy, p. 96. 

Ill The Wernerian Theory of Basalt 125 

where these are covered by sheets of basalt and wacke, and 
that eruptions of lava take place when these overlying rocks 
are melted by the combustion of the coaL He thus pro- 
vided himself with a triumphant answer to any objector 
who felt inclined to question his dictum as to the origin of 
basalt. If the rock occurred on isolated hill tops, it was a 
member of the Floetz-trap formation produced by universal 
chemical precipitation. If it was found in the condition 
of lava, the original precipitate had been fused by the 
burning of underlying seams of coal. 

With so flexible a theory to defend and apply, it can 
be understood how the pupils of the Freiberg school 
scouted the idea that volcanoes were of any real geognosti- 
cal importance, and how they had a ready answer to any 
opponent, or a prompt explanation of any apparent diffi- 
culty in the acceptance of their master's teaching. If any 
one claimed that basalt was of volcanic origin, he was at 
once confidently assured that this was an entire mistake, 
for the great law-giver of Freiberg had pronounced it to 
be a chemical precipitate from water. If he ventured to 
quote the columnar structure as in favour of his view, he 
was told that he ought to know that lava never assumed 
this structure,"^ and that " rocks which have been formed 
or altered by the action of heat are most distinctly different 
from those that constitute the great mass of the crust of 
the globe." ^ If he brought to the unabashed Wernerian 
a piece of obsidian, and asked whether such a rock should 
not be admitted to be a volcanic glass, " Nothing of the 
kind,'* would have been, in effect, the immediate reply. 
" It is true that the rock does resemble * completely melted 

^ Jameson, op. cUt, p. 58. * Op, cU. p. 74. 

126 The Founders of Geology lect. 

stony substances, and occurs in volcanic countries/ but 
the notion that it is itself of volcanic origin is quite 
unfounded, because obsidian has never been observed 
accompanying lava, because it is connected with basalt, 
and because it contains a considerable portion of water of 
composition, which is never the case with true volcanic 
rocks." ^ If the questioner, still unconvinced, ventured to 
present a piece of pumice, and point to its froth-like 
structure and its presence in volcanic countries as evidence 
of its former fusion, the answer would have been an equally 
prompt and decided negative. Let me quote the actual 
words of a Wernerian in reply. " It was formerly the 
general opinion that pumice was a volcanic product, be- 
cause it frequently occurs in countries conjectured to be of 
igneous formation. It is now ascertained to be an aquatic 
product, from the following facts : l; It alternates with 
Neptunian rocks, as basalt and porphyry ; 2, it is most 
distinctly stratified ; 3, it passes into obsidian and pearl- 
stone, and is thus connected with basalt, pitchstone, etc. ; 
4, it contains water of composition, which is never the case 
with true volcanic rocks ; 5, it has never been observed to 
flow in streams from the crater or sides of a volcano, and 
no one ever saw it forming a stream in countries containing 
extinct volcanoes." ^ 

Well might the inquirer retire in despair from such an 
encounter. In vain would he have sought an explanation 
of the origin of the vesicular structure of the rock, or 
have asked how this structure could ever have originated 
from an aqueous solution. He would probably have been 
pUed with a few more " facts " of equal veracity, and a few 

^ See Jameson, op. gU, p. 196. * BM. 

Ill Werners Explanation of Faults 127 

more examples of reasoning in a circle. But he would 
never succeed in extracting an expression of doubt, or an 
admission that the ipse dixit of the Freiberg professor 
could for a moment be called in question. 

The same attitude which Werner assumed towards 
volcanoes was consistently maintained by him in his 
treatment of the proofs of disturbances in the terrestrial 
crust. He seems never to have realized that any reservoir 
of energy is stored up in the interior of our globe. It was 
part of his teaching that the spheroidal form of the planet 
furnished one of the proofs of a primeval universal ocean. 
He admitted that the crust had been abundantly cracked, 
but in these cracks he saw no evidence of any subterranean 
action. His own statement of his views on this subject is 
suflBciently explicit, and I quote his words : " When the 
mass of materials of which the rocks were formed by pre- 
cipitation in the humid way, and which was at first soft 
and movable, began to sin£ and dry, fissures must of 
necessity have been formed, chiefly in those places where 
the greatest quantity of matter has been heaped up, or 
where the accumulation of it has formed those elevations 
which are called mountains."^ He gave no explanation 
of the reason why the precipitates of his universal ocean 
should have gathered more thickly on one part of the 
bottom than on another. It was enough for himself and 
his disciples that he was convinced of the fact. 

As all rents in the earth's crust were thus mere super- 
ficial phenomena resulting from desiccation and the slip- 
ping down of material from the sides of mountains, sa it 
was conceived by Werner that, when they were filled up, 

^ Theory of Veins, § 39. 

128 The Founders of Geology lect. 

the mineral matter that was introduced into them could 
only come from above. He drew no distinction in this 
respect between what are now called " mineral veins " and 
"intrusive veins." Veins of granite, of basalt, of por- 
phyry, of quartz, of galena, or of pyrites were all equally 
chemical precipitates from an overlying sea. He does not 
appear to have seen any difficulty in understanding how 
the desiccation and rupture of the rocks were to take place, 
if the sea still covered them, or how, if they were exposed 
to the air and evaporation, he was to raise the level of the 
ocean again so as to cover them, and fill up their rents 
with new precipitates. 

Werner's original scheme of classification of the rocks 
of the earth's crust had at least the merit of clearness and 
simplicity. Though he borrowed his order of sequence 
partly from Lehmann and Fuchsel, he worked it into 
a scheme of his own regarding the origin of the rocks 
and their successive production from a universal ocean. 
Tracing in the arrangement of the rocks of the earth's 
crust the history of an original oceanic envelope, finding in 
the masses of granite, gneiss, and mica-schist the earliest 
precipitations from that ocean, and recognizing the suc- 
cessive alterations in the constitution of the water as 
witnessed by the series of geological formations, Werner 
launched upon the world a bold conception which might 
well fascinate many a listener to whom the laws of 
chemistry and physics, even as then understood, were but 
little known. Unfortunately the conception was based 
entirely on the imagination, and had no real foundation 
in observation or experiment. 

Werner adopted the leading ideas of his system in an 

Ill Precision of the Wemerian System 129 

early part of his career when his personal experience was 
extremely limited. And having once adopted them, he 
maintained them to the last. His methodical mind 
demanded some hypothesis that would allow him to 
group, in definite and genetic connection, aU the facts 
then known regarding the structure of the earth's crust. 
His first sketch of a classification of rocks shows by its 
meagreness how slender at that time was his practical 
acquaintance with rocks in the field. The whole of the 
Primitive formations enumerated by him are only twelve 
in number, and some of these were confessedly rare. As 
years went on, he intercalated new varieties, introduced 
the division of Transition rocks, and was compelled to 
reduplicate some of his primitive formations by having to 
find places also for them among the Floetz series. 

Yet with all these shiftings to and fro the apparent 
symmetry and conspicuous method of the system were 
retained to the end. No Saxon mine could have had its 
successive levels more regularly planned and driven, than 
the crust of the earth was parcelled out among the various 
Wernerian universal formations. Each of these had its 
definite chronological place. When you stood on granite, 
you knew you were at the base and root of all things 
mundane. When you looked on a hill of Floetz-trap you 
saw before you a relic of one of the last acts of precipita- 
tion of the ancient universal ocean. 

But Nature has not arranged her materials with the 
artificial and doctrinaire precision of amineralogical cabinet. 
Werner's system might temporarily sufiB.ce for the little part 
of the little kingdom of Saxony which, when he promulgated 
his views, he had imperfectly explored. But as his experi- 


1 30 The Founders of Geology lect. 

ence widened and new facts accumulated, the modifications 
to which I have referred were so serious that they might 
well make the author of the system pause, and raise in his 
mind some doubts whether the fundamental conception on 
which the system was based could possibly be true.^ It 
was eventually found, for instance, that some granite 
overlies instead of underlying the slates of the Primitive 
series ; that some greenstones, instead of occurring among 
the Primitive rocks, lie in the Floetz division ; that there 
are ever so many horizons for porphyry, which was at first 
believed to be entirely Primitive. These contradictions 
were surmounted by afl&xing such adjectives as " oldest " 
or " newest " to the several appearances of the same rock, 
or by numbering them according to their various horizons. 
Thus there were oldest and newest granites, oldest and 
newer serpentine, and first, second, and third porphyry 

This patching up of the system may have saved it in 
appearance, but a moment's reflection will show us that 
it was fatal to Werner's fundamental doctrine of a series 
of successive chemical precipitates from a universal ocean, 
which by the deposition of these precipitates was gradu- 
ally altering its constitution. The modifications rendered 
necessary by fresh discovery proved that the supposed 
definite sequence did not exist. In fact, as was well said 
by a critic at the time, they were mere " subterfuges by 

^ D'Aubuisson, a loyal and favoured pupil of Werner, remarks that 
" Werner has continued from year to year to modify, and even to recast, 
some parts of his doctrine, while his disciples, following his teaching, in 
proportion as their observations have multiplied, have added, and are 
continually adding new improvements to his system." — TraiUde G^g- 
Tume (1819), preface, p. xvi. 

Ill Werner's Geological Succession 131 

which the force of facts was evaded." ^ They were devised 
for the purpose of bolstering up a system which was entirely 
artificial, and to the erroneousness of which new facts 
were continually bearing witness. 

It was claimed for Werner that he first established the 
doctrine of geological succession in the earth's crust. We 
have seen that the idea was already supplied to him 
by Lehmann and Fuchsel, and it is now evident that, by 
working into it his notion of universal aqueous precipitates, 
he introduced an element of hypothesis which threw back 
for some years the progress of sound geology. What was 
true in the doctrine was borrowed from his predecessors, 
what was his own consisted largely of unwarranted assump- 
tion. He undoubtedly did enormous service by his 
precise, definitions and descriptions of rocks, and by dwell- 
ing on the fact that there was an observable order of 
succession among them, even though he mistook this order 
in some important particulars, and entirely misinterpreted 
its meaning and history. The full significance of geolo- 
gical succession was not understood until it was worked 
out independently in England and France by a rigid 
collection of facts, as I shall describe in a later lecture. 

It was the exigencies of Saxon mining industry that 
started the Mining School of Freiberg. The teaching there 
had necessarily constant reference to the underground 
operations of the district. Much of Werner's practical 
acquaintance with the relations and structure of rock- 
masses was derived from what he learnt at the mines. 
It was only natural, therefore, that he should have incul- 
cated upon his pupils the vast importance of subterranean 

^ Edinbwrgh JReview, voL xviii. (1811), p. 95. 

132 The Founders of Geology lect. 

exploration in unravelling the structure of the earth. 
The devout Wemerian put mines before mountains as 
a field for geological investigation.^ Indeed the whole 
system of the Freiberg school, with its limited knowledge, 
its partial view of things, its dogmatism and its bondage to 
preconceived theory, is suggestive rather of the dim lamp- 
light and confined outlook of a mine than of constant 
and unfettered contact with the fresh and open face of 

These characteristics of Werner's teaching were keenly 
felt by some of the more clear-sighted of his contem- 
poraries, who, though they recognized his genius and the 
vast services he had rendered to mineralogy by soHd 
achievement, as well as by the enthusiasm he had excited 
in many hundreds of pupils, yet felt that in regard to 
geologiil progress his Llence had become ^tro|^sive 
and obstructive. This judgment was forcibly expressed 
in the article which appeared in the Edinhirgh Review 
in the year 1811 from which I have already quoted. I 
have reason to believe that this article was from the pen 
of Dr. W. H. Fitton, who afterwards became one of the 
leaders of EngKsh geology. A few sentences from it may 
find a fitting place on the present occasion. 

" The Wemerian school obstructs the progress of dis- 
covery. The manner in which it does so is plain. By 
supposing the order already fixed and determined when 
it is really not, further inquiry is prevented,' and pro- 
positions are taken for granteji on the strength of a 
theoretical principle, that require to be ascertained by 
actual observation. It has happened to the Wernerian 

^ See, for example, Jameson, op. cU, p. 43. 

Ill Fitton on the Wernerians 133 

system, as it has to many other improvements ; they were 
at first inventions of great utility; but being carried 
beyond the point to which truth and matter of fact could 
bear them out, they have become obstructions to all 
further advancement, and have ended with retarding the 
progress which they began with accelerating. This is so 
much the case in the instance before us, that when a 
Wemerian geognost, at present, enters on the examination 
of a country, he is chiefly employed in placing the pheno- 
mena he observes in the situations which his master has 
assigned to them in his plan of the mineral kingdom. It 
is not so much to describe the strata as they are, and to 
compare them with rocks of the same character in other 
countries, as to decide whether they belong to this or that 
series of depositions, supposed once to have taken place 
over the whole earth ; whether, for example, they be of 
the Independent Coal or the Newest Floetz-trap formation, 
or such like. Thus it is to ascertain their place in an 
ideal world, or in that list of successive formations which 
have nothing but the most hypothetical existence : — it is 
to this object, unfortunately for true science, that the 
business of mineralogical observation has of late been 
reduced." ^ 

Werner's writings are so few and sUght that his dis- 
ciples and admirers continually expressed their sorrow 
that he would leave so little behind him save his world- 
wide fame. His natural dislike of the pen increased with 
his years. He would discourse eloquently on many subjects, 
but could never bring himself to write fully on any one. 
Usually when he went to lecture he would retire for a 

^ Edin. Beview, vol. xviii. (1811), art. 3, pp. 96, 97. 

134 ^^ Founders of Geology lect. 

quarter of an hour to arrange his ideas, and when he 
appeared before his audience he brought with him only 
some scraps of paper, with a few words scribbled on them. 
He never wrote a single lecture. By degrees he ceased 
to write letters, even when the dearest friend begged for 
a reply, and to save himself from the reproach of this 
neglect, he came at last never to open the letters which 
he received. Cuvier tells how once an author, desiring to 
consult some of the learned men of the day concerning a 
work which he proposed to publish, circulated his vol- 
uminous manuscript among them. The precious parcel 
disappeared in the circuit. After endless seeking, it was 
disinterred in Werner's room from underneath some 
hundreds of others. He never answered the Academy of 
Sciences of Paris when it conferred on him the very 
high distinction of electing him one of its eight foreign 
associates, and he might never have heard of the affair 
had he not come across the mention of it in some 
almanack. "But," says Cuvier, "we forgave him when 
we heard that about the same time a messenger sent 
express by his sister from Dresden had been kept waiting, 
at the pK>fessor's expense, for two months for a meS 
signature to some pressing family document." 

Werner's life passed placidly in the midst of the work 
which he loved and the pupils and friends who looked up 
to him with veneration and affection. His health was 
never robust, and the effort of lecturing proved sometimes 
a great strain upon his energy. After a discourse in 
which he would pour forth his ideas with the full flow of 
his exuberance, the bodily and mental effort would be so 
great that he would have to change his clothes even to his 


Death of Werner 135 

inner raiment. He tried to preserve both body and mind 
in an equable frame. Among his Kttle foibles was the 
care he took never to expose himself to a draught. He 
kept himself out of controversy, and eventually refrained 
even from reading the journals, and from knowing what 
was said in the outer world about himself and his opinions. 
In this tranquil life he might perhaps have prolonged his 
days, had nqt his feelings been deeply stirred by the mis- 
fortunes which, during the Napoleonic wars, had befallen 
Saxony, his adopted home. He took these trials so much 
to heart that they led to a series of internal complications, 
from which he died at Dresden, in the arms of his sister, 
on 30th June 1817, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. 

With all his efforts after the placid life of a philosopher, 
there was one subject that not unnaturally stirred Werner's 
wrath — the unwarranted publication, or at least circulation 
of his lectures and theories. As he did not publish them 
himself, and as there was a widespread desire to become ac- 
quainted with them, MS. copies of notes of his lectures were 
widely circulated, as a kind of mercantile speculation. 
This was bad enough, but he heard of an intention to 
print and publish them. So he took an opportunity of 
cautioning the world that, while willing to shut his eyes 
on the past, he could not tolerate any such conduct in 
future, that he was himself engaged in revising his works 
on the several branches of science he professed, and that 
they would "forthwith appear one after another, enriched 
by his latest observations and discoveries."^ But the 
revision was never made, and the publications never 

^ New Theory of the Formation of Veins, 1791, preface. 

136 The Founders of Geology lect. 

Whether the regrets loudly expressed by his con- 
temporaries that he published so little were justified, may 
perhaps be open to doubt. If Werner's fame had rested 
on his written works, or even on his teaching as expounded 
by his pupils, it could never have grown so great, nor, 
judging from what we know of his views in maturer life, 
can we suppose that any account of them by himself 
would really have added to his reputation, or have con- 
tributed materially to the advancement of science. It 
was not his writings, nor even his opinions and theories, 
that gave him his unquestioned authority among the 
geologists of his time. His influence and fame sprang 
from the personality of the man. His unwearied enthu- 
siasm and eager zeal in the furtherance of his favourite 
studies, his kindness and helpfulness, his wide range of 
knowledge, and the vivacity, perspicuity, and eloquence 
with which he communicated it, his absolute confidence 
in the solidity of his theoretical doctrines — these were the 
sources of his power rather than the originality and import- 
ance of his own contributions to geology. His followers, 
indeed, captivated by the precision of his system and its 
apparent applicability in any and every country, claimed 
for him the highest place in the ranks of those who had 
studied the history of the earth. But the exaggeration of 
their claim was amply shown by the rapidity with which 
the Wemerian doctrines began to fall into disrepute even 
before the death of their author. 

Among the permanent effects of Werner's teaching 
we must recognize one of the most important in the bias 
towards the mineralogical and petrographical side of 
geology which has ever since distinguished the German 


Werner s Influence 137 

school. His theoretical views, however, retarded there the 
acceptance of the fuller development of the doctrine of 
geological succession which made such rapid progress even 
during his lifetime in England and in France. 

But unquestionably the greatest service which Werner 
did to the cause of geological science was the enthusiasm 
he inspired for that branch of knowledge in so many 
capable men. "It was to his irresistible influence," as 
Cuvier has well remarked, "that the world owes those 
authors who have treated so fully of minerals, and those 
indefatigable observers who have so fuUy explored the 
globe. The Karstens and the Wiedemanns in the cabinet, 
the Humboldts, the Von Buchs, the D'Aubuissons, the 
Hermanns, the Freieslebens, at the summit of the 
Cordilleras, in the midst of the flames of Vesuvius and of 
Etna, in the deserts of Siberia, in the depths of the mines 
of Saxony, of Hungary, of Mexico, of Potosi, have been 
borne onward by the spirit of their master; they have 
brought back to him the honour gained by their labours ; 
and we may say of him, what was never truthfully said 
before, save of Linnaeus, that Nature everywhere found 
herself interrogated in his name." * 

It was one of the most singular episodes in the 
history of geological science that the first serious check 
to the triumphal march of Wemerianism through Europe 
came from two of Werner's most distinguished pupils, 
D'Aubuisson and Von Buch, and that their first opposition 
to their master's teaching was inspired by that very 
volcanic tract in Central France to which Desmarest had 
so long before appealed in vain. Let us see how, in this 
instance, the whirligig of time brought in his revenges. 

138 The Founders of Geology lect. 

Jean FranQois D'Aubuisson de Voisins (1769-1819) was 
bom in the south of France on 16th April 1769. After 
receiving his early education in his own country, he spent 
some years as a diligent student at the Mining School of 
Freiberg. For four consecutive years, he teUs us, he was 
in the most favourable circumstances for mastering the 
Wernerian doctrines, inasmuch as the illustrious teacher 
honoured him with particular attention, and in the course 
of many conversations unfolded to him the principles of his 
science, and traced for him the path that would lead him to 
the establishment of a true geognosy.^ While still pursuing 
his studies in Saxony, D'Aubuisson took up the question 
of the basalts of that kingdom, travelled over all their 
scattered hills, and at last wrote a treatise upon them, 
which appeared in Paris in 1803. In this little volume 
of 170 pages the Wernerian doctrine as to the origin of 
basalt is not only accepted but treated as if it were incon- 
testable. In one passage, indeed, the author guards him- 
self by saying that his conclusions have reference only to 
the basalts which he himself has seen, and that if some 
day he can visit Auvergne and the Vivarais, he perhaps 
may be better able to discuss the question more generally, 
and to appreciate what has been written on the other side.^ 
His essay was presented to the Institute of Sciences, and 
the two referees, Haiiy and Eamond, to whom it was 
submitted, appended to their favourable report on it a 
most judicious piece of advice to the young author. " A 
subject," they say, " where the analogies already hazarded 
have led to more than one mistake, demands the utmost 

^ TraiU de (^iognosie (1819), vol. i. preface, p. xv. 
2 Mimoire sur lea BasaUes de la Saxe^ Paris 1803, pp. 97, 100, 101. ' 


UAubuisson 139 

caution in their use, and in a field which the two parties 
dispute foot by foot, every step should be justified by an 
observation and marked by a fact Citizen D'Aubuisson 
has never seen either active or extinct volcanoes. Living 
till now in the midst of aqueous formations, we should 
like him to visit places where fire has manifested its 
empire. We would especially desire that he should see 
the ba^ts of Auvexgne! which another disciple of Werner 
[Leopold von Buch] has just visited. That the citizen 
D'Aubuisson knows how to observe, is shown by his 
published works, even if the memoir we have now been 
considering were not ample enough proof, and the interest 
of his observations cannot be recognized in a manner more 
useful to science than by encouraging him to continue 

D'Aubuisson lost no time in following the advice thus 
given to him. He went to Auvergne and found the 
basaltic rocks there lying on granite, which in some 
vaUeys could be seen to be more than 1200 feet thick. 
If these rocks were lavas, they must, according to the 
Wemerian doctrine, have resulted from the combustion of 
beds of coal. But how could coal be supposed to exist 
under granite, which was the first chemical precipitate of a 
primeval ocean ? Such an infra-position was inconceivable, 
and thus an apparent confirmation of the Freiberg view of 
the aqueous origin of basalt was at first obtained. But a 
very short time sufl&ced to stagger the young geologist. 
He saw the perfect craters with their rugged lava-streams, 
which he followed along their branches into the valleys. 
It was impossible to resist this evidence. "The facts 
which I saw," he says, " spoke too plainly to be mistaken ; 

1 40 The Founders of Geology lect. 

the truth revealed itself too clearly before my eyes, so that 
I must either have absolutely refused the testimony of my 
senses in not seeing the truth, or that of my conscience in 
not straightway making it known. There can be no 
question that basalts of volcanic origin occur in Auvergne 
and the Vivarais. There are found in Saxony, and in 
basaltic districts generally, masses of rock with an exactly 
ai^ pou^d^L, wJch envies. »a*ly and e.dn- 
sively the same crystals, and which have exactly the same 
structure in the field. There is not merely an analogy, but 
a complete similarity; and we cannot escape from the 
conclusion that there has also been an entire identity in 
formation and origin." ^ 

The frank and courageous Wernerian read his recanta- 
tion before the Institute of France the year after his work 
on the Saxon basalts appeared.^ Still retaining his pro- 
found admiration for Werner, he nevertheless relinquished 
one after another the peculiar tenets of the Freiberg school, 
and became so impartial a chronicler of geological progress, 
that in his remarkably able treatise on geology, though in- 
clining, on the whole, to hia master's system, he did not 
entirely adopt it, but presented his facts and inferences in 
such a manner that, as he himself claimed, even a follower 

^ G^ognosie, vol. ii. pp. 603, 605. 

* " Sur les volcans et les basaltes de I'Auvorgne," read to the Institute 
of Sciences in 1804 ; Joum. de PhysiqiLef torn. IviiL p. 427, lix. p. 367, 
Ixxxviii. (1819), p. 432 ; Soc. PUlom. Bull, Paris, 1804, p. 182. It is an 
indication of the slowness of the transmission of scientific news in 
those days that in the English translation of D'Aubuisson's Basalts of 
Saxony y which appeared at Edinburgh in 1814 — that is, eleven years after 
the original — the translator states that he had heard of the author's having 
modified his views regarding the basalts of Auvergne, but that he was not 
aware that he had expressed any change of opinion in respect of those of 


Leopold von Buck 141 

of Hutton would hardly find a few paragraphs which he 
would wish to modify. D*Aubuisson lived into his seventy- 
third year, and died in 1819. 

We turn now to the story of Leopold von Buch (1774- 
1853), the most illustrious geologist that Germany has pro- 
duced. / He came of a good family, which as far back as the 
twelfth century held an important position in the district of 
Altmark. His father, an ambassador in the Prussian service, 
had a family of six sons and seven daughters. Leopold, 
the sixth son, bom on 25th April 1774, passed through a 
short course of mineralogical and chemical teaching at 
Berlin, and then went to Freiberg at the age of sixteen, to 
place himself imder the guidance of Werner. He lived 
mostly under that great teacher's roof for three years, 
having for part of the time as his companion Alexander 
von Humboldt, with whom he then began a lifelong friend- 
ship. From Freiberg, where he drew in the pure Wemerian 
inspiration, he proceeded to the University of Halle, and 
later to that of GottiBgen. For a brief period he held an 
appointment in the mining department of Silesia, but he 
soon abandoned the trammels of ofl&cial employment, and 
having a sufficient competence for life, dedicated himself 
heart and soul to independent geological research. He was 
by far the most eminent of all the band of active propa- 
gandists who, issuing from Freiberg, spread themselves 
over Europe to illumine the benighted natives with the 
true light of Wemerianism. 

Von Buch's earlier writings were conceived after the 
strictest rules of his master's system. In his first separate 
work, a mineralogical description of Landeck, he pro- 
claimed, among other orthodox tenets of the Freiberg 

142 The Founders of Geology lect. 

school, his adhesion to the aqueous origin of basalt, collected 
all the instances he could find of organic remains in that 
rock, and boldly affirmed that " it cannot be denied that 
Neptunism opens up to the spirit of observation a far 
wider field than does the volcanic theory." ^ ^ 

In the year 1797 Von Buch had his first view of the 
Alps, and in the following year began his n^ore distant 
journeys, passing into Austria, and thence into Italy, where 
he spent a considerable time among the volcanic districts. 
In 1802 he published the first of two volumes descriptive 
of these early travels. It was appropriately dedicated to 
Werner, and expressed his continued adhesion to the 
Wernerian faith. " Every country and every district," he 
remarks, " where basalt is found furnishes evidence directly 
opposed to all idea that this remarkable rock has been 
erupted in a molten condition, or still more that each 
basalt hill marks the site of a volcano."^ Before the 
second volume appeared, the writer of that sentence had an 
opportunity of visiting Auvergne. His conversion there 
appears to have been as rapid as that of D'Aubuisson, but 
his announcement of it was much more sensational. It 
was in the spring of 1802 that he went to Central France, 
but owing to various accidents the second volume of his 
travels did not appear until the year 1809.^ He had made 

^ QesammdU Schriften, vol. i. p. 68. 

2 Geognostische BeohacJUtmgen aufRdsm durch DetUschland wnd Italien, 
Berlin, i. (1802), p. 126. It is a cnrious fact that A. von Humboldt also 
began his geological career among the basalts of Germany, and pnblished 
in 1790 a little tract of 126 pages, entitled Miruralogisdie BeobacJUungen 
iiber einige BasaUe ami Khein, 

' The descriptions of Auvergne are contained in an Appendix to vol. ii., 
consisting of Mineralogische BrUfe aus Auvergne an Herm Oeh, Ober- 
Bergrath Karsten, p. 227 (1809). 


Von Buck 143 

no secret, however, of his change of opinion, for in the 
winter following his French tour, a letter from him was 
published, recommending a geologist who wanted to see 
volcanoes to choose Auvergne rather than Vesuvius or 
Etna.^ His views were thus well known to Hauy and 
Ramond when they recommended D*Aubuisson to betake 
himself to the same volcanic region. 

When his fuller account of his rambles in Auvergne 
appeared, its very first sentence betrayed a curious ignor- 
ance or forgetfulness of the literature of the subject. 
"Here we are," he says, "in a region about which the 
naturalists of France have talked so much, to which they 
have persistently referred us, but which they have never yet 
described to us." It is difficult to believe that Von Buch 
had never seen Desmarest's papers and accompanying 
maps. Yet throughout the whole account which he gives 
of his excursions he does not once refer to them, but writes 
as if he were almost the first geologist who had ever made 
any detailed and exact observations in the country.^ 

Nothing could be more explicit than Von Buch's testi- 
mony to the volcanic origin of the basalts of Auvergne. 
The marvellous cone and crater of the Puy de Pariou excited, 
as they well might, his astonishment and admiration. 

^ Jowmal des MineSf vol. xiii. 1802-1803, p. 249. Boue, in an obituary 
notice of Von Buch, says picturesquely that "in the year 1798 the learned 
geognost left Germany a Neptunist and came home in 1800 a Vulcanist." 
His conversion, though as complete, was not quite so rapid, for even after 
his visit to Italy and Central France, though he gave up some parts of the 
Wemerian system, he stiU clung tenaciously to others which he after- 
wards abandoned. 

2 He refers indeed several times to Montlosier's Essai sur les wlca/ns de 
V Auvergne, which he calls an excellent work. In one passage he actually 
credits this author with some of the most important generalizations made 
by Desmarest. See pp. 279, 280. 

1 44 The Founders of Geology lect. 

" Here," he says," we find a veritable model of the form 
and degradation of a volcano, such as cannot be found so 
clearly either at Etna or Vesuvius. Here at a glance we 
see how the lava has opened a way for itself at the foot of 
the volcano, how with its rough surface it has rushed down 
to the lower grounds, how the cone has been built above it 
out of loose slags which the volcano has ejected from its large 
central crater. We infer all this also at Vesuvius, but we 
do not always see it there as we do at the Puy de Pariou/'JL 

Perhaps the most interesting passages in Von Buch's 
brightly- written letters are to be found at the end. The 
obviously volcanic origin of the rocks in Auvergne, and 
their position immediately above a mass of granite through 
which the craters had been opened, had evidently power- 
fully impressed his mind. With all these recent vivid 
experiences he reflects upon his earUer wanderings among 
the basalt hills of Germany, and, as if taking his readers 
into his inner confidence, he declares that " it is impossible 
to believe in a particular or local formation of basalt, or in 
its flowing out as lava, when we know what the relations 
of this rock are in Germany, and when we remember how 
many different kinds of rocks are there associated with 
basalt as essential accompaniments, how these rocks form 
with basalt a connected whole which is absolutely incon- 
sistent with any notion of volcanic action — a peculiar coal- 
formation, entirely distinct from any other, only found 
with basalt and entirely enclosed among basaltic rocks, 
often even a peculiar formation of limestone." ^ 

This was the one side of the picture. He could not yet 
break entirely the Wemerian bonds that held him to the 

^ Op. cU, p. 240. 2 Qp. cU, p. 309. 

Ill Von Buck in Auvergne 145 

beKefs he had imbibed at Freiberg. He could not bring 
himself to admit that all that his master had taught him 
as to the origin of basalt, all that he had himseK so carefully 
noted down from his extended journeys in Germany, was 
radically wrong. He, no doubt, felt that it was not merely 
a question of the mode of origin of a single kind of stone. 
The whole doctrine of the chemical precipitation of the 
rocks of the earth's crust was at stake. If he surrendered 
it at one point, where was he to stop ? We cannot wonder, 
therefore, that he still refused to permit himself to question 
the truth of the Wernerian faith in so far as the old basalts 
of Saxony and Silesia were concerned. He comforted 
himseK with the belief that they at least, with all their 
associated sedimentary strata, must have been deposited 
by water. 

But when he turns round again to the clear evidence 
displayed in Central France, he asks, " Is it the fault of 
the geologist in Auvergne that the arguments which are 
powerful in Germany have no effect on him here, even 
though he does not dispute them ? May he not be allowed 
in retort to ask whether the principles which so obviously 
arise from the phenomena in Central France are not also 
applicable to the German basalts ? At all events, he may 
contend, we see very little connection between these basalts 
and ours as regards relations of structure. Would you 
have us give up our convictions as to the principles which 
give grandeur, consistency, and simplicity to the explana- 
tion of our Auvergne mountains, and adopt views founded 
on relations which are not to be seen here ?" ^ 

Well might Von Buch conclude by saying that he 

1 Op, cU, p. 310. 


146 The Founders of Geology lect. 

" stands perplexed and embarrassed ." Whatever he may 
think of the basalts of Auvergne, he will not allow the 
Vulcanist to wrest his admissions to any general conclusion 
with regard to the German basalts. "Opinions are in 
opposition which only new observations can remove." 

Von Buch's faith in the Wemerian interpretation of 
volcanoes and basalt -hills had a rude shaking from his 
excursions in Italy and Central France. His next great 
journey taught him that Werner's scheme of geological 
succession could not be maintained. Before his volume 
descriptive of the Italian tour was published, he had 
started for Norway, where he remained hard at work for 
no less than two years. Among the vast mass of import- 
ant observations which he made, one that must have 
greatly impressed him was that in which he satisfied 
himself that the rocks in the Christiania district could 
not be arranged according to the Wernerian plan. His 
master's scheme of succession completely broke down. 
Von Buch found a mass of granite lying among fossili- 
ferous limestones which were manifestly metamorphosed, 
and were pierced by veins of granite, porphyry, and 
syenite. Such observations did not lead him, any more 
than those in Central France, to a formal renunciation of 
Wemerianism. But they enabled him to take a wide and 
independent view of nature, and gradually to emancipate 
himself from the narrower views in which he had been 
trained at Freiberg.^ 

Von Buch's memorable investigation of the proofs of 
the recent uprise of Scandinavia contributed still fiirther 

* See his "Reise nach Norwegen und Lappland," GesammeUe 
Schri/terif vol. ii. p. 109, 

Ill Von Buck's Labours 147 

to expand his geological horizon. When he announced 
that the whole of the continent of Sweden from Frederik- 
shald to Abo is now slowly rising above the sea, he did 
as much as any Vulcanist of his day in support of the 
Huttonian theory. 

A further emancipation from the tenets of Freiberg was 
displayed by a series of papers on the mountain-system of 
Grermany, wherein Von Buch gave the first clear description 
of the geological structure of Central Europa He declared 
that the more elevated mountains had never been covered 
by the sea, as Werner had taught, but were produced by 
successive ruptures and uplifts of the terrestrial crust. 
In 1824 he produced a geological map of the whole of 
Germany in forty-two sheets, the first large map of its kind 
to illustrate a great area of the European continent, and a 
signal monument of its author's unwearied research and of 
his geological acumen. For more than sixty years this dis- 
tinguished man continued to enrich geological literature 
with memoirs contributed to scientific societies and journals, 
and with independent works. His earliest writings stamped 
him as an observer of great sagacity and independence, and 
his reputation rose higher every year, until he came to be 
the acknowledged leader of geological science in Germany. 
Pressing forward into every department of the science, he 
illuminated it with the light of his penetrating intellect. 
From the North Cape to the Canary Islands there was 
hardly a region that he did not personally explore, and not 
many that he did not describe. With ceaseless industry 
and exhaustless versatility, he ranged from the structure 
of the Alps to that of the Cystideans, from the distribution 
of volcanoes to that of Ammonites, from the details of 

148 The Founders of Geology lect. 

minerals and rocks to the deepest problems in the history 
of the globe.^ 

His influence in his time was great. Though he began 
as a Wemerian, he gradually and almost unconsciously 
passed into the ranks of the vulcanists. In no respect did 
he show his independence and love of truth more than in 
his long and enthusiastic researches among volcanoes. 
No Vulcanist could have worked out more successfully 
than he did the structure and history of the Canary 

Among the leaders of geology in the first half of this 
century there was no figure more familiar all over Europe 
than that of Von Buch. Living as a bachelor, with no 
ties of home to restrain him, he would start off from 
Berlin, make an excursion to perhaps a distant district or 
foreign country, for the determination of some geological 
point that interested him, and return, without his friends 
knowing anything of his movements. He made most of 
his journeys on foot, and must have been a picturesque 
object as he trudged along, stick in hand. He wore knee- 
breeches and shoes, and the huge pockets of his overcoat 
were usually crammed with note-books, maps, and geolo- 
gical implements. His luggage, even when he came as 
far as England, consisted only of a small baize bag, which 
held a clean shirt and silk stockings. Few would have 
supposed that the odd personage thus accoutred was one 
of the greatest men of science of his time, an honoured 

^ Von Buch's coUected writings form four large closely-printed octavo 
volumes. The Royal Society's Catalogue assigns 153 separate papers to 
him. For a biographical account of Von Buch see the sketch by W. 
Haidinger in Jahrh, k, k. geol. Beichsanst, Band iv. (1853), p. 207, and 
the notices prefixed to his collected works. 

in Personal Traits of Von Buck 149 

and welcome guest in every learned society of Europe. 
He was not only fannliar with the writings of the geologists 
of his day, but knew the men personally, visited them in 
their own countries, and with many of them kept up a 
friendly and Uvely correspondence. He had an extensive 
knowledge of the languages of Europe, and had read widely 
not only in his own subjects, but in allied sciences, in 
history, and in literature, ancient and modem. Eandly, 
frank, outspoken, and fearless, he was beloved and 
honoured by those who deserved his friendship, and 
dreaded by those who did not. With tender seK-sacrifice 
he would take his blind brother every year to Carlsbad, 
and with endless benefactions did he brighten the lives of 
many who survived to mourn his loss. He died on 4th 
March 1853, in the seventy-ninth year of his age. A 
fitting monument to his memory was raised by sub- 
scriptions from all over Europe. In the picturesque 
region of Upper Austria, not far from Steyer, a granite 
boulder 16 feet high that had been borne by a former glacier 
from the Alps was chosen as his cenotaph. The stone, 
chiselled into a flat surface, bears inscribed upon it, with 
the reverence of admirers in Germany, Belgium, France, 
England, and Italy, the immortal name of Leopold von 

^ An account of the movement for the preparation of this monument 
wiU be found in Boa Buck-DenTcTnal^ a pamphlet by Ritter von Hauer and 
Dr. Homes, published in Vienna in 1858. It gives a portrait of Von 
Buch, and a view of the monument, with a map showing the position of 
the site. 


Bise of the modem conception of the theory of the earth — Hutton, Play- 
fair — Birth of experimental geology — Sir James Hall. 

While the din of geological warfare resounded across 
Europe, and the followers of Werner, flaunting the Neptunist 
flag in every corner of the continent, had succeeded in 
making the system promulgated from Freiberg almost 
supplant every other, a series of quiet and desultory 
researches was in progress, which led to the establish- 
ment of the fundamental principles of modem geology. 
We have now to turn our eyes to the British Isles, and to 
trace the career of a man who, with singular sagacity, 
recognizing early in life the essential processes of geological 
change, devoted himself with unwearied appKcation to the 
task of watching their effects and collecting proofs of their 
operation, and who combined the results of his observations 
and reasoning in a work which will ever remain one of the 
great classics of science. In following the course of his 
researches, we shall see another illustration of the influence 
of environment on mental tendencies, and mark how the 
sea-shores and mountains, glens and lowlands of Scotland 
have given tone and colour to the development of geological 

James Hutton (1726-1797) was born in Edinburgh on 

LECT. IV Early Career of James Hutton 151 

the 3rd June 1726, and was educated at the High School 
and University of that city.^ His father was a worthy 
citizen there, who had held the ofi&ce of City Treasurer, but 
died while the son was still very young, to whom he left a 
small landed property in Berwickshire. While attending 
;he logic lectures at the University, Hutton's attention was 
arrested by a reference to the fact that, although a single acid 
sufl&ces to dissolve the baser metals, two acids must combine 
their strength to effect the solution of gold. The professor, 
'Vfho had only used this illustration in unfolding some 
general doctrine, may or may not have made his pupil a 
good logician, but he certainly made him a chemist, for from 
that time the young student was drawn to chemistry by a 
force that only became stronger as years went on. When 
at seventeen years of age he had to select his profession in 
life, he was placed as an apprentice in a lawyer's office. 
But geniu. li^p^sdble, ^ .^d ft, ,J^ 0, fte 
law the young clerk's chemistry not infrequently came to 
the surface. He would be found amusing himself and his 
fellow- apprentices with chemical experiments, when he 
should have been copying papers or studying legal pro- 
ceedings, so that finally his master, seeing that law was 
evidently not his bent, released him from his engage- 
ment, and advised him to seek some other employment 
more suited to his turn of mind, 

Hutton accordingly, after a year's drudgery at law, 
made choice of medicine as the profession most nearly 

^ For the biograpMcal details in this sketch I am indebted to the 
admirable "Biographical Account of Dr. James Hutton" by his Mend 
and illustrator, Playfair. This was first printed in the Transadions of 
tJie BoyaZ Society of Ediriburghj and will be found in voL iv. of Play fair's 
collected works. 

152 The Founders of Geology lect. 

allied to chemistry, and most likely to allow him to indulge 
his predilection for science. For three years he prosecuted 
his medical studies at Edinburgh, and thereafter, as was 
then the custom, repaired to the continent to complete his 
pirofessional training. He remained nearly two years ir 
Paris, pursuing there with ardour the studies of chemistry 
and anatomy. Eetuming to Scotland by way of the Lov 
Countries, he took the degree of Doctor of Medicine st 
Leyden in September 1749. 

But the career of a physician seems to have grown less 
attractive to him as the time came on for his definitely 
settling in life. He may have been to some extent influ- 
enced by the success of certain chemical researches which 
he had years before begun with a friend of kindred tastes 
— researches which had led to some valuable discoveries in 
connection with the nature and production of sal ammo- 
niac, and which appeared to offer a reasonable prospect of 
commercial success. In the end he abandoned all thought 
of practising as a medical man, and resolved to apply him- 
self to farming. He was a man never disposed to do 
things by halves, and having made up his mind in favour 
of agriculture as his vocation, he determined to take ad- 
vantage of the best practical instruction in the subject 
then available. Accordingly in 1752 he betook himself 
to Norfolk, lived with a Norfolk farmer, and entered with 
all the zest of a young man of six-and-twenty into the 
rural sports and little adventures which, in the intervals 
of labour, formed the amusement of his host and his 

It appears to have been during this sojourn in East 
Anglia that Hutton's mind first definitely turned to 

IV Hutton as Farmer 153 

mineralogy and geology. He made many journeys on 
foot into different parts of England. In Norfolk itself 
there was much to interest his attention. Every here 
and there, the underlying white chalk came to the surface, 
with its rows of fantastically-shaped black flints. To 
the east, lay the Crag with its heaps of sea-shells, stretch- 
ing over many nules of the interior. To the north, the 
sea had cut a range of cliffs in the boulder-clay which, 
with its masses of chalk and its foreign stones, presented 
endless puzzles to an inquirer. To the west, the shores 
of the Wash showed the well-marked strata of red chalk 
and carstone, emerging from underneath the white chalk 
of the interior. 

Hutton tells, in one of his letters written from Norfolk, 
that he had grown fond of studying the surface of the 
earth, and was looking with anxious curiosity into every 
pit or ditch or bed of a river that feU in his way. 

After spending about two years in Norfolk, he took a 
tour into Flanders, with the view of comparing the hus- 
bandry there with that which he had been studying in 
England. But his eyes were now turned to what lay 
beneath the crops and their soils, and he took note of the 
rocks and minerals of the districts through which he 
passed. At last, about the end of the summer of 1754, he 
settled down on his own paternal acres in Berwickshire, 
which he cultivated after the most approved methods. 
For fourteen years he remained immersed in rural pursuits, 
coming occasionally to Edinburgh and making, from time 
to time, an excursion to some more distant part of the 
kingdom. His neighbours in the country probably looked 
upot him OBly „l good f^mer. wift mL iniono^ 

154 The Founders of Geology lect. 

culture and knowledge of the world than were usual in 
their society, and displaying a playful humour and liveli- 
ness of manner which must have made his companionship 
extremely pleasant Probably not one of the lairds and 
farmers in the South of Scotland, who met him at kirk 
and market, had the least suspicion that this agreeable 
neighbour of theirs was a man of surpassing genius, who at 
that very time, amidst all the rural pursuits in which he 
seemed to be absorbed, was meditating on some of the 
profoundest problems in the history of the earth, and was 
gathering materials for such a solution of these problems 
as had never before been attempted. 

The sal ammoniac manufacture had proved successful, 
and from 1765 Hutton became a regular co-partner in it. 
His farm, now brought into excellent order, no longer 
afforded him the same interest and occupation, and eventu- 
ally he availed himself of an opportunity of letting it to 
advantage. He determined about the year 1768 to give 
up a country life and establish himself in Edinburgh in 
order that, with uninterrupted leisure, he might devote 
himself entirely to scientific pursuits. 

The Scottish capital had not yet begun seriously to 
suffer from the centripetal attractions of London. It 
was the social centre of Scotland, and retained within its 
walls most of the culture and intellect of that ancient 
kingdom. Hutton, from his early and close connec- 
tion with Edinburgh, had many friends there, and, on 
his return for permanent residence, was received at once 
into the choicest society of the town. One of his most 
intimate associates was Dr. Joseph Black, the famous 
chemist to whom we owe the discovery of carbonic acid. 

IV Huttons Associates in Edinburgh 155 

This sympathetic friend took the keenest interest in 
Hutton's geological theories, and was able to contribute to 
their formation and development. Hutton himself ac- 
knowledges that one of his doctrines, that of the influence 
of compression in modifying the action of heat, was 
suggested by the researches of Dr. Black. The chemist's 
calm judgment and extensive knowledge were always at 
the command of his more impulsive geological friend, and 
doubtless proved of essential service in guiding him in his 

Another of Hutton's constant and intimate associates 
was John Clerk of Eldin, best known as the author of a 
work on naval tactics, and the inventor of the method of 
breaking the enemy's line at sea, which led to so many 
victories by the fleets of Great Britain. A third member 
of his social circle, who may be alluded to here, was the 
philosopher and historian Adam Ferguson, a man of 
remarkable force of character, who, to his various literary 
works, which were translated into French and German, 
added the distinction of a diplomatist, for in 1778-1779 he 
acted as Secretary of the Commission sent across the 
Atlantic by Lord North to try to arrange the matters 
in dispute between the mother country and her North 
American colonies. 

When Hutton found himself in these congenial sur- 
roundings, with ample leisure at his command, he appears 
to have turned at once to his first love in science, by 
betaking himself to chemical experiment. Even without 
the testimony of his biographer, we have only to look at 
his published works to be impressed by his unwearied 
industry, and by the extraordinarily wide range of his 

156 The Founders of Geology lect. 

studies. Though up to the time of his settling in Edin- 
burgh he had published nothing, he had read extensively. 
There were hardly any of the sciences, except the mathe- 
matical, to which he did not turn his attention. He was 
a diligent reader of voyages, travels and books of natural 
history, carefully storing up the facts which seemed to 
him to bear on the problems of the earth's history. He 
not only prosecuted chemistry and mineralogy, but dis- 
tinguished himself as a practical meteorologist by his 
important contribution to the theory of rain. He wrote a 
general system of physics and metaphysics in one quarto 
volume, and no fewer than three massive quartos were 
devoted by him to " An Investigation of the Principles of 
Knowledge, and of the Progress of Keason from Sense 
to Science and Philosophy." At the time of his death 
he was engaged upon a treatise on the "Elements of 

Button was thus no narrow specialist, wrapped up in 
the pursuit of one' circumscribed section of human inquiry. 
His mind ranged far and wide over all departments of 
knowledge. He took the keenest interest in them all, and 
showed the most vivid sympathy in their advancement. 
His pleasure in every onward step made by science and 
philosophy showed itself in the most lively demonstra- 
tions. "He would rejoice," we are told by Playfair, 
"over Watt's improvements on the steam-engine, or 
Cook's discoveries in the South Seas, with all the warmth 
of a man who was to share in the honour or the profit 
about to accrue from them. The fire of his expression, 
on such occasions, and the animation of his countenance 
and manner, are not to be described; they were always 

IV Hut ton in Edinburgh 157 

seen with great delight by those who could enter into his 
sentiments ; and often with great astonishment by those 
who could not." 

While so much was congenial to his mental habits in 
the friendly intercourse of Edinburgh society, there was 
not less in the scenery around the city that would stimu- 
late his geological proclivities. He could not take a walk 
in any direction without meeting with illustrations of 
some of the problems for the solution of which he was 
seeking. If he turned eastward, Arthur Seat and Salis- 
bury Crags rose in front of him, with their memorials of 
ancient volcanic eruptions. If he strolled westward, the 
ravines of the Water of Leith presented him with proofs of 
the erosive power of running water, and with sections of 
the successive sea -bottoms of the Carboniferous period. 
Even within the walls of the city, the precipitous Castle 
Eock bore witness to the energy with which in ancient 
times molten material had been thrust into the crust of 
the earth. 

No more admirable environment could possibly have 
mspired a geologist than that in which Hutton now began 
to work more sedulously at the study of the former 
changes of the earth's surface. But he went far afield in 
search of facts, and to test his interpretation of them. He 
made many journeys into different parts of Scotland, 
where the phenomena which engaged his attention seemed 
most likely to be well displayed. He extended his ex- 
cursions likewise into England and Wales. For about 
thirty years, he had never ceased to study the natural 
history of the globe, constantly seeking to recognize the 
proofs of ancient terrestrial revolutions, and to learn by 

158 The Founders of Geology lect. 

what causes they had been produced He had been led to 
form a definite theory or system which, by uniting and 
connecting the scattered facts, furnished an intelligible 
explanation of them. But he refrained from publishing it 
to the world. He had communicated his views to one or 
two of his friends, perhaps only to Dr. Black and Mr. 
Clerk, whose judgment and approval were warmly given 
to him. The world, however, might have had still a long 
time to wait for the appearance of his dissertation, had it 
not been for the interest that he took in the foundation of 
the Eoyal Society of Edinburgh, which was incorporated 
by Eoyal Charter in 1783.^ At one of the early meetings 

^ The Royal Society had been preceded by the Philosophical Society, 
out of which it sprang. Edinburgh at that time was famous for the 
number of its clubs and convivial meetings, at some of which Black and 
Hutton were constant companions. Various anecdotes have been handed 
down of these two worthies and their intercourse, of which the following 
may suffice as a specimen. *' These attached Mends agreed in their 
opposition to the usual vulgar prejudices, and frequently discoursed 
together upon the absurdity of many generally received opinions, especially 
in regard to diet. On one occasion they had a disquisition upon the 
inconsistency of abstaining from feeding on the testaceous creatures of the 
land, while those of the sea were considered as delicacies. Snails, for 
instance — ^why not use them as articles of food ? They were well known 
to be nutritious and wholesome — even sanative in some cases. The 
epicures, in olden time, esteemed as a most delicious treat the snails fed 
in the marble quarries of Lucca. The Italians still hold them in esteem. 
The two philosophers, perfectly satisfied that their countrymen were 
acting most absurdly in not making snails an ordinary article of food, 
resolved themselves to set an example ; and accordingly, having procured 
a number, caused them to be stewed for dinner. No guests were invited 
to the banquet. The snails were in due season served up ; but, alas ! 
great is the diflFerence between theory and practice — so far from exciting 
the appetite, the smoking dish acted in a diametrically opposite manner, 
and neither party felt much inclination to partake of its contents. Never- 
theless, if they looked on the snails with disgust, they retained their awe 
for each other ; so that each conceiving the symptoms of internal revolt 
peculiar to himself, began with infinite exertion to swallow in very small 
quantities the mess which he intemaUy loathed. Dr. Black at length 

IV Hutton on the EartJt s Internal Heat 159 

of this Society he communicated a concise account of his 
Theory of the Earth, which appeared in the first volume of 
the TransactioTis. - This essay was afterwards expanded, 
with much ampler details of observations and fuller 
application of principles to the elucidation of the pheno- 
mena, and the enlarged work appeared in two octavo 
volumes in the year 1795 with the title of Theory of 
the Earth, with Proofs and Illustrations, After Hutton's 
death his friend Playfair published in 1802 his classical 
Mliistrations of the Huttonian Theory. We are thus in 
possession of ample information of the theoretical views 
adopted by Hutton, and of the facts on which he based 
them. Before considering these, however, it may be 
convenient to foUow the recorded incidents of his quiet 
and uneventful life, that we may the better understand 
the manner in which he worked, and the nature of the 
material by which he tested and supported his conclusions. 
It was one of the fundamental doctrines of Hutton's 
system that the internal heat of the globe has in past time 
Iwn its vigour by the intrusion of large masses of 
molten material into the crust. He found many examples 
of these operations on a small scale in the neighbourhood 
of Edinburgh and in the lowlands of Scotland. But he 
conceived that the same eflfects had been produced in a far 
more colossal manner by the protrusion of large bodies of 
granite. This rock, which Werner had so dogmatically 

broke the ice, but in a delicate manner, as if to sound the opinion of his 
messmate, 'Doctor, do you not think that they taste a little — a very 

little — queer ? * * D queer, d queer, indeed ; tak them awa*, tak 

them awa' ! ' vociferated Dr. Hutton, starting up from table and 
giving full vent to his feelings of abhorrence." — A Series of Original 
Portraits, by John Eay (commonly known as Eay's JEdiriburgh 
Portraits), vol. i. p. 57. 


1 60 The Founders of Geology lect. 

affirmed to be the earUest chemical precipitate from his 
primeval ocean, was surmised by Hutton to be of igneous 
origin, and he believed that, if its junctions with the 
surrounding strata were examined, they would be found to 
furnish proofs of the correctness of his inference. The 
question could be easily tested in Scotland, where, both in 
the Highlands and among the Southern Uplands, large 
bodies of granite had long been known to form important 
groups of mountains. Accordingly, during a series of 
years, Hutton undertook a number of excursions into 
various parts of his native country, and returned from each 
of them laden with fresh illustrations of the truth of the 
conclusions at which he had arrived. At one time he was 
busy among the roots of the Grampian Hills, at another 
he was to be seen scouring the lonely moorlands of Gallo- 
way, or climbing the precipices and glens of Arran. His 
visit to Glen Tilt has been made memorable by Playfair's 
brief account of it.^ He had conjectured that in the bed 
of the river Tilt actual demonstration might be found that 
the Highland granite has disrupted the surrounding 
schists. Playfair describes how " no less than six large 
veins of red granite were seen in the course of a mile, 
traversing the black micaceous schistus, and producing, by 
the contrast of colour, an effect that might be striking even 
to an unskilful observer. The sight of objects which 
verified at once so many important conclusions in his 
system, filled him with delight ; and as his feelings, on 
such occasions, were always strongly expressed, the guides 
who accompanied him were convinced that it must be 
nothing less than the discovery of a vein of silver or gold 

^ Button's account is in the unpublished third volume of his Theory, 

IV Hutton verifies his Theories i6i 

that could call forth such strong marks of joy and 

Another of Button's fundamental generalizations was 
tested in as vivid and successful a manner. He taught 
that the ruins of an earlier world lay beneath the secondary 
strata, and that where the base of these strata can be seen, 
it will be found to reveal, by what is now known as an 
unconformability, its relation to the older rocks. He had 
at various points in Scotland satisfied himself by actual 
observation that this relation holds good. But he deter- 
mined to verify it once more by examining the junction of 
the two groups of rock along the coast where the range of 
the Lammermuir Hills plunges into the sea. Accompanied 
by his friend Sir James HaU, whose property of Dunglass 
lay in the immediate neighbourhood, and by his colleague 
and future biographer Playfair, and favoured by calm 
weather, he boated along these picturesque shores until the 
unconformable junction was reached. The vertical Silurian 
shales and grits were found to protrude through and to be 
wrapped round by the red sandstone and breccia. " Dr. 
Hutton," Playfair writes, '*was highly pleased with ap- 
pearances that set in so clear a light the different formations 
of the parts which compose the exterior crust of the earth, 
and where aU the circumstances were combined that could 
render the observation satisfactory and precise. On us 
who saw these phenomena for the first time, the impression 
made will not easily be forgotten. The palpable evidence 
presented to us of one of the most extraordinary and 
important facts in the natural history of the earth, gave 
a reality and substance to those theoretical speculations 
which, however probable, had never till now been directly 


1 62 The Founders of Geology lect. 

authenticated by the testimony of the senses. We often 
said to ourselves, what clearer evidence could we have had 
of the different formation of these rocks, and of the long 
interval which separated their formation^ had we actually 
seen them emerging from the bosom of the deep? . . . 
The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into 
the abyss of time; and while we listened with earnest- 
ness and admiration to the philosopher who was now 
unfolding to us the order and series of these wonderful 
events, we became sensible how much further reason may 
sometimes go than imagination can venture to follow." 

Hutton's lithe active body betokened the unwearied 
vigour of Ms mind. His high forehead, firmly moulded 
features, keen observant eyes, and well-shaped, rather 
aquiline nose, marked him out at once as a man of strqng 
intellect, while the gentleness that beamed in his face was 
a reflex of the kindliness of his nature. His plain dress, 
all of one colour, gave a further indication of the unostenta- 
tious simplicity of his nature. 

His mode of life was in harmonious keeping with these 
personal traits. After working in his study during the day 
he would invariably pass the evening with his friends. " A 
brighter tint of gaiety and cheerfulness spread itself over 
every countenance when the doctor entered the room ; and 
the philosopher who had just descended from the sublimest 
speculations of metaphysics or risen from the deepest 
researches of geology, seated himself at the tea-table, as 
much disengaged from thought, as cheerful and gay, as 
the youngest of the company." His character was distin- 
guished by its transparent simplicity, its frank openness, its 
absence of all that was little or selfish, and its overflowing 

IV Muttons *' Theory of the Earth " 163 

enthusiasm and vivacity. In a company he was always 
one of the most animated speakers, his conversation full of 
ingenious arid original observation, showing wide infor- 
mation, from which an excellent memory enabled him to 
draw endless illustrations of any subject that might be 
discussed, where, "when the subject admitted of it, the 
witty and the ludicrous never failed to occupy a consider- 
able place." 

Though his partnership in the chemical work brought 
him considerable wealth, it made no difference in the quiet 
unostentatious life of a philosopher, which he had led 
ever since he settled in Edinburgh. . A severe attack of 
illness in the summer of 1793 greatly reduced his strength, 
and though he recovered from it and was able to resume 
his life of activity, a second attack of the same ailment 
in the winter of 1796 terminated at last fatally on the 
26th March 1797, when he was in his seventy-first year. 

Button's claim to rank high among the founders of 
geology rests on no wide series of writings, like those which 
Von Buch poured forth so copiously for more than two 
generations. Nor was it proclaimed by a host of devoted 
pupils, like those who spread abroad the fame of Werner. 
It is based on one single work,^ and on the elucidations of 
two friends and disciples. 

On the 7th of March and 4th of April 1785 there was 
read to the Koyal Society of Edinburgh a memoir on a 
" Theory of the Earth ; or an Investigation of the Laws 
observable in the Composition, Dissolution, and Kestoration 
of Land upon the Globe." Extending to no more than 96 

^ The first sketch and the expansion of it into two volumes may be practi- 
cally regarded as one work so far as the originality of conception is concerned. 

1 64 The Founders of Geology lect. 

quarto pages, it was written in a quiet logical manner, with 
no attempt at display, but with an apparent anxiety to 
state the author's opinions as tersely as possible. Probably 
no man realized then that this essay would afterwards be 
regarded as marking a turning-point in the history of 
geology. For some years it remained without attracting 
notice either from friend or foe.^ 

For this neglect various causes have been assigned. 
The title of the memoir was perhaps unfortunate. I'he 
words " Theory of the Earth " suggested another repetition 
of the endless speculations as to the origin of things, of 
which men had grown weary. System after system of this 
kind of speculation had been proposed, and had dropped 
into oblivion, and no doubt many of his contemporaries 
believed Hutton's " Theory " to be one of the same ill- 
fated brood. His friend Playfair admits that there were 
reasons in the construction of the memoir itself why it 
should not have made its way more speedily into notice. 
Its contents were too condensed, and contained too little 
explanation of the grounds of the reasoning. Its style was 
apt to be prolix and obscure. It appeared too in the 
Transactions of a learned Society which had only recently 
been founded, and whose publications were hardly yet 
known to the general world of science. 

^ It does not appear to be generally known that Desmarest, departing 
from his usual practice of not noticing the work of living writers, wrote a 
long and careful notice of Button's Memoir of 1785 in the first volume of 
his CHographie Physique, published in 1794-1795. He disagrees with many 
of Button's views, such, for instance, as that of the igneous origin of 
granite. But he generously insists on the value of the observations with 
which the Scottish writer had enriched the natural history of the earth 
and the physical geography of Scotland. "It is to Scotland," he says, 
"that Button's opponents must go to amend his results and substitute 
for them a more rational explanation " (p. 750). 

IV Huttouy De Luc and Kirwan 165 

" ■ ' ■ ■ I f I ■ ■ ■ .1 ■ ■■■ ■ 11 ■ .^ I ■■■■■■ I I ■ ■■.■■■■ ■ ■ - 

"^ At last, after an interval of some five years, De Luc 
assailed the " Theory " in a series of letters in the MontMy 
Beview for 1790 and 1791. So far as we know, Hutton 
published no immediate reply to these attacks. He had 
often been urged by his friends to publish his entire work 
on the Theory of the Earth, with all the proofs and illus- 
trations which had been accumulating in his hands for so 
many years. From year to year, however, he delayed the 
task, until during the convalescence from his first severe 
illness, he received a copy of a strenuous attack upon his 
system and its tendencies by Eichard Kirwan, a well- 
known Irish chemist and mineralogist of that day.^ This 
assailant not only misconceived and misrepresented the 
views which he criticized, but charged their author with 
atheistic opinions. Weakened as he was by illness, 
Hutton, with characteristic energy, the very day after he 
received Kirwan's paper, began the revisal of his manu- 
script, and worked at it until he was able to send it to the 
press. It appeared in 1795, that is, ten years after the 
first sketch of the subject was given to the Eoyal Society 
of Edinburgh. Besides embodying that sketch, it gave a 
much fuller statement of his views, and an ampler presenta- 
tion of the facts and observations on which they were 
founded. It formed two octavo volumes. Playfair tells 
us that a third volume, necessary for the completion of the 
work, remained in manuscript.^ 

^ *' Examination of the Supposed Origin of Stony Substances," read to 
the Royal Irish Academy, 3rd February 1793, and published in vol. v. of 
their TrcmsactionSf p. 51. For a crushing exposure of Kirwan's mode 
of attack see Play fair's Illustrations of the HvUoman Theory^ §§ 119, 

^ A portion of this manuscript, containing six chapters (iv.-ix.), is in 

1 66 The Founders of Geology lect. 

If Hutton's original sketch was defective in style and 
arrangement, his larger work was even more unfortunate 
in these respects. Its prolixity deterred readers from its 
perusal. Yet it was a vast storehouse of accurate observa- 
tion and luminous deduction, and it deserves to be care- 
fully studied by every geologist who wishes to understand 
the history of his own science. 

Fortunately for Hutton's fame, he numbered among his 
friends the illustrious mathematician and natural philoso- 
pher, John Playfair (1748-1819), who had been closely as- 
sociated with him in his later years, and was intimately con- 
versant with his geological opinions. Gifted with a clear 
penetrating mind, a rare faculty of orderly logical arrange- 
ment, and an English style of altogether remarkable preci- 
sion and elegance, he was of all men best fitted to let the 
world know what it owed to Hutton. Accordingly, after 
his friend's death he determined to prepare a more popular 
and perspicuous account of Hutton's labours. He gave in 
this work, first a clear statement of the essential principles 
of Hutton's system, and then a series of notes or essays 
upon different parts of the system, combining in these a 
large amount of original observation and refiection of his 
own. His volume appeared in the spring of 1802, just 
five years after Hutton's death, with the title of Illustra- 
tions of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth. Of this great 
classic it is impossible to speak too highly. After the 
lapse of nearly a century it may be read with as much 
profit and pleasure as when it first appeared. For preci- 

the possession of the Gleological Society of London, bnt the rest seems to 
have disappeared. It is mnch to be desired that this precious fragment 
should be published. 

IV Huttofis Fundamental Doctrines 167 

sion of statement and felicity of language it has no superior 
in English scientific literature. To its early inspiration I 
owe a debt which I can never fully repay. Upon every 
young student of geology I would impress the advantage 
of reading and re-reading and reading yet again this con- 
suftimate masterpiece. How different would geological 
literature be to-day if men had tried to think and write 
like Playfair ! 

There are thus three sources of information as to 
Hutton's geological system — his first sketch of 1785, his 
two octavo volumes of 1795 and Playfair's IHustraiions of 
1802. Let us now consider what were his fundamental 

Although he called his system a Theory of the Earth, 
Button's conceptions entirely differed from those of the 
older cosmologists, who thought themselves bound to begin 
by explaining the origin of things, and who proceeded on 
a foundation of hypothesis to erect a more or less fantastic 
edifice of mere speculation. He, on the contrary, believed 
that it is the duty of science to begin by ascertaining what 
evidence there is in the earth itself to throw light upon 
its history. Instead of invoking conjecture and hypo- 
thesis, he proceeded from the very outset to collect the 
actual facts, and to marshal these in such a way as to 
make them tell their own story. Unlike Werner, he had 
no preconceived theory about the origin of rocks, with 
which all the phenomena of nature had to be made to 
agree. His theory grew so naturally out of his observa- 
tions that it involved no speculation in regard to a large 
part of its subject. 

Hutton started with the grand conception that the past 

1 68 The Founders of Geology lect. 

history of our globe must be explained by what can be 
seen to be happening now, or to have happened only 
recently. The dominant idea in his philosophy is that 
the present is the key to the past. We have grown so 
familiar with this idea, it enters so intimately into all our 
conceptions in regard to geological questions, that we do 
not readily realize the genius of the man who first grasped 
it with unerring insight, and made it the chief comer-stone 
of modern geology. 

From the time of his youthful rambles in Norfolk, 
Hutton had been struck with the universal proofs that 
the surface of the earth has not always been as it is 
to-day. Everywhere below the covering of soil he found 
evidence of former conditions, entirely unlike those 
visible now. In the great majority of cases, he noticed 
that the rocks there to be seen consist of strata, disposed 
in orderly arrangement parallel with each other. Some 
of these strata are formed of pudding-stone, others of sand- 
stone, of shale, of limestone, and so forth, differing in 
many respects from each other, but agreeing in one essential 
character, that they are composed of fragmentary or detrital 
material, derived from rocks older than themselves. He 
saw that these various strata could be exactly paralleled 
among the accumulations now taking place under the sea. 
The pudding-stones were in his eyes only compacted 
gravels, the sandstones were indurated sand, the lime- 
stones were in great part derived from the accumulation 
of the remains of marine calcareous organisms, the shales 
from the consolidation of mud and silt. The wide extent 
of these strata, forming, as they do, most of the dry land, 
seemed to him to point to the sea as the only large 

IV Huttons Doctrines 169 

expanse of water in which they could have been de- 

Thus the first conclusion established by the Scottish 
philosopher was that the greater part of the land con- 
sisted of compacted sediment which had been worn away 
from some pre-existing continent, and had been spread 
out in strata over the bed of the sea. He realized that 
the rocks thus formed were not aU of the same age, but, 
on the contrary, bore witness to a succession of revolu- 
tions. He acknowledged the existence of a series of 
ancient rocks which he called Primary, not that he believed 
them to be the original or first-formed rocks in the struc- 
ture of the planet, but that they were the oldest that had 
then been discovered. They included the various schista 
and slates which Werner claimed as chemical precipitates, 
but in which Hutton could only see the hardened and 
altered mechanical sediments of a former ocean. Above 
them, and partly formed out of them, came the Secondary 
strata that constitute the greater part of the land. 

But all these sedimentary deposits have passed from 
their original soft condition into that of solid stone. 
Hutton attributed this change to the action of subterranean 
heat. In his day the chemistry of geology was exceed- 
ingly imperfect. The solubility of silica, for instance, and 
its capacity for being introduced in solution into the 
minutest crevices and pores of a rock were not known. 
It need not, therefore, surprise us to find that in the 
Huttonian conception the flints in chalk were injected 
into the rock in a molten state, and that the 'agate of fossil 
wood bore marks of igneous fusion. Hutton did not realize 
to what an extent mere compression could solidify the 

1 70 The Founders of Geology lect. 

materials of sedimentary strata, nor how much may be 
done by infiltration and deposition between the clastic 
grains. V But there was one effect of compression which, 
though not perhaps at first sight obvious, was clearly 
perceived by him in its geological relations. He saw that 
the influence of heat upon rocks must be largely modified 
by pressure. The more volatile components, which would 
speedily be driven off by a high temperature at the surface, 
may be retained under great pressure below that surface. 
Hutton conceived that limestone might even be fused in 
this way, and yet still keep its carbonic acid. This idea 
was ridiculed at the time, but its truth was confirmed 
afterwards by Hall's experiments, to which I shall allude 
in a later part of this lecture. 

The next step in his reasoning was that whereby^ 
Hutton sought to account for the present position of the 
strata which, originally deposited under the sea, are now 
found even on mountain crests 15,000 feet above sea-level. , 
We have seen how Werner looked on his vertical primitive 
strata as having been precipitated from solution in that 
position, and as having been uncovered by the gradual 
subsidence and disappearance of the water. Hutton 
attacked the problem in a very different fashion. He saw 
that if the exposure of the dry land were due merely to the 
subsidence of the sea, it would involve no change in the 
positions of the strata relatively to each other. What were 
first deposited should lie at the bottom, what were last 
deposited at the top ; and the whole should retain their 
original flatness. 

But the most cursory examination was, in his opinion, 
suflBlcient to show that the actual conditions in nature 

IV Huttons Doctrines 171 

were entirely different from any such arrangement. Where- 
ever he went, he found proofe that the sedimentary strata 
now forming most of the land had generally lost the 
horizontal position in which they were accumulated. He 
saw them usually inclined, sometimes placed on end, or 
even stupendously contorted and ruptured. It was mani- 
festly absurd, as De Saussure had shown in the Alps, to 
suppose that the pebbles in vertical beds of conglomerate 
could ever have been deposited in such positions. And if 
some of the vertical strata could thus be demonstrated to 
have been originally horizontal, there could be no reason for 
refusing to concede that the same alteration had happened 
to the other vertical strata, even though they did not supply 
such convincing proofs'of it. No stratum could have ended 
off abruptly at the time of its formation, nor could it have 
been accumulated in plicated layers. But nothing is more 
' common than to find strata presenting their truncated 
ends to the sky, while in some districts they are folded and 
wrinkled, like irregular piles of carpets. Not only so, but 
again and again they are found to be sharply dislocated, 
so that two totally different series are placed parallel, to 
each other. 

Hutton recognized that these changes, which were 
probably brought about at different periods, must be 
attributed to some great convulsions which, from time to 
time, have shaken the very foundations of the earth. He 
could prove that, in some places, the Primary rocks had in 
this way been broken up and placed on end before the 
Secondary series was laid down, for, as on the Berwickshire 
coast, he had traced the older vertical strata overlain and 
wrapped round by the younger horizontal deposits, and 

172 The Founders of Geology lect. 

had also observed, from the well-worn fragments of the 
former enclosed in the latter, that the interval of time 
represented by the break between them must have been of 
considerable duration. 

Having, by this admirable train of observation and 
deduction, been led to the demonstration of former gigantic 
disturbances, by which the bed of the sea had been up- 
heaved and its hardened sediments had been tilted, pUcated 
and fractured, to form the existing dry land, Hutton had 
next to look round for some probable cause for these pheno- 
mena. He inferred that the convulsions could only have 
been produced by some force that acted from below up- 
ward, but was so combined with the gravity and resistance 
of the mass to which it was applied, as to create a lateral 
and oblique thrust that gave rise to the contortions of the 
strata. He did not pretend to be able to explain the 
nature and operation of this subterranean force. He 
believed that it was essentially due to heat, and he con- 
nected with it the operations of volcanoes, which he re- 
garded as general over the globe, and as " spiracles to the 
subterranean furnace in order to prevent the unnecessary 
elevation of land, and fatal effects of earthquakes." ^ 

Unlike Werner, Hutton recognized the fundamental 
importance of the internal high temperature of the globe, 
of which volcanoes are one of the proofs. He saw that no 
mere combustion of substances could account for this tem- 
perature, which arose from causes so far different from 
ordinary combustion, that it might require no circulation 
of air and no supply of combustible materials to support 
it. The nucleus of the globe might accordingly "be a 

^ Theory of the Earthy vol. i. p. 146. 

IV Huttons Views of Igneotts Rocks 173 

fluid mass, melted, but unchanged by the action of 

In this way, appealing at every step to the actual 
facts of nature, Hutton built up the first part of his 
immortal Theory. Most of these facts were more or less 
familiar to men ; and some of the obvious inferences to be 
drawn from them had been noted by several observers 
before his time. But no one until then had grouped them 
into a coherent system by which the earth became, as 
it were, her own interpreter. The very obviousness and 
familiarity of the doctrine at the present time, when 
it is the groimdwork of modem geology, are apt to 
blind us to the genius of the man who first con- 
ceived it, and worked it into a harmonious and luminous 

In the course of his journeys in Scotland, Hutton had 
come upon many examples of rocks that were not stratified. 
Some of these occurred among the Primary masses ; others 
were observable in the Secondary series. Keflecting deeply 
on the probable reaction of the heated interior of the globe 
upon its outer cooler shell or crust, he had come to the 
conclusion that many, if not all, of these unstratified rocks 
were to be regarded as material that had once been in a 
molten condition, and had been injected from below during 
some of the great convulsions indicated by the disturbed 
strata. He distinguished three principal kinds of such 
intrusive rocks — "whinstone," under which term he 
included a miscellaneous series of dark, heavy, somewhat 
basic rocks, now known as dolerites, basalts, diabases and 
andesites ; porphyry, which probably comprised such rocks 
as felsite, orthophyre and quartz-porphyry; and granite. 

1 74 The Founders of Geology lect. 

which, though generally used in its modern sense, em- 
braced some rocks of more basic character. 

He showed that the whinstones correspond so closely 
to modem lavas in structure and composition, that they 
may be regarded as probably also of volcanic origin. But 
he did not suppose that they had actually been erupted at 
the surface, like streams of lava. He foimd them to occur 
sometimes in vertical veins, known in Scotland as dyhes — 
a term now universal in English geological literature — and 
sometimes as irregular bosses, or interposed as sheets 
between the strata. He regarded these rocks as masses of 
subterranean or unerupted lava, but the grounds on which 
he reached this conclusion were not always such as the 
subsequent progress of inquiry has justified. The deduction 
was correct, but the reasoning that led up to it was partly 
fallacious. Hutton argued, for instance, that the carbonate 
of lime, so commonly observable in his "whinstones," 
indicated that the rock had been fused deep within the 
earth, under such pressure as to keep that mineral in a 
molten state, without the loss of its carbonic acid. Like 
the other mineralogists of his day, he was not aware that 
the calcite of the amygdales has been subsequently intro- 
duced in solution, and that the diffused calcite in the body 
of the rocks generally results from their decomposition by 
infiltrating water. Much more appropriate were his observa- 
tions that the whinstone has greatly indurated the strata 
into which it has been injected, even involving fragments 
of them, and reducing carbonaceous substances, such as 
coal, to the condition of coke or charcoal ; that it has been 
inserted among the strata with such violence as to shift, 
upraise, bend, or otherwise disturb them, and that it can 

IV Hutton on Granite 175 

be seen to have come in abruptly in one continuous succes- 
sion of strata, which, above and below it, are exactly alike, 
and have obviously been at one time in contact with each 

Granite, as Hutton pointed out, differs in many important 
respects from " whinstone," more particularly in its position, 
for it was then believed to lie beneath all the known rocks, 
rising to higher elevations and sinking to greater depths 
than any other material in the crust of the earth. Yet 
though he admitted its infra-position, he differed from the 
Neptunists in regard to its relative antiquity. He believed 
it to be younger than the strata that rest upon it, for he 
regarded it as a mass that had once been melted, and had 
been intruded among the rocks with which it is now found 
associated. He based this conclusion upon various obser- 
vations, chief among which was the occurrence of abundant 
veins that diverge from the granite and ramify through 
the surrounding rocks, diminishing in width as they recede 
from their parent mass. 

Properly to appreciate the value of these doctrines in 
regard to the development of a sound geological philosophy, 
we must bear in mind what were the prevalent views 
entertained on the subject when Hutton's work was 
published. We have seen that granite, generally regarded 
as an aqueous formation, was affirmed by Werner to have 
been the first precipitate that fell from his univeral ocean. 
De Saussure, who had seen more of granite and its relations 
than Werner, or indeed than any other geologist of his 
time, remained up to the last a firm believer in the aqueous 
origin of that rock. Even after the death of the great 
Swiss geologist, Cuvier, sharing his opinions on these 


176 TAe Founders of Geology lect. 

matters, proclaimed as late as 1810 his belief that De 
Saussure overthrew the doctrine of central fire, or of a 
source of heat within the earth's interior, demonstrated 
granite to be the first-formed rock, and proved it to have 
been formed in strata deposited in water.^ Nobody before 
Hutton's time had been bold enough to imagine a series of 
subterranean intrusions of molten matter. Those who 
adopted his opinion on this subject were styled Plutonists, 
and were looked upon as a section of the Vulcanists, but 
as carrying out their doctrines to still greater extravagance, 
"attributing to the action of fire widely -diflused rocks 
which nobody had till then ever dreamt of removing from 
the domain of water/' ^ 

According to the Huttonian theory, fissures and openings 
have from time to time arisen in the external crust of 
the earth, and have reached down to the intensely hot 
nucleus. Into these the molten material has ascended, 
forming veins of whinstone underground, and. where it ha« 
reached the surface, issuing there in the form of lava 
and the other phenomena of volcanoes. Every geologist 
recognizes these generalizations as part of the familiar 
teachings of modem geology. 

We have seen that Werner made no distinction, as 
regards origin, between what we now call mineral veins 
and the dykes and veins of granite, basalt, or other 
eruptive rocks. He looked upon them aU as the results of 
chemical precipitation from an ocean that covered the 
rocks in which fissures had been formed. Hutton, in like 
manner, drew no line between the same two well-marked 

^ Cuvier, ** Eloge de De Saussure," jSlogeSy i. p. 427. 
^ Cuvier, op, cit. ii. p. 363. 

IV Hutton and Werner compared 177 

series of veins, but regarded them all as due to the intro- 
duction of igneous material. Though more logical than 
Werner, he was, as we now know, entirely in error in 
confounding under one denomination two totally distinct 
assemblages of mineral matter. Werner correctly referred 
veins of ores and spars to deposition from aqueous solution, 
but was completely mistaken in attributing the same 
origin to veins of massive rock. Hutton, on the other 
hand, went as far astray in regard to his explanation of 
mineral veins, but he made an important contribution to 
science in his insistence upon the truly intrusive nature of 
veins of granite and whinstone. 

There was another point of difference between the 
views of Werner and of Hutton in regard to mineral 
veins. One of the • undoubted services of the Freiberg 
professor was his clear demonstration that veins could be 
classified according to their directions, that this arrange- 
ment often sufficed to separate them also according to 
age and material, those running along one parallel, and 
containing one group of minerals, being intersected by, 
and therefore older than, another series following a different 
direction, and consisting of other metals and vein-stones. 
This important distinction found no place in Hutton's 
system. To him it was enough that he was able to show 
that the veins known to him were intrusive masses of 
igneous origin.^ 

In the Huttonian theory we find the germ of the 

^ In Playfair's UltLstrations, however, the suocessiye origin of mineral 
veins is distinctly affirmed, § 226. Reference is there made to the coin- 
cidence between the prevalent direction of the principal Cornish veins and 
the general strike of the strata, and to the intersection of these by the 
cross-courses at nearly right angles. 


178 The Founders of Geology lect. 

Lyellian doctrine of metamorphism. Hutton, having de- 
monstrated that granite is not an aqueous but an igneous 
rock, further showed that the " Alpine schistus," that is, 
the series of crystalline schists, being stratified, could not 
be original or primitive, but must have been deposited in 
successive layers like more recent sediments, and were 
invaded and altered by the granite. Let me quote a 
passage from his chapter "On the Primary Part of the 
Present Earth" in illustration of the sagacity of his 
judgment on this subject: "If, in examining our land, 
we shall find a mass of matter which had been evidently 
formed originally in the ordinary manner of stratification, 
but which is now extremely distorted in its structure and 
displaced in its position, — which is also extremely con- 
solidated in its mass and variously qhanged in its com- 
position,— which, therefore, has the marks of its original 
or marine composition extremely obliterated, and many 
subsequent veins of melted mineral matter interjected, 
we should then have reason to suppose that here were 
masses of matter which, though not different in their origin 
from those that are gradually deposited at the bottom of 
the ocean, have been more acted upon by subterranean 
heat and the expanding power, that is to say, have been 
changed in a greater degree by the operations of the 
mineral kingdom."^ Hutton here compresses into a 
single, though somewhat cumbrous, sentence the doctrine 
to which Lyell in later years gave the name of meta- 

Hutton's vision not only reached far back into the 
geological past, it stretched into the illimitable future, 

1 Theory of the Earthy vol. i pp. 376, 376. 

IV Hutton on Degradation of the Land 1 79 

and it embraced also a marvellously broad yet minute 
survey of the present. From his early youth he had 
been struck with the evidence of incessant decay upon 
the surface of the dry land. With admirable insight he 
kept hold of this cardinal fact, and followed it fearlessly 
from mountain-top to sea-shore. Wherever we may go, 
on each variety of rock, in every kind of climate, the 
doom of dissolution seemed to him to be written in in- 
effaceable characters upon the whole surface of the dry 
land. No sooner was the bed of the ocean heaved up 
into mountains, than the new terrestrial surface began to 
be attacked. Chemical and mechanical agents were recog- 
nized as concerned in this disintegration, though the 
precise nature and extent of their several operations had 
not then been studied. The general result produced by 
them, however, was never appreciated by any observer 
more clearly than by Hutton. From the coast, worn 'into 
stack and skerry and cave, by the ceaseless grinding of 
the waves, he had followed the progress of corrosion up 
to the crests of his Scottish hills. No rock, even the 
hardest, could escape, though some resisted more stubbornly 
than others. 

The universality of this terrestrial waste had been more 
or less distinctly perceived by previous writers. But 
Hutton saw a meaning in it which no one before him had 
suspected. To his eye, while the whole land undergoes 
loss, it is along certain lines traced by running water that 
this loss reaches its greatest amount. In the channels of 
the streams that carry off the drainage of the land he 
recognized the results of a constant erosion of the rocks 
by the water flowing over them. As the generalization 

1 80 The Founders of Geology lect. 

was beautifully expressed by Playfair : " Every river 
appears to consist of a main trunk, fed from a variety of 
branches, each running in a valley proportioned to its 
size, and all of them together forming a system of valleys, 
communicating with one another, and having such a nice 
adjustment of their declivities, that none of them join the 
principal valley, either on too high or too low a level, a 
circumstance which would be infinitely improbable if each 
of these valleys were not the work of the stream that 
flows in it. 

" If, indeed, a river consisted of a single stream without 
branches, running in a straight valley, it might be supposed 
that some great concussion, or some powerful torrent, had 
opened at once the channel by which its waters are con- 
ducted to the ocean ; but, when the usual form of a river 


is considered, the trunk divided into many branches, 
which rise at a great distance from one another, and these 
again subdivided into an infinity of smaller ramifications, 
it becomes strongly impressed upon the mind that all 
these channels have been cut by the waters themselves ; 
that they have been slowly dug out by the washing and 
erosion of the land ; and that it is by the repeated touches 
of the same instrument that this curious assemblage of 
lines has been engraved so deeply on the surface of the 
globe/' 1 

The whole of the modern doctrine of earth-sculpture 
is to be found in the Huttonian theory. We shall 
better appreciate the sagacity and prescience of Hutton 
and Playfair, if we remember that their views on this 
subject were in their lifetime, and for many years after- 

^ Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory^ p. 102. 

IV The Huttonian Explanation of Valleys 1 8 1 

wards, ignored or explicitly rejected, even by those who 
accepted the rest of their teaching. Hall, their friend and 
associate, could not share their opinions on this subject. 
Lyell too, who adopted so much of the Huttonian theory 
and became the great prophet of the Uniformitarian 
school, never would admit the truth of Hutton's doctrine 
concerning the origin of valleys. Nor even now is that 
doctrine universally accepted. It was Jukes who in 1862 
revived an interest in the subject, by showing how com- 
pletely the valley system in the south of Ireland was due 
to the action of the rivers.^ Eamsay soon after followed 
with further illustrations of the principle.^ But un- 
questionably the most effective support to Hutton's teach- 
ing has been given by the geologists of the United States, 
who, among the comparatively undisturbed strata of the 
Western Territories, have demonstrated, by proofs which 
the most sceptical must receive, the potency of denudation 
in the production of the topography of the land. 

To the Huttonian school belongs also the conspicuous 
merit of having been the first to recognize the potency of 
glaciers in the transport of detritus from the mountains. 
Playfair, in his characteristically brief and luminous way, 
proclaimed at the beginning of this century that " for the 
removing of large masses of rock the most powerful 
engines without doubt which nature employs are the 
glaciers, those lakes or rivers of ice which are formed in 
the highest valleys of the Alps, and other mountains of 
the first order. . . . Before the valleys were cut out in 
the form they now are, and when the mountains were 

* Qaart, Joum, Oeol, Soc, xviii. (1862). 
^ The Physical Otology cmd Geography of Great Britain, 1863. 

1 82 The Founders of Geology lect. 

still more elevated, huge fragments of rock may have been 
carried to a great distance ; and it is not wonderful if 
these same masses, greatly diminished in size, and reduced 
to gravel or sand, have reached the shores or even the 
bottom of the ocean." ^ Here the former conception of 
the greater extension of the glaciers was foreshadowed as 
a possible or even probable event in geological history. 
Yet for half a century or more after Playfair's time, men 
were still speculating on the probability of the transport 
of the erratics by floating icebergs during a submergence 
of Central Europe under the sea, — an hypothesis for which 
there was not a particle of evidence. No geologist now 
questions the truth of Playfair's suggestion. 

In the whole of Hutton's doctrine he rigorously 
guarded MmseK against the admission of any principle 
which could not be founded on observation. He made no 
assumptions. Every step in his deductions wOiS based 
upon actual fact, and the facts were so arranged as to 
yield naturally and inevitably the conclusion which he 
drew from them. Let me quote from the conclusion of his 
work a few sentences in iUustration of these statements. 
In the interpretation of nature, he remarks, "no powers 
are to be employed that are not natural to the globe, no 
action to be admitted of except those of which we know 
the principle, and no extraordinary events to be alleged 
in order to explain a common appearance. The powers of 
nature are not to be'empkgziedL^ in order to destroy the 
very object of those powers ; we ai*e ^ojK to make nature 
act in violation to that order which we actually observe, 
and in subversion of that end which is to be perceived in 

^ Illmtrations, p. 388. 

IV Hut ton's Friends in Edinburgh 183 

the system of created things. In whatever manner, there- 
foie, we are to employ the great agents, fire and water, for 
producing those things which appear, it ought to be in 
suci a way as is consistent with the propagation of plants 
and the life of animals upon the surface of the earth. 
Chaos and confusion are not to be introduced into the 
order of nature, because certain things appear to our 
practical views as being in some disorder. Nor are we 
to proceed in feigning causes when those seem insufficient 
which occur' in our experience." ^ 

}fo geologist ever lived among a more congenial and 
helpful group of friends than Hutton. While they had a 
prolound respect for hisjgenius, they were drawn towards 
him by his winning personality, and he became the centre 
of al that was bright, vivacious and cheerful in that 
remaikable circle of eminent men. If he wanted advice 
and assistance in chemical questions, there was his bosom- 
friend Joseph Black, ever ready to pour out his ample 
stores of knowledge, and to test every proposition by the 
light of his wide experience and his sober judgment. If 
he needed companionship and assistance in his field 
joumejrs, there was the sagacious Clerk of Eldin, willing 
to joii him, to examine his evidence with judicial 
impartiality, and to sketch for* him with anvartistic 
pencil the geological sections on which he laid most 
stress. If he felt himself in need of the counsel of a cleai:^ 
logical intellect, accustomed to consider physical prob- 
lems ^th the precision of a mathematician, there was 
the kindly sympathetic Playfair, ever prompt and pleased 
to do him a service. With such companions he discussed 

* Theory of tTie Eart%f vol. ii. p. 547. 



1 84 The Founders of Geology lect. 

his theory in all its bearings. Their approval was ample 
enough for his ambition. He was never tempted to court 
publicity by frequent communications to learned societies, 
or the issue of independent works treating of his geo- 
logical observations and discoveries. But for the establish- 
ment of the Eoyal Society of Edinburgh, he might have 
delayed for years the preparation of the first sketch of his 
theory, and had it not been for the virulent attacks of 
Kirwan, he might never have been induced to finish the 
preparation of his great work. He was a man absorbed 
in the investigation of nature, to whom personal renown 
was a matter of utter indifference. 

Among Hutton's Mends there was one in particular to 
whom a distinguished place in the list of the founders of 
geology must be assigned — Sir James Hall of Du]^glass 
(1761-1832). To this original investigator we owp the 
establishment of experimental research, as a bracch of 
geological investigation. Inheriting a baronetcy and a 
landed estate in East Lothian, not far from the picturesque 
cliffs of St. Abb's Head, and possessed of ample leisue for 
the prosecution of intellectual pursuits, he was led to 
interest himself in geology. His father, a man of scientific 
tastes, became acquainted with Hutton when the future 
philosopher was a farmer in the neighbouring county of 
Berwick. From these early days Hutton found the hospi- 
tality of Dunglass always open to him. It will be re- 
membered that the famous visit to Siccar Point, described 
by Playfair, was made with Sir James from that house. 

At first Sir James Hall could not bring himself to 
accept Hutton's views. " I was induced," he tells ub, " to 
reject his system entirely, and should probably have con- 


Sir James Hall 185 

tinued still to do so, with the great majority of the world, but 
for my habits of intimacy with the author, the vivacity and 
perspicuity of whose conversation formed a striking con- 
trast to the obscurity of his writings. I was induced by 
that charm, and by the numerous original facts which his 
system had led him to observe, to listen to his arguments 
in favour of opinions which I then looked upon as 
visionary. After three years of almost daily warfare 
with Dr. Hutton on the subject of his theory, I began 
to view his fundamental principles with less and less 
repugnance." ^ 

As his objections diminished. Hall's interest in the 
details of the system increased. His practical mind soon 
perceived that some of the principles, which Hutton had 
established by reasoning and analogy, might be brought to 
the test of direct experiment. And he urged his friend to 
make the attempt, or allow him to carry out the necessary 
researches. The proposal received little encouragement 
from the philosopher. Hutton believed that the scale of 
nature's processes was so vast that no imitation of them, 
on the small scale of a laboratory, could possibly lead to 
any reliable results, or as he afterwards expressed himself 
in print, " there are superficial reasoning men who, without 
truly knowing what they see, think they know those 
regions of the earth which can never be seen, and who 
judge of the great operations of the mineral kingdom from 
having kindled a fire and looked into the bottom of a little 
crucible." ^ 

Sir James Hall, notwithstanding his veneration for his 

1 Trans, Rvy, Soc. Edin. vi. (1812), pp. 71-186. 
2 Theory of the Earth, vol. i. p. 251. 

1 86 The Founders of Geology lect. 

master, could not agree with him in this verdict. He was 
confirmed in his opinion by an accident which had 
occurred at the Leith glass-works, where a large mass of 
common green glass, that had been allowed to cool 
slowly, was found to have lost all the properties of glass, 
becoming opaque, white, hard and crystalline. Yet a 
piece of this substance, when once more melted and rapidly 
cooled, recovered its true vitreous characters. Hall's 
shrewd instinct at once applied this observation to the 
Huttonian doctrine of the igneous origin of granite and 
other rocks. It had been objected to Hutton's views 
that the effect of great heat on rocks was to reduce 
them to the condition of glass, but that granite and whin- 
stone, being crystalline substances, could never possibly 
have been melted. Yet here, in this glass-house material, 
it could be demonstrated that a thoroughly molten glass 
could, by slow cooling, be converted into a crystalline 
condition, and could be changed once more by fusion into 
glass. Hutton had overlooked the possibility that the 
results of fusion might be modified by the rate of cooling, 
and Hall at once began to test the matter by experiment. 
He repeated the process by which the devitrified glass 
had been accidentally obtained at the glass-house, and 
found that he could at will produce, from the same mass of 
bottle glass, either a glass or a stony substance, according 
to the rate at which he allowed it to cool. 

Sir James was too loyal a friend and too devoted an 
admirer of the author of the Theory of the Earth to pursue 
these researches far during the philosopher's lifetime. " I 
considered myself as bound," he tells us, " in practice to 
pay deference to his opinion, in a field which he had already 


Sir James Hall 187 

so nobly occupied, and I abstained during the remainder of 
his life from the prosecution of experiments which I had 
begun in 1790." ^ 

The death of Hutton in 1797 allowed the laird of 
Dunglass to resume the experiments on which he had been 
meditating during the intervening years. Selecting samples 
of " whinstones/' that is, intrusive dolerites and basalts, 
from the dykes and sills in the Carboniferous strata around 
Edinburgh, he reduced them in the reverberatory furnace 
of an iron-foundry to the condition of perfect glass. 
Portions of this glass were afterwards re-fused and allowed 
to cool very slowly. There was thus obtained " a substance 
differing in all respects from glass, and in texture com- 
pletely resembling whinstone." This substance had a 
distinctly crystalline structure, and Hall gave it the name 
of crystallite, which had been suggested by the chemist. 
Dr. Hope. 

Before he was interested in the defence of the Hut- 
tonian theory, Sir James had made a journey into Italy in 
the year 1785, visiting Vesuvius, Etna, and the lipari 
Isles, and having for part of the time the advantage of the 
company of Dolomieu. He could not help being much 
struck with the resemblance between the lavas of these 
volcanic regions and the familiar " whinstones " of his own 
country. So close was this resemblance in every respect 
that he felt " confident that there was not a lava in Mount 
Etna to which a coimterpart might not be produced from 
the whinstones of Scotland." At Monte Somma he noted 
the abundant " vertical lavas " which, in bands from two 

* For Hall's papers see Trans, Roy, Soc, Min. iii. (1790), p. 8 ; v. (1798), 
p. 43 ; vi. (1812), p. 71 ; vu. (1812), pp. 79, 139, 169 ; x. (1825), p. 314. 

1 88 The Founders of Geology lect. 

to twelve feet broad, run up the old crater- wall. These 
bands seemed to him at the time "to present only an 
amusing variety in the history of volcanic eruptions/* and, 
like Dolomieu and Breislak, he looked on them as marking 
the positions of rents which, formed in the mountain 
during former volcanic explosions, had been filled in 
from above by the outflow of lava down the outer fissured 
surface of the cone. Subsequent reflection, however, led 
him to reconsider this opinion, and to realize that these 
"vertical lavas" were "of the utmost consequence in 
geology, by supplying an intermediate link between the 
external and subterraneous productions of heat. I now 
think," he remarks, " that though we judged rightly in 
believing those lavas to have flowed in crevices, we were 
mistaken as to their direction ; for instead of flowing down- 
wards, I am convinced they have flowed upwards, and that 
the crevices have performed the ofiace of pipes, through 
which lateral explosions have found a vent." He had 
observed, also, that the outer margins of some of these 
dykes, in contact with the surrounding rock, were vitreous, 
while the central parts presented the ordinary lithoid 
texture. This difference, he saw, was fully explained by 
his fusion experiments, the lava having risen in a cold 
fissure, and having been suddenly chilled along its outer 
surface, while the inner parts cooled more slowly and took 
a crystalline structure. 

These observations are of historic interest in the pro- 
gress of volcanic geology. Hall had sagaciously found the 
true interpretation of volcanic dykes, and he at once 
proceeded to apply it to the explanation of the abundant 
dykes of Scotland. He thus brought to the support of 


Sir James Hall 189 

Hutton's doctrine of the igneous intrusion of these rocks a 
new and strong confirmation from the actual crater of an 
ancient volcano. 

When engaged upon his fusion experiments with 
Scottish whinstones, it occurred to Hall to subject to the 
same processes specimens of the lavas which he had 
brought from Vesuvius and Etna. The results which 
he thus obtained were precisely simUar to those which 
the rocks from Scotland had yielded. He was able to 
demonstrate that lavas may be fused into a perfect glass, 
and that this glass, on being re-melted and allowed to cool 
gradually, passes into a stony substance not unlike the 
original lava. In this manner, the close agreement between 
modem lavas and the ancient basalts of Scotland was 
clearly proved, while their identity in chemical composition 
was further shown by some analyses made by Dr. Eobert 
Kennedy. Sir James Hall had thus the satisfaction of 
showing that a fresh appeal to direct experiment and 
observation furnished further powerful support to some of 
the disputed doctrines in the theory of his old friend 

There was another and stiU more important direction in 
which it seemed to this original mvestigator that the 
Huttonian doctrines might be subjected to the test of 
experiment. It was an important feature in these doctrines 
that the effects of heat upon rocks must differ very much 
according to the pressure under which the heat is appHed. 
Hall argued, like Hutton, that within the earth's crust the 

^ "Experiments on Wliinstone and Lava," read before the Royal 
Society of Edinburgh 5th March and 18th June 1798, Traits. Boy. Soc. 
Edin. vol. v. p. 43. 

1 90 The Founders of Geology lect. 

influence of great compression must retaxd the fusion of 
mineral substances, and retain within them ingredients 
which, at the ordinary atmospheric pressure above ground^ 
are rapidly volatilized. He thus accounted for the retention 
of carbonic acid by calcareous rocks, even at such high 
temperatures as might melt them. Here then was a wide 
but definite field for experiment, and Hall entered it with 
the joy of a first pioneer. As soon as he had done with his 
whinstone fusions, he set to work to construct a set of 
apparatus that would enable him to subject minerals and 
rocks to the highest obtainable temperatures in hermetically 
closed tubes. For six or seven years, he continued his 
researches, conducting more than 500 ingeniously devised 
experiments. He enclosed carbonate of lime in firmly 
secured gun-barrels, in porcelain tubes, in tubes bored 
through solid iron, and exposed it to the highest tempera- 
tures he could obtain. 

He was able to fuse the carbonate without the loss of 
its carbonic acid, thus practically demonstrating the truth 
of Hutton's contention. He obtained from pounded chalk 
a substance closely resembling marble. Applying these 
results to the Huttonian theory, he contended that the 
effects shown by his experiments must occur also on a 
great scale at the roots of volcanoes ; that subterranean 
lavas may melt limestone ; that where the molten rock 
comes in contact with shell-beds, it may either drive off 
their carbonic acid or convert them into limestone, accord- 
ing to the heat of the lava and the depth under which it 
acts ; and that his experiments enabled him to pronounce 
under what conditions the one or the other of these effects 
would be produced. He concluded that having succeeded 


Sir James Hall 191 

in fusing limestone under pressure, he could adduce in that 
single result "a strong presumption in favour of the solution 
which Dr. Hutton has advanced of all the geological 
phenomena ; for the truth of the most doubtful principle 
which he has assumed has thus been established by 
direct experiment." ^ 

Hardly less striking were HaU's experiments in illustra- 
tion of the processes whereby strata, originally horizontal, 
have been thrown into plications. His machine for contort- 
ing layers of clay is familiar to geological students from the 
illustrations of it given in text-books.^ He showed how 
closely the convolutions of the Silurian strata of the Ber- 
wickshire coast could be experimentally imitated by the 
lateral compression of layers of clay under considerable 
vertical pressure. In this, as in his other applications of 
experiment, he led the way, and laid the foundation on 
which later observers have built with such success. 

There was thus established at Edinburgh a group of 
earnest and successful investigators of the history of the 
earth, who promulgated a new philosophy of geology, based 

^ ** Account of a series of experiments showing the effects of compression 
in modifying the action of heat," read to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 
3rd June 1806. — Trcms. Roy, Soc, Edin. vi. p. 71. The same ingenious 
observer subsequently instituted a series of experiments to imitate the 
consolidation of strata. By filling an iron vessel with brine and having 
layers of sand at the bottom he was able to keep the lower portions of the 
sand at a red heat, whUe the brine at the top was not too hot to let the 
hand be put into it. In the end the sand at the bottom was found com- 
pacted into sandstone. — Op, cU, x. (1825), p. 314. 

2 Trans. Roy, Soc. Edin. vol. vii. p. 79 and Plate iv. As already re- 
marked, Hall differed from his master and from Playfair in regard to their 
views on the ef&cacy of subaerial denudation. He preferred to invoke 
gigantic debacles, and to these he attributed the transport of large boulders 
and the smoothing and striation of rocks, now attributed to the action of 
glaciers and ice-sheets. 

192 The Founders of Geology lect. 

upon close observation and carefully devised experiment. 
Among these men there was only one teacher — the gentle 
and eloquent Playfair ; but his functions at the University 
were to teach mathematics and natural philosophy. He 
had thus no opportunity of training a school of disciples 
who might be sent forth to combat the errors of the 
dominant Wernerianism. He did what he could in that 
direction by preparing and publishing his admirable " Illus- 
trations," which were widely read, and, as Hall has re- 
corded, exerted a powerful influence on the minds of the 
most eminent men of science of the day. 

But another influence strongly antagonistic to the pro- 
gress of the Huttonian philosophy was established in 
Edinburgh at the very time when the prospect seemed so 
fair for the creation of a Scottish school which might do 
much to further the advance of sound geology. Eobert 
Jameson (1774-1854) studied for nearly two years at 
Freiberg under Werner, and after two more years spent 
in continental travel, full of enthusiasm for his master's 
system, returned to the Scottish capital in 1804, when he 
was elected to the Chair of Natural History in the Univer- 
sity. His genial personal character, and his zeal for the 
Freiberg faith soon gathered a band of ardent followers 
around him. He had much of Werner's power of fostering 
in others a love of the subjects that interested himself. 
Travelling widely over Scotland, from the southern borders 
to the furthest Shetland Isles, he everywhere saw the rocks 
through Saxon spectacles. From the very beginning, the 
books and papers which he wrote were drawn up after the 
most approved Wernerian method, pervaded by the amplest 
confidence in that method, and by hardly disguised con- 

IV Robert Jameson 1 93 

tempt for every other. Nowhere indeed can the pecu- 
liarities of the Wernerian style be seen in more typical 
perfection than in the writings of the Edinburgh pro- 

In the year 1808, Jameson founded a new scientific 
association in Edinburgh, which he called the " Wernerian 
Natural History Society," with the great Werner himself 
at the head of its list of honorary members. So far as 
geology was concerned, the original aim of this institution 
appears to have been to spread the doctrines of Freiberg. 
I know no more melancholy contrast in geological litera- 
ture than is presented when we pass from the glowing pages 
of Playfair, or the suggestive papers of Hall, to the dreary 
geognostical communications in the first published Memoirs 
of this Wernerian Society. On the one side, we breathe 
the spirit of the most enlightened modem geological 
phEosophy, on the other we grope in the darkness of a 
Saxon mine, and listen to the repetition of the familiar 
shibboleths, which even the' more illustrious of Werner's 
disciples were elsewhere beginning to discard. 

The importation of the Freiberg doctrines into Scotland 
by an actual pupil of Werner, carried with it the contro- 
versy as to the origin of basalt. This question might 
have been thought to have been practically settled there by 
the writings of Hutton, Playfair, and Hall, even if it had 
not been completely solved by Desmarest, Von Buch, and 
D* Aubuisson on the Continent. But the advent of Jameson 

^ See, for instance, the way in which he dismisses the observations of 
Faujas de St. Fond on Scottish rocks, and the unhesitating declaration 
that there is not in aU Scotland the vestige of a volcano. — Mineralogy 
of the Scottish Isles (1800), p. 5. He never looses an opportunity of a 
sneer at the " Vulcanists" and "fire-philosophers." 

1 94 The Founders of Geology lect. 

rekindled the old fires of controversy. The sections 
around Edinburgh, which display such admirable illustra- 
tions of eruptive rocks, were confidently appealed to alike 
by the Vulcanists and the Neptunists. Jameson carried 
his students to Salisbury Crags and Arthur Seat, and 
there demonstrated to them that the so-called igneous 
rocks were manifestly merely chemical precipitates in the 
"Independent Coal formation." The Huttonians were 
glad to conduct any interested stranger to the very same 
sections to prove that the whinstone was an igneous 
intrusion. There is a characteristic anecdote told of one 
of these excursions by Dr. Fitton in the Edwibwrgh 
Beview. One of the Irish upholders of the aqueous origin 
of basalt, Dr. Eichardson, had attained some notoriety 
from having found fossils in what he called basalt at 
Portrush, on the coast of Antrim. His discovery was 
eagerly quoted by those who maintained the aqueous 
origin of that rock, and though eventually Playfair showed 
that the fossils really lie in lias shale which has been 
baked into a flinty condition by an intrusive basaltic 
sheet, this explanation was not accepted by the other 
side, and the fossiliferous basalt of Antrim continued to 
be cited as an indubitable fact by the zealous partizans of 
Werner. While these were still matters of controversy 
Dr. Eichardson of Portrush paid a visit to Scotland, chiefly 
with reference to florin grass, in which he was interested. 
The writer in the Udinburgh Beview was asked, he tells 
us, by Sir James Hall, to meet Dr. Hope and the Irish 
geologist " It was arranged that the party should go to 
Salisbury Crags, to show Dr. Eichardson a junction of 
the sandstone with the trap, which was regarded as an 

IV opponents of Hut ton's Doctrines 195 

instructive example of that class of facts. After reaching 
the spot, Sir James pointed out the great disturbance that 
had taken place at the junction, and particularly called 
the attention of the doctor to a piece of sandstone which 
had been whirled up during the convulsion and enclosed 
in the trap. When Sir James had finished his lecture, 
the doctor did not attempt to explain the facts before him 
on any principle of his own, nor did he recur to the 
shallow evasion of regarding the enclosed sandstone as 
contemporaneous with the trap ; but he burst out into the 
strongest expressions of contemptuous surprise that a 
theory of the earth should be founded on such small and 
trivial appearances! He had been accustomed, he said, 
to look at Nature in her grandest aspects, and to trace her 
hand in the gigantic cliffs of the Irish coast ; and he could 
not conceive how opinions thus formed could be shaken 
by such minute irregularities as those which had been 
shown to him. The two Huttonian philosophers were 
confounded ; and, if we recollect rightly, the weight of 
an acre of fiorin and the number of bullocks it would 
feed formed the remaining subjects of conversation." ^ 

It is not needful to follow into further detail the history 
of the opposition encountered by the Huttonian theory of 
the earth. Some of the bitterest antagonists of Hutton 
haUed from Ireland. Besides Eichardson, with his fossili- 
ferous basalt, there was Kirwan, President of the Eoyal 
Irish Academy, whose ungenerous attacks stung Hutton 
into the preparation of his larger treatise. In England 
and on the Continent another determined opponent was 
found in the versatile and prolific De Luc.» But though 

^ Edmbv/rgh Eeview, No. Izv. 1837, p. 9. 

1 96 The Founders of Geology lect. 

these men wielded great influence in their day, their 
writings have fallen into deserved oblivion. They are 
never read save by the curious student, who has leisure 
and inclination to dig among the cemeteries of geological 

The gradual decay of Wemerianism is well indicated 
by the eight volumes of Memoirs published by Jameson's 
Wemerian Society, which ranged from 1811 to 1839, an 
interval of less than a generation. The early numbers 
might have emanated from Freiberg itself. Not a senti- 
ment is to be found in them of which Werner himself 
would not have approved. How heartily, for example, 
Jameson must have welcomed the concluding sentence of 
a paper by one of the ablest of his associates when, after a 
not very complimentary allusion to Button's views about 
central heat, the remark is made — " He who has the bold- 
ness to build a theory of the earth without a knowledge of 
the natural history of rocks, will daily meet with facts to 
puzzle and mortify him." ^ The fate which this complacent 
Wemerian here predicted for the followers of Hutton, was 
now surely and steadily overtaking his own brethren. 
One by one the faithful began to fail, and those who had 
gone out to preach the faith of Freiberg came back con- 
vinced of its errors, and of the truth of much which they 
had held up to scorn in the tenets of Hutton. Even 
among Jameson's own students, defections began to appear. 
His friends might translate into English, and publish at 
Edinburgh, tracts of the most orthodox Wemerianism, such 
as Werner's Treatise on Veins, or Von Buch's Description of 
Landechy or D'Aubuisson's Basalts of Saxony, But his 

^ The Rev. John Fleming, Mem. War. Soc vol. ii. (1813), p. 154. 

IV Decay of Wernerianism 197 

pupils, who went farther afield, who came into contact 
with the distinct current of opposition to some of the 
doctrines of the Freiberg school that was now setting in 
on the Continent, who set themselves seriously to study 
the Huttonian theory, and who found at every turn facts 
that could not be fitted into the system of Freiberg, 
gradually, though often very reluctantly, went over to the 
opposite camp. Men like Ami Boue would send him 
notes of their travels full of what a devout Wemerian 
could not but regard as the rankest heresy.^ But Jameson 
with great impartiality printed these in the Society's 
publications. And so by degrees the Memoirs of the 
Wemerian Society ceased to bear any trace of Wemerian- 
ism, and contained papers of which any Huttonian might 
have been proud to be the author.^ 

So long as Werner lived, however, his school remained 
predominant Loyalty to their master kept his pupils 
from openly rejecting his doctrines, even when they could 
no longer accept them. His death in 1817 was felt to 
bring a relief from the despotism which he had so long 
exercised.3 And from that time his system began rapidly 
to decline in favour even in Germany. 

But even while Werner was in the full meridian of his 
influence, various observers in Europe, in addition to Von 
Buch and D'Aubuisson, without definitely becoming con- 

1 See Mem. Wer, Soc, vol. iv. (1822), p. 91. 

2 See for example the excellent papers by Hay Cunningliam in vols. 
viL and viii. 

3 One of Jameson's ablest pupils, Ami Bou6, trained in the Wemerian 
faith, confessed, but with evident reluctance, and "as a truth which 
others may be unwilling to make public," that Werner's death had greatly 
contributed to the progress of geology in Germany. — Joum, Phys, xciv. 
(1822), p. 298. 

198 The Founders of Geology lect. 

troversialists, were providing a large body of material which 
eventually proved of great service in the establishment of a 
sound geology. Chief among them were those who devoted 
themselves with such ardour to the study of the Italian 
volcanoes. One of the most active and interesting of them 
was the Frenchman Dolomieu (1750-1801), who died at 
the early age of fifty-one, after a strangely eventful life. He 
travelled much and wrote largely, specially devoting his 
attention to the active and extinct volcanoes of the Medi- 
terranean. As far back as 1783 he published a little 
volume on the lipari Isles. Afterwards he followed 
Desmarest in describing the old volcanoes of Auvergne.^ 
Though his theoretical views were not always sound, he 
was a carefiil and indefatigable observer, and provided 
copious material towards the establishment of the prin- 
ciples of geology. To him more than perhaps to any of 
his contemporaries is science indebted for recognizing and 
enforcing the connection of volcanoes with the internal 
heat of the globe. 

Faujas de St. Fond (1742-1819) did excellent service by 
his splendid folio on the old volcanoes of the Vivarais and 
the Velay — a work lavishly illustrated with engravings, 
which, by showing so clearly the association of columnar 
lavas with unmistakable volcanic cones, ought to have done 
much to arrest the progress of the Freiberg doctrine of the 
aqueous origin of basalt.^ The same good observer under- 
took a journey into the Western Isles of Scotland towards 
the end of last century,^ when that region was much less 

^ Jov/m. des Mines, vol. vii. (1798), pp. 393-405. 
2 JRecherches sur les Volcans itdnts du Fivarais et du Velay, folio, 1778, 
8 Voyage en Angleterre, en jScosse, et aux lies Hebrides, 2 vols. 8vo, 

IV Spallanzani, Breislak 199 

easily visited than it now is, and convinced himself of the 
volcanic origin of the basalts there, thus adding another im- 
portant contribution to the Uterature of volcanic geology. 

Spallanzani (1729-1799), the illustrious professor of 
Pavia, Eeggio, and Modena, bom as far back as 1729, devoted 
his earlier life to animal and vegetable physiology, and was 
fifty years of age before he began to turn his attention 
to geological questions. But from that period onward he 
made many journeys in the basin of the Mediterranean 
from Constantinople to Marseilles. Of especial interest 
weie his minute and picturesque descriptions of the 
eruptions of Stromboli, which at not a little personal risk 
he watched from a crevice in the lava. His Travels in the 
Two Sicilies and in some Parts of the Apennines contained 
a vast assemblage of careful observations among the recent 
and extinct volcanoes of Italy.^ 

Another Italian geologist, Scipio Breislak (1748-1826), 

did good service in making known the volcanic phenomena 

of his native country, and in pubUshing two general 

treatises on geology,^ which he ranged himseK among 

the Vulcanists. "I respect," he wrote, "the standard 

raised by Werner, but the flag of the marvellous and 

mysterious will never be that which I shall choose to 

The days of mere theorizing in the cabinet or the study 
had now passed away. Everywhere there was aroused a 
spirit of inquiry into the evidence furnished by the earth 

1 Viaggi alle due Sicilies 1792-93. 

^ iTvtroduzfUme alia Geologia, 2 vols. Svo, 1811, translated into French, 
1 vol. 1812. Breislak was the author of a valuable treatise on the physical 
and lithological topography of Oampania, and of other works on Italian 
and general geology. 

200 The Founders of Geology lect. iv 

itself as to its history. The main theoretical principles of 
the science had been established, but there remained to be 
discovered and appUed the fruitftd doctrine of stratigraphy. 
How this doctrine, which has done more than any other 
for the progress of geological investigation, was developed 
will be the subject of the next lecture. 



The rise of stratigrapliical geology — ^The work of Giraud-Soulavie, 
Cuvier, Brongniart and Omalius d'Halloy in France; the 
labours of Michell and William Smith in England. 

That the rocks around and beneath us contain the record 
of terrestrial revolutions before the establishment of the 
present dry land, was an idea clearly present to the minds 
of the early Italian geologists, and was generally admitted, 
before the end of last century, by all who interested them- 
selves in minerals and rocks. The Neptunists and Vulcan- 
ists might dispute vigorously over their respective creeds, 
but they all agreed in maintaining the doctrine of a 
geological succession. Werner made this doctrine a 
cardinal part of his system, and brought it into greater 
prominence than it had ever held before his time. His 
sequence of formations from granite, at the base, to the 
youngest river-gravel or sea-formed silt betokened, in his 
view, a gradual development of deposits, which began with 
the chemical precipitates of a universal ocean, and ended 
with the modern mechanical and other accumulations of 
terrestrial surfaces, as well as of the sea-floor. But, as we 
have seen, the lithological characters on which he based 
the discrimination of his various formations proved to be 
unreliable. Granite was soon found not always to lie at 

202 The Founders of Geology lect. 

the bottom. Basalt, at first placed by him among the 
oldest formations, turned up incontinently among the 
youngest. He and his disciples were consequently obliged 
to alter and patch the Freiberg system, till it lost its 
simpUcity and self-consistence, and was stiU as far as ever 
from corresponding with the complex order which nature 
had followed. Obviously the Wemerian school had not 
found the key to the problem, though it had done service 
in showing how far a lithological sequence could be traced 
among the oldest rocks. 

Hutton's views on this question were in some respects 
even less advanced than Werner's. He realized, as no one 
had ever done before him, the evidence for the universal 
decay of the land. At the same time, he perceived that 
unless some compensating agency came into play, the 
whole of the dry land must eventually be washed into the 
sea. The upturned condition of the Primary strata, which 
had once been formed under the sea, furnished him with 
proofs that in past time the sea-floor has been upheaved 
into land. Without invoking any fanciful theory, he 
planted his feet firmly on these two classes of facts, which 
could be folly demonstrated. To his mind the earth 
revealed no tL of a beginning, no prospect of an end. 
All that he could see was the evidence of a succession of 
degradations and upheavals, by which the balance of sea 
and land and the habitable condition of our globe were 
perpetuated. Hutton was unable to say how many of 
these revolutions may be chronicled among the rocks of 
the earth's crust.-^ Nor did he discover any method by 

^ Playfair thought that the revolutions may have been often repeated, 
and that our present continents appear to be the third in succession, of 
which relics may be observed among the rocks. — Works, vol. iv. p. 55, 

V Rise of Stratigraphical Geology 203 

which their general sequence over the whole globe could 
be determined. 

A totally new pathway of investigation had now to be 
opened up. The part that had hitherto been played by 
species of minerals and rocks was henceforth to be taken 
by species of plants and animals. Organic remains, 
imbedded in the strata of the earth's crust, had been 
abundantly appealed to as evidence of the former presence 
of the sea upon the land, or as proofs of upheaval of the 
sea-floor. But they were now to receive far closer atten- 
tion, until they were found to contain the key to geological 
history, and to furnish a basis by which the past revolu^ 
tions of the globe could be chronologically arranged and 
accurately described. 

Apart altogether from questions of cosmogony or of 
geological theory, some of the broad facts of stratigraphy 
could not but, at an early time, attract attention. In 
regions of Uttle-disturbed sedimentary rocks, the super- 
position of distinct strata, one upon another, was too obvious 
to escape notice. A little travel and observant eyes 
would enable men to see that the same kinds of strata, 
accompanied by the same topographical characters, ranged 
from district to district, across wide regions. We have 
found that it was in countries of regular and gently- 
inclined stratified rocks that Lehmann and Fuchsel made 
their observations, which paved the way for the develop- 
ment of the idea of geological succession. We have now to 
trace the growth of this idea, and the discovery that organic 
remains furnish the clue to the relative chronology of the 
strata in which they are imbedded. 

There were two regions of Europe well fitted to furnish 

204 The Founders of Geology lect. 

any observant inquirer with the means of estabUshing 
this supremely important section of modem geology. In 
France, the Secondary and Tertiary formations lie in im- 
disturbed succession, one above another, over hundreds 
of square miles. They come to the surface, not obscured 
under superficial deposits, but projecting their escarpments 
to the day, and showing, by their topographical contours, 
the sharply defined limits of their several groups. Again, 
in England, the same formations cover the southern and 
eastern parts of the country, displaying everywhere 
the same clear evidence of their arrangement. Let us 
trace the progress of discovery in each of these regions. 
To a large extent this progress was simultaneous, but there 
is no evidence that the earlier workers in the one country 
were aware of what was being done in the other. 

To the Abb^ Giraud-Soulavie (1752-1813) the merit 
must be assigned of having planted the first seeds from which 
the magnificent growth of stratigraphical geology ia France 
has sprung. Among other works, he wrote a Natural 
History of Southern France m seven volumes, of which the 
first two appeared ia the year 1780. He gave much of his 
attention to the old volcanoes of his native country, and 
devoted several of his volumes entirely to their description. 
But his chief claim to notice here lies in a particular 
chapter of his work which, he tells us, was read before the 
Eoyal Academy of Sciences of Paris on 14th August 
1779.^ In describing the calcareous mountains of the 
Vivarais, he divides the limestones into five epochs or 
ages, the strata in each of which are marked by a distinct 

^ Histoire Naturelle de la France M&HdioTuiley tome i. 2™® partie, chap, 
viii. p. 317. 

Giraud-Soulavie 205 

assemblage of fossil shells. The first of these ages, he 
declared, was represented by limestone containing organic 
remains with no living ^alogues, such as ammoLs, 
belemnites, terebratulse, gryphites, etc. Having no more 
ancient strata in the district, the Abb^ called this oldest 
limestone primordial. His second age was indicated by 
limestone, in which the fossils of the preceding epoch were 
stiU found, but associated with some others now living in 
our seas. Among the new forms of life that appeared in 
these secondary strata he enumerated chamas, mussels, 
comb-shells, nautili, etc. These, he said, inhabited the 
sea, together with survivors from the first age, but the 
latter at the end of the second age disappeared. Above 
their remains other races established themselves, and 
carried on the succession of organized beings. 

The third age was one in which the sheUs were oi 
recent forms, with descendants that inhabit our present 
seas. The remains of these shells were found in a soft 
white limestone, but not a trace of ammonite, belemnite, 
or gryphite was to be seen associated with them. Among 
the organisms named by the Abb^ were limpets, whelks, 
volutes, oysters, sea-urchins, and others, the number of 
species increasing with the comparative recentness of the 
formation. He thought that the most ancient deposits 
had been accumulated at the highest levels, when the sea 
covered the whole region, and that, as the waters sank, 
successively younger formations were laid down at lower 
and lower levels. 

From the occurrence of worn pebbles of basalt in the 
third limestone, Giraud-Soulavie inferred that volcanic 
eruptions had preceded that formation, and that an 

2o6 The Founders of Geology lect. 

enormous duration of time was indicated by the erosion of 
the lavas of these volcanoes, and the transport and deposit 
of their detritus in the white limestone. 

The fourth age in the Vivarais was represented by cer- 
tain carbonaceous shales or slates, containing the remains 
of primordial vegetation to which it was difficult to dis- 
cover the modem analogues. Giraud-Soulavie believed 
that he could observe among these slates a succession of 
organic remains similar to that displayed by the lime- 
stones, those strata which lay on the oldest marble con- 
taining ammonites, while the most recent enclosed, but only 
rarely, unknown plants mingled with known forms. It 
would thus appear that the deposits of the so-called fourth 
age were more or less equivalents of those of the three 
calcareous ages. 

The fifth age was characterized by deposits of conglom- 
erate and modem alluvium, containing fossil trees, together 
with bones and teeth of elephants and other animals. *' Such 
is the general picture," the Abb6 remarks, " presented by 
our old hills of the Vivarais, and of the modem plains 
around them. The progress of time and, above all, of 
increased observation will augment the number of epochs 
which I have given, and fill up the blanks ; but they will 
not change the relative places which I have assigned to 
these epochs." ^ He felt confident that if the facts observed 
by him in the Vivara^is were confirmed in other regions, a 
historical chronology of fossil and living organisms would 
be established on a basis of incontestible truth. In his 
last volume, replying to some objections made to his 
opinions regarding the succession of animals in time, he 

^ Op, cU. p. 350. 

Giraud'Soulavie 207 

contends that the diflference between the fossils of different 
countries is due not to a geographical but to a chrono- 
logical cause. "The sea," he says, "produces no more 
ammonites, because these shells belong to older periods or 
other climates. The difference between the shells in the 
rocks rests on the difference isx their relative antiquity, and 
not on mere local causes. If an earthquake were to sub- 
merge the ammonite-bearing rocks of the Vivarais beneath 
the Mediterranean, the sea returning to its old site would 
not bring back its old shells. The course of time has 
destroyed the species, and they are no longer to be found 
in the more recent rocks." ^ 

The sagacity of these views will at once be acknowledged. 
Yet they seem to have made no way either in France or 
elsewhere. The worthy Abb^ though a good observer and 
a logical reasoner, was a singularly bad writer. At the 
end of the eighteenth century a wretched style was 
an unpardonable offence even in a man of science.^ 
Whatever may have been the cause, Giraud-Soulavie has 
fallen into the background. His fame has been eclipsed, 
even in France, by the more briUiant work of his successors. 
Yet, in any general survey of geological progress, it is 
only just to acknowledge how firmly he had grasped some 
of the fundamental truths of stratigraphical geology, at a 
time when the barren controversy about the origin of 
basalt was the main topic of geological discussion through- 
out Europe. 

We have seen that the distinctness, regularity, and 
persistence of the outcrops of the various geological for- 

^ Op, cU, tome vii. (1784), p. 157. 
^ D'Archiac, OiologU et Pal4oniologie, 1866, p. 145. 


2o8 The Founders of Geology lect. 

mations of the Paris basin suggested to Guettard the first 
idea of depicting on maps the geographical distribution of 
rocks and minerals. The same region and the same features 
of topography and structure inspired long afterwards a 
series of researches that contributed in large measure to 
the establishment of the principles of geological strati- 
graphy. No fitter birthplace could be found in Europe 
for the rise of this great department of science. Around 
the capital of France, the Tertiary and Secondary forma- 
tions are ranged in orderly sequence, group emerging from 
under group, to the far confines of Brittany on the west, 
the hills of the Ardennes and the Vosges on the east, 
and the central plateau on the south. Not only is the 
succession of the strata clear, but their abundant 
fossils furnish a most complete basis for stratigraphical 
arrangement and comparison. 

Various observers had been struck with the orderly 
sequence of rocks in this classic region. Desmarest tells 
us that the chemist Eouelle was so impressed with its 
synmietry of structure that, though he never wrote any- 
thing on the subject, he used to discourse on it to his 
students at the Jardin des Plantes, of whom Desmarest 
himself appears to have been one. He would enlarge to 
them upon the significance of the masses of shells im- 
bedded in the rocks of the earth's surface, pointing out 
that these rocks were not disposed at random, as had been 
supposed. He saw that the shells were not the same in 
all regions, that certain forms were always found associ- 
ated together, while others were never to be met with in 
the same strata or layers. He noticed, as Guettard had 
done before him, that in some districts the fossil shells 

V Rouellcy Lamanon 209 

were grouped in exactly the same kind of arrangement 
and distribution as on the floor of the present sea — a fact 
which, in his eyes, disproved the notion that these marine 
organisms had been brought together by some violent 
deluge ; but, on the other hand, showed that the present 
land had once been the bottom of the sea, and had been 
laid dry by some revolution that took place without pro- 
ducing any disturbance of the strata. Eouelle recognized 
a constant order in the arrangement of the shells. Thus, 
immediately around Paris, he found certain strata to be 
full of screw shells {Tunritella, Cerithium, etc.), and to 
extend to Chaumont, on the one side, and to Courtagnon 
near Eheims, on the other. He pointed to a second 
deposit, or "mass" as he called it, fuU of belemnites, 
ammonites, gryphites, etc. (Jurassic), forming a long and 
broad band outside the eastern border of the Chalk, and 
stretching north and south beyond that formation up to 
the old rocks of the Morvan. Desmarest's account of his 
teacher's opinion was published in the third year of the 
Eepublic.^ It is thus evident that Eouelle had formed 
remarkably correct views of the general stratigraphy of 
the Paris basin probably long before 1794. 

Desmarest himself published many valuable observa- 
tions regarding the rocks of the Paris basin in separate 
articles in his great Geographic Physiqice. Lamanon had 
written on the gypsum deposits of the region, which he 
regarded as marking the sites of former lakes, and from 
which he described and figured the remains of mammals, 
birds and fishes. Noting the alternations of gypsum and 

^ Oiographie Physique {Erusydop^ie M4thodique), tome i. (1794), pp. 


2 lo The Founders of Geology lect. 

marls, he traced what he believed to be the limits of 
the sheets of freshwater in which they were successively 
deposited. Still more precise was the grouping adopted 
by Lavoisier. This great man, who, if he had not given 
himself up to chemistry, might have become one of the 
most illustrious among the founders of geology, was, as 
you will remember, associated early in life with Guettard 
in the construction of mineralogical maps of France. As 
far back as the year 1789, he distinguished between what 
he called littoral banks and pelagic banks, which were 
formed at different distances from the land, and were 
marked by distinct kinds of sediment and peculiar organ- 
isms. He thought that the different strata, in such a 
basin as that of the Seine, pointed to very slow oscilla- 
tions of the level of the sea, and he believed that a section 
of all the stratified deposits between the coasts and the 
mountains would furnish an alternation of littoral and 
pelagic banks, and would reveal by the number of strata 
the number of excursions made by the waters of the 
ocean. Lavoisier accompanied his essay with sections 
which gave the first outline of a correct classification of 
the Tertiary deposits of the Paris region. His sketch was 
imperfect, but it represented in their true sequence the 
white Chalk supporting the Plastic Clay, lower sands, 
Calcaire Grossier, upper sands and upper lacustrine lime- 

A few years later, a still more perfect classification of 
the Tertiary deposits around Paris was published by 

1 Mim, Acad, Boy, Sciences (1789), p. 350, pi. 7. This memoir of 
Lavoisier on modem horizontal strata and their disposition is fully 
noticed by Desmarest in the first volume of his G^ographie Physique^ 
p. 783. 

V Cuvier 211 

Coup6, but without sufficiently detailed observations to 
convince his contemporaries that the work was wholly 

It was not until the year 1808 that the Tertiary strati- 
graphy of the basin of the Seine was worked out in some 
detail, and that a foundation was thereby furnished for the 
establishment of a general system of stratigraphical geology 
in France. The task was accomplished by two men who 
have left their mark upon the history of the science, 
Cuvier and Brongniart. 

. Georges Chretien Leopold Dagobert Cuvier (1769-1832) 
came of an old Protestant family in the Jura which in the 
sixteenth century had fled from persecution and settled at 
Montb^liard, then the chief town of a little principality 
belonging to the Duke of Wiirtemberg. He was born at 
that place on 23rd August 1769, and after a singularly 
brilliant career at school and at the Caroline Academy of 
Stuttgart, became tutor in a Normandy family Hving 
near Fecamp. He had been drawn into the study of 
natural history, when a mere child, by looking over the 
pages of Buffon, and had with much ardour taken to the 
observation of insects and plants. In Normandy, the 
treasures of the sea were opened to him. Gradually his 
dissections and descriptions, though not published, came to 
the notice of some of the leading naturalists of France, and 
he was eventually induced to come to Paris, where, after 
filling various appointments, he was elected to the chair of 

y Comparative Anatomy in 1795. 

^ Cuvier's splendid career belongs mainly to the history 
of biology. We are only concerned here in noting how he 

^ J(ywm, de Physiquey tome lix. (1804), pp. 161-176. 

212 The Founders of Geology lect. 

came to be interested in geological questions. He tells 
himself that some Terebratuloe from the rocks at Fecamp 
suggested to him the idea of comparing the fossil forms 
with living organisms. When he settled in Paris, he 
pursued this idea, never losing an opportunity of studying 
the fossils to be found in the different collections. He 
began by gathering together as large a series as he could 
obtain of skeletons of living species of vertebrate animals, 
as a basis for the comparison and determination of extinct 
forms. As a first essay in the new domain which he was 
to open up to science, he read to the Institute, at the 
beginning of 1796, a memoir in which he demonstrated 
that the fossil elephant belonged to a different species 
from either of the living forms. Two years later, having 
had a few bones brought to him from the gypsum quarries 
of Montmartre, he saw that they indicated some quite 
unknown animals. Further research qualified him to 
reconstruct the skeletons, and to demonstrate their entire 
difference, both specifically and generically, from any known 
creatures of the world of to-day. He was thus enabled to 
announce the important conclusion that the globe was once 
peopled by vertebrate animals which, in the course of the 
revolutions of its surface, have entirely disappeared. 

These discoveries, so remarkable in themselves, could 
not but suggest many further inquiries to a mind so 
penetratiQg and philosophical as that of Cuvier. He 
narrates how he was pursued and haunted by a desire to 
know why these extinct forms disappeared, and how they 
had come to be succeeded by others. It was at this point 
that he entered upon the special domain of geology. He 
found that besides studying the fossil bones in the cabinet 

V Alexandre Brongniart 213 

it was needful to understand, in the field, the conditions 
under which they have been entombed and preserved. 
He had himself no practical acquaintance with the structure 
and relations of rocks, but he was fortunate in securing 
.the co-operation of a man singularly able to supply the 
qualifications in which he was himself deficient. 

Alexandre Brongniart (1770-1847), Cuvier's associate, 
was a year younger than the great anatomist, having been 
born in Paris in 1770. He began his career early in Ufe by 
endeavouring to improve the art of enamelling in France. 
Thereafter he served in the medical department of the army 
until he was attached to the Corps of Mines and was 
made director of the famous porcelain factory of Sevres. 
He had long given his attention to minerals and rocks, and 
was eventually appointed professor of mineralogy at the 
Museum of Natural History. But his tastes led him also 
to study zoology. Thus, among his labours in this field, 
he worked out the zoological and geological relations of 
Trilobites. There was consequently in their common pur- 
suits, a bond of union between the two observers. They 
had both entered upon a domain that was as yet almost 
untrodden; and each brought with him knowledge and 
experience that were needful to the other. 

Accordingly they engaged in a series of researches in 
the basin of the Seine which continued for some years. 
Cuvier relates that during four years he made almost every 
week an excursion into the country around Paris, for the 
sake of studying its geological structure. Particular 
attention was given to two features, — the evidence of a 
definite succession among the strata, and the distinction of 
the organic remains contained in them. 


214 ^^^ Founders of Geology lect. 

At last the results of these investigations were embodied 
in a joint memoir by Cuvier and Brongniart, which first 
appeared in the year 1808.^ 

They seem to have continued their researches with 
great industry during the following years. An account of 
these additional observations was read by them before the 
Institute in April 1810, and was published as a separate 
work with a map, sections, and plate of fossils in 1811.^ 
Eeferring afterwards to this conjoint essay and its subse^ 
quent enlargement, Cuvier generously wrote that though 
it bore his name, it had become almost entirely the pro- 
duction of his friend, from the infinite pains which, ever 
since the first conception of their plan, and during their 
various excursions, he had bestowed upon the thorough 
investigation of all the objects of the inquiry, and in the 
preparation of the essay itself.® Brongniart's experience 
as a mining engineer would naturally make him fitter than 
Cuvier for the requirements of stratigraphical research. 

It is not necessary for our present purpose to trace the 
development of view of these observers during the three 
years that elapsed between the appearance of their first 
sketch and that of their illustrated quarto memoir. It 
will be enough to note the general characters of their first 
essay, and to see how far in advance it was of anything 
that had preceded it. 

After briefly describing the limits and general features 
of the Seine basin, the authors proceed to show that the 

^ Journal des Mines, tome zxiii (1808), p. 421. 

^ £ssai 8fwt la Oiographie Min&raZogique des Enmrons de Paris avee 
une Ca/rte giognostique et des Coupes de terrain^ 4to, 1811. An enlarged 
edition of this separate work appeared in 1822. 

^ Discours sur les Revolutions de la 8v/rface du Olobe, 6th edit. p. 294. 

V Joint Work of Cuvier and Brongniart 215 

formations which they have to consider were deposited in 
a vast bay or lake, of which the shores consisted of Chalk. 
They point out that the deposits took place in a definite 
order and could be easily recognized by their lithological 
and palseontological characters throughout the district. 
They classify them first broadly into two great groups, 
which they afterwards proceed to subdivide into minor 
sections. The first of these groups, covering the Chalk of 
the lower grounds, consisted partly of the plateau of lime- 
stone without shells, and partly of the abundantly shell- 
bearing Calcaire Grossier. The second grQup comprised 
the gypseo-marly series, not foimd uniformly distributed, 
but disposed in patches. 

Starting from the Chalk of the north of France, the two 
observers succinctly indicate the leading characters of that 
deposit, its feeble stratification chiefly marked by parallel 
layers of dark flints, the varying distances of these layers 
from each other, and the distinctive fossils. Putting 
together the organisms they had themselves collected, and 
those previously obtained by Defrance, they could speak 
of fifty species of organic remains known to occur in the 
Chalk — a small number compared with what has since 
been found. The species had not all been determined, 
but some of them, such as the belemnites, had been noted 
as different from those found in the " compact limestone " 
or Jurassic series. 

From the platform of Chalk, Cuvier and Brongniart 
worked their way upward through the succession of 
Tertiary formations. At the base of these, and resting 
immediately on the Chalk, came the Plastic Clay — a 
deposit that in many respects presented strong contrasts 

2 1 6 The Founders of Geology lect. 

to the white calcareous formation underneath it. It showed 
no passage into that formation, from which, on the contrary, 
it was always abruptly marked off, and it yielded no 
organic remaias. The two geologists accordingly drew the 
sound inference that the clay and the chalk must have 
been laid down under very different conditions of water, 
and they believed that the animals which lived in the 
first period did not exist in the second. They likewise 
concluded that the abrupt line of junction between the 
two formations might indicate a long interval of time, and 
they inferred, from the occurrence of an occasional breccia 
of chalk fragments at the base of the clay, that the chalk 
was already solid when the clay was deposited. 

The next formation ia ascending order was one of sand 
and the Calcaire Grossier. It was shown to consist of a 
number of bands or alternations of limestone and marl ; 
following each other always in the same order, and trace- 
able as far as the two observers had followed them. Some 
of them might diminish or disappear, but what were below 
in one district were never found above in another. " This 
constancy in the order of superposition of the thinnest 
strata," the writers remark, " for a distance of at least 12 
myriametres (75 English miles), is in our opinion one of 
the most remarkable facts which we have met with in the 
course of our researches. It should lead to results for the arts 
and for geology all the more interesting that they are sure." 

One of the most significant parts of the essay is the 
account it gives of the method adopted by the explorers to 
identify the various strata from district to district. They 
had grasped the true principle of stratigraphy, and applied 
it with signal success. The passage deserves to be quoted 

V Cuvier and Brongniart on Paris Basin 217 

from its historical importance in the annals of science: 
" The means which we have employed for the recognition, 
among so many limestones, of a bed already observed in a 
distant quarter, has been taken from the nature of the 
fossils contained in each bed. These fossils are generally 
the same in corresponding beds, and present tolerably 
marked dififerences of species from one group of beds to 
another. It is a method of recognition which up to the 
present has never deceived us. 

" It must not be supposed, however, that the difference 
in this respect between one bed and another is as sharply 
marked off as that between the chalk and the limestone. 
The characteristic fossils of one bed become less abundant 
in the bed above and disappear altogether in the others, or 
are gradually replaced by new fossils, which had not 
previously appeared." ^ 

The authors then proceed to enumerate the chief groups 
of strata composing the Calcaire Grossier, beginning at 
the bottom and tracing the succession upward. It is not 
necessary to follow them into these details. We may note 
that, even at that time, the prodigious richness of the lower 
parts of this formation in fossil shells had been shown by 
the labours of Defrance, who had gathered from them no 
fewer than 600 species, which had been described by 
Lamarck. It was noted by Cuvier and Brongniart that 
most of these shells are much more unlike living forms 
than those found iu the higher strata. These observers 
also drew, from the unfossiliferous nature of the highest 
parts of the formation, the inference that while the Calcaire 
Grossier was deposited slowly, layer after layer, the number 

^ Jownval des Minos, xxiii. p. 436. 


2 1 8 The Founders of Geology lect. 

of shells gradually diminished until they disappeared, the 
waters either no longer containing them or being unable 
to preserve them. 

The gypseous series which succeeds ofifered to Cuvier 
and Brongniart an excellent example of what Werner 
termed a " geological formation," inasmuch as it presents a 
succession of strata very different from each other, yet 
evidently deposited in one continuous sequence. Cuvier 
had already startled the world by his descriptions of some 
of the extinct quadrupeds entombed in these deposits. In 
calling attention to the occurrence of these animals, the 
authors refer to the occasional discovery of fresh-water 
shells in the same strata, and to the confirmation thereby 
afforded to the opinion of Lamanon and others, that the 
gypsum of Montmartre and other places around Paris had 
been deposited in fresh- water lakes. 

They saw the importance of a thin band of marl at the 
top of the gypseous series which, in spite of its apparent 
insignificance, they had found to be traceable for a great 
distance. Its value arose from its marking what would 
now be called a lithological horizon, but even more from its 
stratigraphical interest, inasmuch as it served to separate 
a lacustrine from a marine series. All the shells below 
this seam were found to be fresh- water forms. Those in 
the seam itself were species of Tdlma, and all those in the 
strata above were, like that shell, marine. The two 
geologists, struck by the marked difference of physical 
conditions represented by the two sections of the gypseous 
series, had tried to separate it into two formations, but had 
not carried out the design. 

Higher up in the series, above a group of sands and 

V Cuvier and Brongniart on Paris Basin 219 

marine sandstones, an unfossiliferous sUiceous limestone, • 
and a sandstone formation without shells, Cuvier and 
Brongniart found a widespread fresh-water siUceous Ume- 
stone or millstone, specially characterised by containing 
Limneay Planorbis, and other lacustrine shells. 

The youngest formation which they described was the 
alluvium of the valleys, with bones of elephant and trunks 
of trees. 

Subsequent research has slightly altered and greatly 
elaborated the arrangement made by Cuvier and Brong- 
niart of the successive Tertiary formations of the Paris 
basin. But although the subdivision of the strata into 
definite stratigraphical and palseontological platforms has 
been carried into far greater detail, the broad outlines 
traced by them remain as true now as they were when < 
first sketched early in the century. These two great men 
not merely marked out the grouping of the formations in 
a limited tract of country. They established on a basis i 
of accurate observation the principles of palseontological 
stratigraphy. They demonstrated the use of fossils for •.• 
the determination of geological chronology, and they paved 
the way for the enormous advances which have since 
been made in that department of our science. For these 
distinguished labours they deserve an honoured place 
among the Founders of Geology. Cuvier's contributions 
to zoology, palaeontology, and comparative anatomy were 
so vast and important that his share in the establishment 
of correct stratigraphy is apt to be forgotten. But his 
name must ever be bracketed with that of Brongniart 
for the service rendered to geology by their conjoint work 
among the Tertiary deposits of the Paris basin. 

220 The Founders of Geology lect. 

Although Cuvier's researches among fossil animals, and 
the principles of comparative anatomy which he established, 
contributed powerfully to the foundation and develop- 
ment of palaeontology as a distinct department of biology, 
his services to geology proper may be looked upon as 
almost wholly comprised in the joint essay with Brong- 
niart. Geology indeed had much fascination for him, and 
he wrote a special treatise on it entitled A Discourse on 
the Bewlutions of the Surface of the Globe} But though 
it contained some interesting reflections on his own 
palaeontological discoveries, and displayed the eloquence 
and grace of his style, it reaUy indicated no advance in 
geological theory. On the contrary, in many respects it 
fell behind the knowledge of his time. In spite of the 
popularity it attained, on accoimt of the great celebrity 
of its author, it cannot be cited as one of the landmarks 
of geological progress. 

Cuvier's brilliant career is well known, but I am only 
concerned at present with those parts of it which touch on 
geological progress. In 1802 he became perpetual Secre- 
tary of the Institute, and it was in this capacity that he 

^ In its first fonn it was prefixed to the Mecherches sur les Ossemms 
FossUes as a preliminary discourse on the Theory of the Earth. It was 
afterwards published separately as the Discours sur lea JR4voliUions de la 
surface du Globe (1826). The work went through six editions in the 
author's lifetime, the latest (6th) corrected and augmented by him appear- 
ing in 1830. It was translated into English and German. The versions 
published in England were edited and copiously annotated by Prof. 
Jameson of Edinburgh, whose notes to the early editions supply some 
curious samples of his adherence to Wemerianism. Cuvier was also the 
author of a Report on the Progress of the Natural Sciences, presented to 
the Emperor Napoleon in 1808, in which he expressed various vague and 
indefinite opinions on geological questions. In his earlier years his geo- 
logical bias was decidedly towards Wemerianism (see the references in his 
J^oge on De Saussure already cited). 

V J. J. U Omalius d* Halloy 221 

composed that remarkable series of ^%es in which so 
much of the personal history of the more distinguished 
men of science of his time is enshrined. Eloquent and 
picturesque, full of knowledge and sympathy, these bio- 
graphical notices form a series of the most instructive 
and delightful essays in the whole range of scientific 
literature. They include sketches of the life and work of 
De Saussure, Pallas, Werner, Desmarest, Sir Joseph Banks, 
Haiiy, and Lamarck. 

Five years after the appearance of the earliest conjoint 
memoir by Cuvier and Brongniart, the structure of the 
country which they described was still further explored 
and elucidated by a man who afterwards rose to fill a 
leading place among the geologists of Europe — J. J. 
D'Omalius d'Halloy. In 1813 this able observer read to 
the Institute a memoir on the geology of the Paris basin 
and the surrounding regions.^ It corrected and extended 
the work of his predecessors among the Tertiary forma- 
tions, but its interest for our present purpose centres 
mainly in its important contribution to the stratigraphy 
of the Secondary rocks. He recognized the leading sub- 
divisions of the Cretaceous series, and actually showed 
the extent of the system upon a map. He likewise 
ascertained the stratigraphical relations and range of the 
Jurassic system, which he called the " old horizontal lime- 
stone," and which he correctly depicted in its course 
outside the Chalk. His little map, with its clear outlines 
and colours, is of historical importance as being the first 
attempt to construct a true geological map of a large tract 
of France. It was not a mere chart of the surface rocks, 

* Ami, des Mines, i. (1817), p. 261. 

222 The Founders of Geology lect. 

like Guettard's, but had a horizontal section, which showed 
the Jurassic series lying imconformably upon the edges 
of the Palaeozoic slates, and covered in turn by the Gault 
and the Chalk. 

While in France it was the prominence and richly 
fossiliferous character of the Tertiary strata which led to 
the recognition of the value of fossils in stratigraphy, and 
to the definite establishment of the principles of strati- 
graphical geology, in England the same result was reached 
by a study of the Secondary formations, which are not* 
only more extensively developed there than the younger 
series, but display more clearly their succession and per- 
sistence. But in both countries the lithological sequence, 
being the more obvious, was first established before it was 
confirmed and extended by a recognition of the value of 
the evidence of organic remains. 

As far back as the year 1760, in a remarkable and 
well-known paper on Earthquakes, the Eev. John Michell 
gave a clear account of the stratified arrangement of the 
rocks of England, describing their general characters and 
the persistence of these characters for great distances, and 
showing that while on the flat ground the strata remain 
nearly level, they gradually become inclined as they ap- 
proach the mountains.^ He pointed out that the same sets 
of strata, iu the same order, are generally met with in cross- 
ing the country towards the sea, the direction of the ridge 
being towards the north-north-east and south-south-west. 
That he was familiar with the broad features of the suc- 
cession of strata in England from the Coal-measures of 
Yorkshire up to the Chalk is shown by an interesting 

1 Fhih Tram. vol. li. (1760), part ii. p. 666. 

John Michell 223 

table which seems to have been drawn up by him about 
1788 or 1789, and which was published after his death.^ 

Michell enables us to form a clear conception of his 
views by the following illustration. "Let a number of 
leaves of paper," he remarks, " of several different sorts or 
colours, be pasted upon one another ; then bending them 
up into a ridge in the middle, conceive them to be reduced 
again to a level surface, by a plane so passing through 
them as to cut off all the part that has been raised. Let 
the middle now be again raised a little, and this will be a 
good general representation of most, if not all, large tracts 
of mountainous coimtries, together with the parts adjacent, 
throughout the whole world. From this formation of the 
earth it will follow that we ought to meet with the same 
kinds of earths, stones, and minerals, appearing at the 
surface in long narrow slips, and lying parallel to the 
greatest rise of any long ridge of mountains ; and so, in 
fact, we find them." 

Contrast this clear presentation of the tectonic struc- 
ture of our mountains and continents with the confused 
and contradictory explanation of the same structure sub- 
sequently promulgated from Freiberg. Michell clearly 
realized that the rocks of the earth's crust had been laid 
down in a definite order, that they had been uplifted 
along the mountain axes, that they had been subsequently 
planed down, and that their present disposition in parallel 
bands was the result partly of the upheaval and partly of 
the denudation. 

The establishment of stratigraphy in England, and of 
the stratigraphical sequence of the Secondary, or at least 

^ See FhiX, Mag, vol. xxxvi. p. 102. 


224 The Founders of Geology lect. 

the Jurassic, rocks for all the rest of Europe was the work 
of William Smith — usually known as the " Father of Eng- 
lish geology." No more interesting chapter in scientific 
annals can be found than that which traces the progress 
of this remarkable man, who, amidst endless obstacles and 
hindrances, clung to the idea which had early taken shape 
in his mind, and who lived to see that idea universally 
accepted as the guiding principle in the investigation of 
the geological structure, not of England only, but of Europe 
and of the globe. 

William Smith (1769-1839) came of a race of yeomen 
farmers who for many generations had owned small tracts of 
land in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.^ He was bom at 
Churchill, in the former county, on 23rd March 1769, the 
same year that gave birth to Cuvier. Before he was eight 
years old he lost his father. After his mother married for 
the second time, he seems to have been largely dependent 
upon an uncle for education and assistance. The instruc- 
tion obtainable at the village school was of the most 
limited kind. With difficulty the lad procured means to 
purchase a few books from which he might learn the 
rudiments of geometry and surveying. Already he had 
taken to the observing and collecting of stones, particu- 
larly of the well-preserved fossils whereof the Jurassic 
rocks of his neighbourhood were full. He came to be 
interested in questions of drainage and other pursuits con- 
nected with the surface of the land, and in spite of want 
of encouragement, made such progress with his studies 
that at the age of eighteen he was taken as assistant to a 

^ The biographical details are derived from the Memoirs of William, 
Smithy LL,D,f by his nephew and pupil, John Phillips, 1844. 

V William Smith's Early Life 225 

surveyor. But he had no education beyond that of the 
village school and what he had been able to acquire 
through his own reading. This early defect crippled to the 
end of his life his efforts to make known to the world 
the scientific results he had obtained. 

Smith's capacity and steady powers of application were 
soon appreciated in the vocation upon which he had 
entered. Before long he was entrusted with all the 
ordinary work of a land surveyor, to which were added 
many duties that would now devolve upon a civil engineer. 
From an early part of his professional career, his attention 
was arrested by the great varieties among the soils with 
which he had to deal, and the connection between these 
soils and the strata underlying them. He had continually 
to traverse the red ground that marks the position of the 
Triassic marls and sandstones in the south-west and centre 
of England, and to pass thence across the clays and lime- 
stones of the Lias, or to and fro among the freestones and 
shales of the Oolites. The contrasts of these different kinds 
of rock, the variations in their characteristic scenery, and the 
persistence of feature which marked each band of strata 
gave him constant subjects of observation and reflection. 

By degrees his surveying duties took him farther afield, 
and brought him in contact with yet older formations, par- 
ticularly with the Coal-measures of Somerset and their 
dislocations. At the age of four-and-twenty, he was en- 
gaged in carrying out a series of levellings for a canal, and 
had the opportunity of confirming a suspicion, which had 
been gradually taking shape in his mind, that the various 
strata with which he was familiar, though they seemed 
quite flat, were really inclined at a gentle angle towards 


226 The Founders o^Geology lect. 


the east, and terminated sharply toS^rds the west, like so 
many " slices of bread and butter." He took the liveliest 
interest in this matter, and felt convinced that it must 
have a far deeper meaning and wider application than he 
had yet surmised. 

His first start on geological exploration took place the 
following year (1794) when, as engineer to a canal that 
was to be constructed, he was deputed to accompany two 
of the Committee of the Company in a tour of some weeks' 
duration, for the purpose of gaining information respecting 
the construction, management, and trade of other lines of 
inland navigation. The party went as far north as New- 
castle, and came back through Shropshire and Wales to 
Bath, having travelled 900 miles on their mission. The 
young surveyor made full use of the opportunities which 
this journey afforded him. He had by this time satisfied 
himself that the stratigraphical succession, which he had 
worked out for a small part of the south-west of England, 
had an important bearing on scientific questions, besides 
many practical applications of importance. But it needed 
to be extended and checked by a wider experience. " No 
journey, purposely contrived," so he wrote, "could have 
better answered my purpose. To sit forward on the chaise 
was a favour readily granted ; my eager eyes were never 
idle a moment ; and post-haste travelling only put me upon 
new resources. General views, under existing circum- 
stances, were the best that could have been taken, and the 
facility of knowing, by contours and other features, what 
might be the kind of stratification in the hills is a proof 
of early advancement in the generalization of phenomena. 

" In the more confined views, where the roads commonly 


V William Smitlis Early Career 227 

climb to the summits, as in our start from Bath to Tetbury, 
by Swanswick, the slow driving up the steep hills afforded 
me distinct views of the nature of the rocks ; rushy 
pastures on the slopes of the hills, the rivulets and kind of 
trees, all aided in defining the intermediate clays; and 
while occasionally walking to see bridges, locks, and other 
works, on the lines of canal, more particular observations 
could be made. 

"My friends being both concerned in working coal, 
were interested in two objects ; but I had three, and the 
most important one to me I pursued unknown to them ; 
though I was continually talking about the rocks and 
other strata, they seemed not desirous of knowing the 
guiding principles or objects of these remarks ; and it 
might have been from the many hints, perhaps mainly on 
this subject, which I made in the course of the journey, 
that Mr. Palmer jocosely recommended me to write a book 
of hints." ' 

We can picture the trio on this memorable journey — 
the young man in front eagerly scrutinizing every field, 
ridge, and hill along each side of the way, noting every 
change of soil and topography, and turning round every 
little while, unable to restrain his exuberant pleasure as his 
eye detected one indication after another of the application 
of the principles he had found to hold good at home, and 
pointing them out with delight to his two sedate companions, 
who looked at him with amusement, but with neither 
knowledge of his aims nor sympathy with his enthusiasm. 

For six years William Smith was engaged in setting out 
and superintending the construction of the Somersetshire 

^ Memoirs, p. 10. 

2 28 The Founders of Geology lect. 

Coal Canal In the daily engrossing cares of these duties 
it might seem that there could be little opportunity for 
adding to his stores of geological knowledge, or working 
out in more detail the principles of stratigraphy that he 
had already reached. But in truth these six years were 
among the most important in his whole career. The con- 
stant and close observation which he was compelled to 
give to the strata that had to be cut through in making 
the canal, led him to give more special attention to the 
organic remains in them. From boyhood he had gathered 
fossils, but without connecting them definitely with the 
succession of the rocks that contained them. He now 
began to observe more carefully their distribution, and 
came at last to perceive that, certainly among the 
formations with which he had to deal, "each stratum 
contained organized fossils peculiar to itself, and might, in 
cases otherwise doubtful, be recognized and discriminated 
from others like it, but in a different part of the series, by 
examination of them." ^ 

It was while engaged in the construction of this canal 
that Smith began to arrange his observations for publica- 
tion. He had a methodical habit of writing out his notes 
and reflections, and dating them. But he had not the art 
of condensing his material, and arranging it in literary 
form. Nevertheless, he could not for a moment doubt that 
the results which he had arrived at would be acknowledged 
by the public to possess both scientific importance and 
practical value. Much of his work was inserted upon 
maps, wherein he traced the position and range of each 
of the several groups of rock with which he had become 

^ Memoirs^ p. 15. 

V William Smith! s Observations 229 

familiar. He had likewise ample notes of local sections, 
and complete evidence of a recognizable succession among 
the rocks. Not only could he identify the strata by their 
fossils, but he could point out to the surveyors, contractors, 
and other practical men with whom he came in contact 
how useful in many kinds of undertakings was the detailed 
knowledge which he had now acquired. In agriculture, 
in mining, in road-making, in draining, in the construction 
of canals, in questions of water-supply, and in many other 
affairs of everyday life, he was able to prove that his 
system of observation possessed great practical utility. 

In the year 1799, his connection with the Canal Com- 
pany came to an end. He was thereafter compelled to 
put his geological knowledge to commercial use, and to 
undertake the laborious duties of an engineer and surveyor 
on his own account. Eventually he found considerable 
employment over the whole length and breadth of Eng- 
land, and showed singular shrewdness and originaUty in 
dealing with the engineering questions which came before 
him. He was a close observer of nature, and his know- 
ledge of natural processes stood him in good stead in his 
professional calling. If he had to keep out the sea from 
low ground, he constructed his barrier as nearly aa possible 
like those which the waves themselves had thrown up. 
If he was asked to prevent a succession of landslips, he 
studied the geological structure of the district and the 
underground drainage, and drove his tunnels so as to inter- 
cept the springs underneath. His nephew and biographer 
tells us that his engagements in connection with drainage 
and irrigation involved journeys of sometimes 10,000 miles 
in a year. 

230 The Founders of Geology lect. 

Such continuous travelling to and fro across the country 
served to augment enormously his minute personal acquaint- 
ance with the geological structure of England. He made 
copious notes, and his retentive memory enabled him to 
retain a vivid recollection even of the details of what he 
had once seen. But the leisure which he needed in order 
to put his materials together seemed to flee from him. 
Year after year passed away ; the pile of manuscript rose 
higher, but no progress was made in the preparation of 
the growing mass of material for pubUcation. 

In the year 1799, William Smith made the acquaint- 
ance of the Eev. Benjamin Eichardson, who, living in 
Bath, had interested himself in collecting fossils from 
the rocks in the neighbourhood. Looking over this collec- 
tion, the experienced surveyor was able to tell far more 
about its contents than the owner of it knew himself. 
Writing long afterwards to Sedgwick, Mr. Richardson 
narrated how Smith could decide at once from what strata 
they had respectively come, and how well he knew the lie 
of the rocks on the ground. "With the open liberality 
peculiar to Mr. Smith," he adds, " he wished me to com- 
municate this to the Eev. J. Townsend of Pewsey (then 
in Bath), who was not less surprised at the discovery. 
But we were soon much more astonished by proofs of his 
own collecting, that whatever stratum was found in any 
part of England, the same remains would be found in it 
and no other. Mr. Townsend, who had pursued the subject 
forty or fifty years, and had travelled over the greater part 
of civilized Europe, declared it perfectly unknown to all 
his acquaintance, and, he believed, to all the rest of the 
world. In consequence of Mr. Smith's desire to make 

V William Smith! s Table of Strata 231 

so valuable a discovery universally known, I without 
reserve gave a card of the English strata to Baron Eosen- 
crantz, Dr. Miiller of Christiania, and many others, in the 
year 1801." ^ 

The card of the English strata referred to in this letter 
was a tabular list of the formations from the Coal up to 
the Chalk, with the thicknesses of the several members, 
an enumeration of some of their characteristic fossils, and 
a synopsis of their special lithological peculiarities and 
scenery. This table was drawn up in triplicate by Mr. 
Eichardson, at Smith's dictation, in the year 1799, each of 
the friends and Mr. Townsend taking a copy. Smith's 
copy was presented by him to the Geological Society of 
London in 1831. 

Though not actually published, this table obtained 
wide publicity. It showed that the fundamental prin- 
ciples of stratigraphy had been worked out by William 
Smith alone, and independently, before the end of last 
century. Had it been printed and sold it would have 
established his claim to priority beyond all possibility of 
cavil. But even without this technical support, his place 
among the pioneers of stratigraphy cannot be gainsaid. 

Notwithstanding the abundant professional employ- 
ment which he obtained, Smith never abounded in money. 
So keenly desirous was he to complete his investigation 
of the distribution of the strata of England, for the purpose 
of constructing a map of the country, that he spent as 
freely as he gained, walking, riding, or posting in direc- 
tions quite out of the way of his business. " Having thus 
emptied his pockets for what he deemed a public object, he 

^ Memoirs^ p. 31. 

232 The Founders of Geology lect. 

was forced to make up, by night-travelUng, the time he had 
lost, so as not to fail in his professional engagements." 

Stimulated by the kindly urgency of his friend Eichard- 
son, who alarmed him by pointing out that if he did not 
publish his observations, some one else might anticipate 
him, Smith was prevailed upon to draw up a prospectus of 
a work in which he proposed to give a detailed account of 
the various strata of England and Wales, with an accom- 
panying map and sections. A pubUsher in London was 
named, and the prospectus was extensively circulated ; but 
it led to nothing. 

Eventually Smith established himself in London as the 
best centre for his professional work, and in 1805 he took 
a large house there, with room for the display of his 
collections and maps, which were open to the inspection of 
any one interested in such matters. Among his materials 
he had completed a large county map of Somersetshire, as 
a specimen of what might be done for the different counties 
of England. This document seems to have been exhibited 
at the Board of Agriculture, and a proposal was made 
that he should be permanently attached to the corps of 
engineers then engaged in surveying the island. But the 
idea never went farther. Not until thirty years later was 
it revived by De la Beche, and pressed with such per- 
severance as to lead in the end to the establishment of the 
present Geological Survey of Great Britain. 

From 1799, when Smith first contemplated the publica- 
tion of his observations, every journey that he took was 
as far as possible made subservient to the completion of his 
map of England. At last, but not until the end of the 
year 1812, he found a publisher enterprising enough to 

V William Smith's Map of England 233 

undertake the risk of engraving and publishing this map. 
The work was begun in January 1813, and was published 
in August 1815.^ It was appropriately dedicated to Sir 
Joseph Banks, President of the Eoyal Society, who had 
encouraged and helped the author. 

William Smith's map has long since taken its place among 
^ the great classics of geological cartography. It was the first 
attempt to portray on such a scale not merely the distribu- 
tion, but the stratigraphy of the formations of a whole 
country. Well might D'Aubuisson say of it that " what 
the most distinguished mineralogists during a period of half 
a century had done for a little part of Germany, had been 
undertaken and accomplished for the whole of England by 
one man ; and his work, as fine in its results as it is 
astonishing in its extent, demonstrates that England is 
regularly divided into strata, the order of which is never 
inverted, and that the same species of fossils are found in 
the same stratum even at wide distances." ^ 

But it is not so much as a cartographical achievement 
that Smith's great map deserves our attention at present. 
Its appearance marked a distinct epoch in stratigraphical 
geology, for from that time some of what are now the 
most familiar terms in geological nomenclature passed into 

* ** A Geological Map of England and Wales, with Part of Scotland ; ex- 
hibiting the Collieries, Mines, and Canals, the Marshes and Fen Lands origin- 
ally overflowed by the Sea ; and the Varieties of Soili according to the Varia- 
tions of the Substrata ; illustrated by the most descriptive Names of Places, 
and of Local Districts; showing also the Rivers, Sites of Parks, and Principal 
Seats of the Nobility and Gentry ; and the opposite Coast of France. By 
William Smith, Mineral Surveyor." The map consists of fifteen sheets on 
the scale of five mUes to an inch, and measures 8 feet 9 inches in height 
by 6 feet 2 inches in width. It was accompanied with a quarto memoir 
or explanation of 50 pages. 

^ TraiUde 04ogno9U (1819), tome ii. p. 253. 


234 The Founders of Geology lect. 

common use. Smith had no scholarship ; he did not 
invent euphonious terms from Greek or Latin roots ; he 
was content to take the rustic or provincial names he 
found in common use over the districts which he traversed. 
Hence were now introduced into geological literature such 
words as London Clay, Kentish Eag, Purbeck Stone, 
Carstone, Combrash, Clunch Clay, Lias, Forest Marble. 

By ingeniously colouring the bottom of each formation 
a fuller tint than the rest. Smith brought the general 
succession of strata conspicuously before the eye. Further, 
by the aid of vertical tables of the formations and a hori- 
zontal section from Wales to the vale of the Thames, he 
was able to give the details of the succession which, for 
some twenty-four years, he had been engaged in unravel- 
ling in every part of the kingdom. 

Of especial value and originality was his clear sub- 
division of what is now known as the Jurassic system. 
He did for that section of the geological record what 
Cuvier and Brongniart had done for the Tertiary series of 
Paris. After the first copies of the map had been issued, 
he was able stiU further to subdivide and improve his 
classification of these strata, introducing among the new 
bands. Crag, Portland Rock, Coral Rag, and Kellaways 

In the memoir accompanying the map, the tabular 
arrangement of the strata drawn up ih 1799 was inserted, 
with its column giving the names, so far as he knew them, 
of the more characteristic fossils of each formation. 

To the laborious researches of William Smith we are 
thus indebted for the first attempt to distinguish the 

^ Phillips, Memoirs^ p. 146. 

V Smiths Provincial Terminology 235 

various subdivisions of the Secondary rocks, from the base 
of the New Eed Sandstone up to the Chalk, and for the 
demonstration that these successive platforms are marked 
off from each other, not merely by mineral characters, but . 
by their peculiar assemblages of organic remains. From 
his provincial terminology come the more sonorous names 
of Purbeckian, Portlandian, Callovian, Corallian, Bath- 
onian, Liassic, which are now familiar words in every 
geological text-book.^ 

In his eagerness to make his map as complete and 
accurate as was possible to him, Smith spent so freely of 
his hardly-earned income that he accumulated no savings 
against the day of trial, which came only too sooa He 
had been induced to lay down a railway on a little pro- 
perty which early in life he had purchased near Bath, 
with the view of opening some new quarries and bringing 
the building-stone to the barges on the canal. Unfortun- 

^ Before passing from the subject of Smith's map I may refer to the 
map of England and Wales which was prepared by G. B. Greenough and 
published in 1819. Greenough, in the memoir accompanying this map, 
states that though he knew as early as 1^04 that Smith had begun a 
similar work, he had been led to believe that the design was abandoned. 
Accordingly he undertook the task in 1808, and having been encouraged by 
the Geological Society, of which he was President, to complete it on a 
large scale, he proceeded with it, and the map as prepared by him had 
been more than a year in the hands of the engraver when Smith's map 
appeared in 1815. Greenough's is a better piece of engraving, and in 
some respects is more detailed, especiaUy as regards the formations 
older than the GoaL J[t shows how much information as to English 
stratigraphy had become available, partly no doubt through Smith's 
labours before 1815. Greenough's map was taken over by the Geo- 
logical Society, has been as far as possible kept up to date, and is still 
on sale. But the map in its present form differs much from its author's 
original version. The appearance of this map under the sanction of the 
Geological Society seems to have affected the sale of Smith's, which does 
not appear to have reached a second edition. A much reduced version of 
it was published in 1820. 



236 The Founders of Geology lect. 

ately the stone, on the continuance and quality of which 
the whole success of the enterprise rested, failed. It 
became necessary to sell the property, and thereafter 
the sanguine engineer was left with a load of debt under 
which most men would have succumbed. Struggling 
under this blow, he was first compelled to part with his 
collections of fossils, which were acquired by the Govern- 
ment and placed in the British Museum. Next he found 
himself no longer able to bear the expense of the house in 
London which he had occupied for fifteen years. Not 
only so, but hard fate drove him to sell all his furniture, 
books and other property, keeping only the maps, sections, 
drawings and piles of manuscript which were so precious 
in his own eyes, but for which nobody would have been 
likely to give him anything. For seven years he had no 
home, but wandered over the north of England, wherever 
professional engagements might carry him. His income 
was diminished and fluctuating, yet even under this cloud 
of trial he retained his quiet courage and his enthusiasm 
for geological exploration. 

That a man of Smith's genius should have been allowed 
to remain in this condition of toil and poverty has been 
brought forward as a reproach to his fellow-countrymen. 
It may be doubted, however, whether a man of his strong 
independence of character would have accepted any pecuni- 
ary assistance, so long as he could himself gain by his own 
exertions a modest though uncertain income. It is not 
that his merits were unrecognized in England, though 
perhaps the appreciation of them was tardier than it might 
have been. In 1818 a full and generous tribute to his 
merits was written by Fitton, and appeared in the Edin- 

V Personal Traits of William Smith 237 

Imrgh Beview for February in that year.^ But though his 
fame was thus well established, his financial position re- 
mained precarious. He had gradually formed a consulting 
practice as a mineral and geological surveyor in the north 
of England, and he eventually settled at Scarborough. From 
1828 to 1834 he acted as land-steward on the estate of 
Hackness in the same district of Yorkshire. In 1831 he 
received from the Geological Society the first Wollaston 
Medal, and the President of the Society, Adam Sedgwick, 
seized the occasion to proclaim, in fervid and eloquent 
words, the admiration and gratitude of all the geologists of 
England towards the man whom he named " the father of 
English geology." Next year a pension of £100 was con- 
ferred upon him. Honours now came to him in abundance. 
But his scientific race was run. He continued to increase 
his piles of manuscript, but without methodically digesting 
them for publication. He died on 28th August 1839, in 
the seventy-first year of his age. 

William Smith was tall and broadly built, like the 
English yeomen from whom he came. His face was that 
of an honest, sagacious farmer, whose broad brow and firm 
lips betokened great capacity and decision, but would 
hardly have suggested the enthusiastic student of science. 
His work, indeed, bears out the impression conveyed by 
his portrait. His plain, solid, matter-of-fact intellect never 

^ At the end of 1817 there seems to have been some inquiry as to 
priority of discovery in regard to Smith's work. In the foUowing March 
Mr. John Farey contributed to Tilloch's PMlosophical Magazine a definite 
statement of Smith's claims, showing that the fundamental facts and 
principles he had established had been freely made known by him to many 
people as far back as 1795, and that Farey himself, on 5th August 1807, 
had published an explicit notification of Smith's discoveries and con- 
clusions as to fossil shells in the article on Coal in Rees* Cyclopedia. 


238 TAe Founders of Geology lect. 

branched into theory or speculation, but occupied itself 
wholly in the observation of facts. His range of geologi- 
cal vision was as limited as his general acquirements. He 
had reached early in life the conclusions on which his 
fame rests, and he never advanced beyond them. His 
whole life was dedicated to the task of extending his 
stratigraphical principles to every part of England. But 
this extension, though of the utmost importance to the 
country in which he laboured, was only of secondary 
value in the progress of science. 

Besides his great map of England, Smith published also 
a series of geological maps, on a larger scale, of the 
English counties, comprising in some instances much 
detailed local information. He likewise issued a series of 
striking horizontal sections (1819) across different parts of 
England, in which the succession of the formations was 
clearly depicted. These sections may be regarded as the 
complement of his map, and as thus establishing for all time 
the essential features of English stratigraphy, and the main 
outlines of the sequence of the Secondary formations for 
the rest of Europe. In another publication, Strata Identi- 
fied by Organized Fossils (1816), he gave a series of plates, 
with excellent engraved figures of characteristic fossils 
from the several formations. He adopted in this work the 
odd conceit of having the plates printed on variously 
coloured paper, to correspond with the prevalent tint of 
the strata from which the fossils came. He had no palseon- 
tological knowledge, so that the thin quarto, never com- 
pleted, is chiefly of interest as a record of the organisms 
that he had found most useful in establishing the suc- 
cession of the formations. 


Thomas Webster 239 

There is yet another name that deserves to be remem- 
bered in any review of the early eflForts to group the 
Secondary formations — that of Thomas Webster. As far 
back as 1811, this clever artist and keen-eyed geologist 
began a series of investigations of the coast-sections of the 
Isle of Wight and of Dorset, and continued them for three 
years. They were published in 1815, the same year that 
saw Smith's map make its appearance.-^ They were thus 
independent of that work. Webster had already studied 
the Tertiary formations of the Isle of Wight and recog- 
nized their alternations of fresh- water and marine strata,^ 
as had been done in the Paris basin. He now threw into 
tabular arrangement the whole succession of strata from 
the upper fresh- water (oligocene) group through the Lower 
Tertiary series to the Kimmeridge shale in the Jurassic 
system. He clearly defined each of the leading sub- 
divisions of the Cretaceous series, and prepared the way 
for the admirable later and more detailed work of Fitton. 

Before passing from the cartographical achievements 
of the earlier decades of this century, I must briefly allude 
to the remarkable maps and descriptions of Scotland for 
which geology is indebted to the genius and strenuous 
labour of John Macculloch. His account of the structure 
of the Western Isles, and the excellent maps and sections 
which accompanied it, had a powerful influence in promoting 
the progress of the study of igneous rocks, and have long 
since taken their place as classics in geological literature. 
The same indefatigable observer, after years of toil, prepared 
a geological map of the whole of Scotland — ^perhaps the 

1 See Englefield's Isle of Wight (1815), p. 117. 
2 Trcms, Oeol. Soc, vol. ii. 

240 The Founders of Geology lect. 

most remarkable achievement of the kind which up to that 
time had been accompKshed by a single individuaL^ 

We have now traced the slow and somewhat fitful 
progress of stratigraphical geology during the two last 
decades of the eighteenth century and the first two 
decades of the present. From the youngest alluvial 
deposits, through the Tertiary and Secondary formations, 
down to the Carboniferous system, the clue had been 
found by which the strata could be identified from one 
district and one country to another. A prodigious im- 
petus was now given to the study of geology. The 
various stratified formations, arranged in their true 
chronological order, were now seen to contain the regular 
and decipherable records of the history of our globe, 
which could be put together with as much certainty as 
the faded manuscripts of human workmanship. The 
organic remains contained in them were found to be not 
random accumulations, heaped together by the catastrophes 
of bygone ages, but orderly chronicles of old sea-floors, 
lake-bottoms, and land-surfaces. The centre of gravity of 
geology was now rg^pidly altered, especially in France and 
in Britain. Minerals and rocks no longer monopolized 
the attention of those who interested themselves in the 
crust of the earth. The petrified remains of former plants 
and animals ceased to be mere curiosities. Their meaning 
as historical documents was at last realized. They were 
seen to have a double interest, for while they told the 
story of the successive vicissitudes which the surface of 
the earth had undergone, from remote ages down to the 

* A Description of the Western Isles of ScoUcmdf 1819 ; A map of 
Scotland, 1840 ; and Memoirs to His Majesti/s Treasury respecting the 
Geological Map of Scotlami, by J. Maccollocli, 1836. 


V Stratigraphical Development 241 

present, they likewise unfolded an altogether new and 
marvellous panorama of the progress of life upon that 
surface. They had hitherto shared with minerals and 
rocks the usage of the term « fossil." As their importance 
grew, they were discriminated as " organized fossils." But 
the rising tide of awakened interest soon swept away 
the qualifying participle, and the organic remains became 
sole possessors of the term, as if they were the only objects 
dug out of the earth that were any longer worthy to be 
denominated fossils. 

While the whole science of geology has made gigantic 
advances during the nineteenth century, by far the most 
astonishing progress has sprung from the recognition of 
the value of fossils. To that source may be traced the 
prodigious development of stratigraphy over the whole 
world, the power of working out the geological history 
of a country, and of comparing it with the history of 
other countries, the possibility of tracing the synchronism 
and the sequence of the geographical changes of the 
earth's surface since life first appeared upon the planet. 
To the same source, also, we are indebted for the rise 
of the science of palaeontology, and the splendid con- 
tributions it has made to biological investigation. In 
the midst of the profusion, alike of blossom and of fruit, 
let us not forget the work of those who sowed the seed of 
the abundant harvest which we are now reaping. Let us 
remember the early suggestive essays of Guettard, the 
pregnant ideas of Lehmann and Fuchsel, the prescient 
pages of Giraud-Soulavie, the brilliant work of Cuvier and 
Brongniart, and the patient and clear-sighted enthusiasm 
of William Smith. 


f # 


The Transition or Greywacke formation resolved by Sedgwick and 
Murchison into the Cambrian, Silurian and Devonian systems 
— ^The pre-Cambrian rocks j&rst begun to be set in order by 
Logan — Foundation of Glacial Geology, Agassiz — Rise of 
modem Petrography ; William Nicol, Henry Clifton Sorby 
— The influence of Lyell and Darwin — Conclusion. 

* ' The determination of the value of fossils as chronological 
documents has done more than any other discovery to change 
the character and accelerate the progress of geological in- 
quiry.* No contrast can be more striking than the difference 
between the condition of the science before and after that 
discovery was made. Before that time, when the Wernerian 
classification of the rocks of the earth's crust everywhere 
prevailed, there was really little stimulus to investigate 
these rocks in their chronological relations to each other. 
They were grouped, indeed, in a certain order, which was 
believed to express their succession in time, but their 
identification from one country to another proceeded on 
no minute study of their internal structure, their fossil 
contents, or their tectonic relations. It was thought 
enough if they could be placed in one or other of the 
divisions of the Freiberg system. When an orthodox 
disciple of Werner had relegated a mass of deposits to the 


LECT. VI History of Geological Nomenclature 243 

Transition series, or the Floetz or the Independent Coal- 
formation, as the case might be, he considered that all 
that was really essential had been ascertained, and his 
interest in the matter came practically to an end. 

But the extraordinary awakening which resulted from 
the labours of Cuvier, Brongniart and William Smith, 
invested the strata with a new meaning. As strati- 
graphical investigations multiplied, the artificiality and 
inadequacy of the Wernerian arrangement became every 
day more apparent. Even more serious than the attacks 
of the Vulcanists, and the disclosure of eruptive granites 
and porphyries among the Transition rocks, were the dis- 
coveries made among the fossiliferous stratified formations. 
It was no longer possible to crowd and crush these rocks 
within the narrow limits of the Wernerian system, even 
in its most modified and improved form. The necessity 
for expansion and for adopting a perfectly natural nomen- 
clature and classification, based upon the actually observed 
facts, as these were successively ascertained, made itself 
felt especially in England and in France. Hence arose 
the curiously mongrel terminology which is now in use. 
Certain formations were named from some prominent 
mineral in them, such as Carboniferous. Others were 
discriminated by some conspicuous variety of rock, like 
the Cretaceous series. Some took their names from a 
characteristic structure, like Oolitic, others from their 
relative position in the whole series, as in the case of 
Old Eed Sandstone and New Red Sandstone. Certain 
terms betrayed the country of their origin, as did William 
Smith's English provincial names, like Gault, Kellaways 
rock, and Lias. 



244 ^^^ Founders of Geology lect. 

The growth of stratigraphical nomenclature is thus 
eminently characteristic of the early rise and progress of 
the study of stratigraphy in Europe. Precisians decry 
this inartificial and haphazard language^ and would like 
to introduce a brand new harmonious and systematic 
terminology. But the present arrangement has its his- 
torical interest and value, and so long as it is convenient 
and intelligible, I do not see that any advantage to science 
would accrue from its abolition. The method of naming 
formations or groups of strata after districts where they are 
typically developed has long been in use and has many 
advantages, but it has not supplanted all the original 
names, and I for my part hope that it never wilL 

With regard to what are now known as the Tertiary 
and Secondary formations, the Wernerian " Floetz," under 
which they were aU comprised, soon sank into disuse.^ 
But there was a long pause before the strata of older date 
were subjected to the same diligent study. For this delay 
various good reasons may be assigned. We have seen 
that William Smith's researches went down into the Coal- 
measures, but he had only a general and somewhat vague 
idea of the sequence of the rocks beneath that formation. 
These rocks were not wholly unfossiliferous, but in general, 
throughout Western Europe, they had been so disturbed 
and dislocated that they no longer presented the proofe of 

^ One of the latest adaptations of the word was that of Keferstein in his 
Tdbellen uber die vergleichende Geologic (1826). He frankly threw over 
Wemerianism, but stuck to the pre- Wernerian Floetz, which he arranged 
in five subdivisions. (1) Youngest Floetz, — alluvium, etc. ; (2) Tertiary 
Floetz, — marls, gypsum, etc., of Paris, Brown coal ; (3) Younger Floetz, 
or Chalk rocks, — Chalk, Jura Limestone, Greensand ; (4) Middle Floetz, or 
Muschelkalk — Lias, Eenper marl, Bunter sandstone, Zechstein ; (5) Old 
Floetz, or Mountain Limestone — Coal, Mountain Limestone. 

VI The Transition Rocks or Greywacke 245 

their sequence in the same orderly manner as had led to 
the recognition of the succession of the younger formations. 

It will be remembered that in his original scheme of 
classification "Werner grouped some rocks as Primitive 
{uranfangliche), and classed together as Floetz the whole 
series of stratified formations between these and the 
alluvial deposits. Further experience led him to separate 
an intermediate group between the Primitive and the 
Floetz, which he denominated Transition. He believed 
that this group was " deposited during the passage or 
transition of the earth ifrom its chaotic to its habitable 
state." ^ He recognized that it contains the earliest 
organic remains, and believed it to include the oldest 
mechanical deposits. He subdivided the Transition 
rocks rather by mineral characters than by ascertained 
stratigraphical sequence. The hardened variety of sand- 
stone called greywacke formed by far the most important 
member of the whole series, and was believed by "Werner 
to mark a new geognostic period when, instead of chemical 
precipitates, mechanical accumulations began to appear. 

The two Wernerian terms Transition and Greywacke 
survived for some years after the commencement of the 
great stratigraphical revival in the early years of the 
present century. They formed a kind of convenient limbo 
or No-man's Land, into which any group of rocks might be 
thrown which obstinately refused to reveal its relations 
with the rest of the terrestrial crust. Down to the base 
of the Carboniferous rocks, or even to the bottom of the Old 
Eed Sandstone, the chronological succession of geological 
history seemed tolerably clear. But beneath and beyond 

^ Jameson's Geognosy, p. 145 (1808). 

246 The Founders of Geology lect. 

that limit, everything betokened disorder. It appeared 
well-nigh hopeless to expect that rocks so broken and 
indurated, generally so poor in fossils, and usually so 
sharply cut off from everything younger than themselves, 
would ever be made to yield up a connected and coti- 
sistent series of chapters to the geological record. 

And yet these chapters, if only they could be written, 
would be found to possess the most vivid interest. They 
would contain the chronicles of the earlier ages of the 
earth's history, and might be expected to reveal the 
geography of the first dry land, the sites of the most 
ancient seas, the positions of the oldest volcanoes, the forms 
of the first plants and animals that appeared upon the 
planet. There was thus inducement enough to attack the 
old rocks that contained within their stony layers such 
precious memorials. 

It is not that the Transition rocks were entirely 
neglected. The keen interest awakened in fossils led to 
renewed search among the fossiliferous members of that 
ancient series. A large number of organic remains had 
been collected from Devonshire, Wales, the Lake District, 
Ehineland, the Eifel, France, Sweden, Norway, Russia, 
as well as from New York and Canada. These fossils 
were distinct from those of the Secondary formations, and 
they were obviously distributed, not at random, but in 
groups which reappeared at widely separated localities.-^ 

^ The amount and nature of the information in existence regarding the 
Transition rocks or Greywacke, at the time when Murchison entered upon 
their investigation, may be gathered from the summaries contained in the 
contemporary general treatises on Geology. Even as late as the spring of 
1833, Lyell, after devoting about 300 pages to the Tertiary formations, 
dismissed the Palaeozoic series in twelve lines (PrirvcipUs of Geology , vol. 
iii. (1833), p. 326). One of the fullest descriptions of the older fossiliferous 


Murchison 247 

As yet, however, no clue had been found to their strati- 
graphical sequence. Specimens from what are now known 
as Cambrian, Silurian, Devonian, and even Lower Car- 
boniferous strata were all thrown together as coming from 
;he undefined region of the Grejrwacke or Transition rocks. 
A task worthy of the best energy of the most accomplished 
geologist l^y open to any man bold enough to undertake 
tD introduce among these rocks the same stratigraphical 
method which had reduced the Secondary and Tertiary 
formations to such admirable order, and had furnished 
the means of comparing and correlating these formations 
from one region to another. This task was at last accom- 
plished by two men, working independently of each other in 
Wales and the border counties of England. Murchison and 
Sedgwick carried the principles of Cuvier, Brongniart 
and William Smith into the chaos of old Greywacke, and 
succeeded in adding the Devonian, Silurian and Cambrian 
chapters to the geological record, thus establishing a 
definite order among the oldest fossiliferous formations, 
and completing thereby Palaeozoic stratigraphy. 

Eoderick Impey Murchison (1792-1871) belonged to a 
family that had lived for centuries among the wilds of the 
north-western Highlands of Scotland and had taken part 
in much of the rough Ufe of that remote and savage region.^ 
He was born in 1792, entered the army when he was only 
fifteen years of age, and served for a time in the Peninsular 

rocks, with copious lists of fossils, will be found in the first edition of De la 
Beche's Oeological Manual (1831), p. 433, under the head of ^'Grauwacke 
Group." But no attempt is there made to arrange the rocks strati- 
graphically, and the fossil lists comprise organisms from all the older 
Paleeozoic formations without discrimination of their horizon. 

* The biogn^phical details are taken from my Life of Sir Roderick L 
Murchison, 2 vols. Svo, 1875. 

248 The Founders of Geology lect. 

war. He carried the colours of his regiment at the battle 
of Vimieira, took part in the retreat to Corunna and 
narrowly escaped being taken prisoner by the French. On 
the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars, seeing no longer 
any prospect of military activity or distinction, he quitted 
the army, married, and for some years devoted himself 
with ardour to fox-hunting, in which his love of an open-air 
life and of vigorous exercise could have full gratification. 
But he was made for a nobler kind of existence than thai 
of a mere Nimrod. His wife, a woman of cultivated tastes, 
had led him to take much interest in art and antiquities, 
and when Sir Humphry Davy, who also recognized his 
qualities, urged him to turn his attention to science, she 
strenuously encouraged him to follow the advice. He at 
last sold his hunters, came to London, and began to attend 
lectures on chemistry and geology at the Royal Institution. 
Murchison was thirty-two years old before he showed 
any interest in science. But his ardent and active tempera- 
ment spurred him on. His enthusiasm was thoroughly 
aroused, and his progress became rapid. He joined the 
Greological Society, and having gained the goodwill of 
Buckland, went down to Oxford for his first geological 
excursions under the guidance of that genial professor. 
He then discovered what field-geology meant, and learnt 
how the several parts of a landscape depend for their 
position and form upon the nature of the rocks underneath. 
He returned to London with his zeal aflame, burning to 
put into practice the principles of observation he had now 
been taught. He began among the Cretaceous formations 
around his father-in-law's home in Sussex, but soon 
extended his explorations into Scotland, France and the 


Murckison 249 

Alps, bringing back with liim at the end of each season a 
bundle of well-filled note-books from which to prepare 
communications for the Geological Society. These early 
papers, meritorious though they were, do not call for any 
special notice here, since they marked no new departure in 
geological research, nor added any important province to 
the geological domain. 

During six years of constant activity in the field, 
Murchison worked out with Sedgwick the structure of 
parts of the west and north of Scotland and toiled hard in 
disentangling the complicated structure of the eastern 
Alps ; he also rambled with Lyell over the volcanic areas 
of Central and Southern France. Thereafter he deter- 
mined to try whether the " interminable grey wacke," as he 
called it, could not be reduced to order and made to yield 
a stratigraphical sequence, like that which had been so 
successfully obtained among younger formations. At the 
time when he began, that is, in the summer of 1831, 
absolutely nothing was known of the succession of rocks 
below the Old Eed Sandstone. It was an unknown land, a 
pathless desert, where no previous traveller had been able 
to detect any trace of a practicable track towards order, or 
any clue to a system of arrangement that would enable the 
older fossiliferous rocks of one country to be paralleled 
with those of another. 

Starting with his " wife and maid, two good grey nags 
and a little carriage, saddles being strapped behind for 
occasional equestrian use," Murchison made his way into 
South Wales. In that region, as was weU known, the 
stratigraphical series could be followed down into the Old 
Eed Sandstone, and within the frame or border of that 

250 The Founders of Geology lect. 

formation, grey wacke was believed to extend over all the 
rest of the Principality. Let me quote a few sentences in 
which Murchison describes his first entry into the domain 

yj with which his fame is now so inseparably linked. " Tra- 
velling from Brecon to Builth by the Herefordshire road, 
the gorge in which the Wye flows first developed what I 
had not till then seen. Low terrace-shaped ridges of grey 
rock, dipping slightly to the south-east, appeared on the 
opposite bank of the Wye, and seemed to rise quite con- 
formably from beneath the Old Eed Sandstone of Hereford- 
shire. Boating across the river at Cavansham Ferry, I 
rushed up to these ridges, and, to my inexpressible joy, 
found them replete with Transition fossils, afterwards 
identified with those at Ludlow. Here then was a key, 
and if I could only follow this out on the strike of the 
beds to the north-east, the case would be good." ^ 

^ With unerring instinct Murchison had realized that if 
the story of old Greywacke was ever to be told, a begin- 
ning must be made from some known and recognizable 
horizon. It would have been well-nigh useless to dive 
into the heart of the Transition hills and try to work out 
their complicated structure, for even if a sequence could 
then have been determined, there would have been no 
means of connecting it with the already ascertained strati- 
graphical series, imless it could be followed outwards to 
the Old Eed Sandstone. But by commencing at the 
known base of that series, every stage conquered was at 
once a definite platform added to what had already been 

The explorer kept along the track of the rocks for 

iitv 1 Life, vol. i. p. 182. 


Murchison 251 

many miles to the north. No hunter could have followed 
the scent of the fox better than he did the outcrop of 
the fossiliferous strata, which he saw to come out regu- 
larly from under the lowest members of the Old Eed 
Sandstone. Directed to the Wye by Buckland, he had 
the good-fortune to come at once upon some of the few 
natural sections where the order of the higher Transi- 
tion rocks of Britain, and their relations to the overlying 
formations, can be distinctly seen. He pursued the chase 
northwards until he lost the old rocks under the Triassic 
plains of Cheshire. " For a first survey," he writes, " I 
had got the upper grauwacke, so called, into my hands, 
for I had seen it in several situations far from each other, 
all along the South Welsh frontier, and in Shropshire and 
HerefordshixB. rising out gradually and conformably from 
beneath the lowest member of the Old Eed Sandstone. 
Moreover, I had ascertained that its different beds were 
characterized by peculiar fossils, ... a new step in British 
geology. In summing up what I saw and realized in 
about four months of travelling, I may say that it was 
the most fruitful year of my life, for in it I laid the 
foundation of my Silurian system. I was then thirty- 
nine years old, and few could excel me in bodily and 
mental activity." ^ 

Not only did the work of these four momentous months 
mark a new step in British geology. It began the lifting 
of the veil from the Transition rocks of the whole globe. It 
was the first successful foray into these hitherto intract- 
able masses, and prepared the way for all that has since 
been done in deciphering the history of the most ancient 

* Op, cU. pp. 183, 192. 

252 The Founders of Geology lect. 

fossiliferous formations, alike in the Old World and in the 

Contenting himself with a mere announcement of his 
chief results at the first meeting of the British Association, 
held in York in 1831, Murchison gave a brief outline of his 
subdivisions of the upper Greywacke to the Geological 
Society in the spring of 1833.^ He continued to toil hard 
in the field, mapping on the ground his various formations, 
and making careful sections of their relations to each other. 
Every fresh traverse confirmed the general accuracy of 
his first observations, and supplied him with further illus- 
trations of the persistence and distinctness of the several 
groups into which he had subdivided the greywacke. At 
the beginning of 1834, he was able to present a revised and 
corrected table of his stratigraphical results, each formation 
being defined by its lithological characters and organic 
remains, and the subdivisions being nearly what they still 
remain.^ The Ludlow rocks are shown to pass upward 
into the base of the Old Eed Sandstone, and downward into 
the Wenlock group, which in turn is succeeded below by 
the Horderley and May Hill rocks, followed by the Builth 
and Llandeilo flags. By the summer of 1835, at the insti- 
gation of ]£lie de Beaumont and other geological friends, 
he had made up his mind as to the name that should be 
given to this remarkable assemblage of formations which 
he had disinterred from out of the chaos of greywacke. 
Following the good rule that stratigraphical terms are most 
fitly formed on a geographical basis with reference to the 
regions wherein the rocks are most typically developed, he 

* Froc. Geol. Soc. vol. i. (1833), p. 474. 
2 Ibid. vol. ii. (1834), p. 11. 


Murchison 253 

had looked about for some appropriate and euphonious 
term that would comprise his various formations and con- 
nect them with that borderland of England and Wales 
where they are so copiously displayed. This territory was 
in Eoman times inhabited by the tribe of the Silures, and 
so he chose the term Silurian — a word that is now familiar 
to the geologists of every country.^ 

At the same time Murchison published a diagrammatic 
section of his classification which, except in one particular, 
has been entirely sustained by subsequent investigation. 
He there groups the whole series of formations as the 
Silurian system, which he divides into Upper and Lower, 
drawing the line of separation where it still remains. In 
the upper section come the Ludlow and Wenlock rocks ; 
in the lower the Caradoc and Llandeilo. The base of the 
series, however, is made to rest unconformably on a series 
of ancient slaty greywackes. No such base exists, for the 
LlandeUo group passes downward into a vast series of older 
sediments. At that time, however, both Murchison and 
Sedgwick believed that a strongly marked separation lay 
between the Silurian System and the rocks lying to the 
west of it. 

Murchison used to maintain, with perfect justice, that 
he had succeeded in his task, because he had followed 
the method which had led William Smith to arrange so 
admirably the Secondary formations of England. He was 
able to show that, apart from mere lithological differences, 
which might be of only local value, his formations were 
definitely characterized, each by its peculiar assemblage of 
organic remains. If Smith's labours had not only brought 

1 FhiU Mag. July 1835, p. 48. 


254 ^^^ Founders of Geology lect. 

the Mesozoic rocks of England into order, but had furnished 
a means of dealing in like fashion with the rocks of 
the same age in other countries, there seemed no reason 
why the palseontological succession, found to distinguish 
the greywacke in England and Wales, should not be 
equally serviceable among the Transition rocks of Europe 
and even of America. Murchison had thus added a 
series of new and earlier chapters to the geological history 
of the globe. 

The various brief communications to the Geological 
Society, after the first discoveries in 1831, though 
they had made geologists familiar with the main results 
of Murchison's work, only increased their desire to know 
the detailed observations on which it was founded, and 
more particularly to have complete information as to the 
assemblages of organic remains which he had discovered. 
Previous collections from the Transition rocks were 
generally of little service for stratigraphical purposes, 
because those of widely separate horizons had all 
been mixed together. But Murchison's specimens had 
been carefully gathered, with the view of sustaining his 
classification, and for the purpose of forming a basis of 
comparison between the Transition rocks of Britain and 
those of other countries. Early in the course of his 
wanderings along the Welsh border, he had been urged to 
prepare a full and more generally accessible account of 
his labours than was oflfered in the publications of a 
learned Society. Accordingly, adding this task to his 
other engagements, he toiled at the making of a big book, 
until at last, towards the end of the year 1838, that is, 
about seven years from the time when he broke ground 


Murchison 255 

by the banks of the Wye, he published his great work, 
The Silurian System^ a massive quarto of 800 pages, with 
an atlas of plates of fossils and sections, and a large 
coloured geological map. 

The pubUcation of this splendid monograph forms a 
notable epoch in the history of modern geology, and well 
entitles its author to be enrolled among the founders of 
the science. For the first time, the succession of fossili- 
ferous formations below the Old Eed Sandstone was 
shown in detail. Their fossils were enumerated, described 
and figured. It was now possible to carry the vision 
across a vast series of ages, of which hitherto no definite 
knowledge existed, to mark the succession of their 
organisms, and thus to trace backward, far farther than 
had ever before been possible, the history of organized 
existence on this globe. 

While carefully working out the stratigraphy of the 
rocks, Murchison had come upon various masses of erup- 
tive rock. Some of these he recognized as intrusive, others 
he saw to be lavas and ashes which had been ejected over 
the floor of the ancient ocean. In this way he was able to 
present a picture of extraordinary interest, in which the 
geologist could mark the position of the old seas, trace the 
distribution of their organisms, and note the sites of their 

Even before the advent of his volume, his remarkable 
results had become widely known, and had incited other 
observers all over the world to attack the forbidding 
domain of Greywacke. In France, his classification had 
been adopted, and applied to the elucidation of the older 
fossiliferous rocks by Elie de Beaumont and Dufr^noy, who 

256 The Founders of Geology lect. 

were engaged in constructing a geological map of that 
country. In Turkey it had been similarly made available 
by Bou4 and De VemeuiL Forchhammer had extended 
it to Scandinavia. Featherstonehaugh and Eogers had 
applied it in the United States. Thus within a few years, 
the Silurian system was found to be developed in all parts 
of the world, and Murchison's work furnished the key to 
its interpretation. 

• . Let us now turn to the researches that were in progress 
by another great master of English geology, simultaneously 
with those of Murchison. Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873) 
belonged to a family that had been settled for 300 years or 
more in the Dale of Dent, a picturesque district which Ues 
along the western border of Yorkshire. To the end of his 
long and active life his heart ever turned with fondness to 
the little valley where he first saw the light, and to the 
kindly dalesmen among whom he spent his boyhood. He 
remained to the end a true dalesman himself, with all the 
frankness of nature, mirthfulness and loyalty, so often 
found among the natives of these pastoral uplands. He 
was born in the year 1785, his father being the Vicar of 
Dent. After receiving his school education at the neigh- 
bouring little town of Sedbergh, he went to Trinity 
College, Cambridge, which thenceforth became his home 
to the end of his life. At the age of thirty-three he was 
elected to the Woodwardian Professorship of Geology. Up 
to that time, however, he had shown no special interest in 
geological pursuits, and though he may have read a little on 
the subject, his knowledge of it was probably not greater 
than that of the average college Fellow of his day. His 
appointment as Professor, however, awakened his dormant 


Sedgwick 257 

scientific proclivities, and he at once threw himself with 
all his energy and enthusiasm into the duties of his new 
vocation. Gifted with mental power of no common order, 
which had been sedulously trained in a wide range of 
studies, with a keen eye for the geological structure of a 
region, and with abundant bodily prowess to sustain him in 
the most arduous exertions in the field, eloquent, witty, 
vivacious, he took at once the place of prominence in the 
University which he retained to the last, and he came 
with rapid strides to the front of all who in that day 
cultivated the infant science of geology in England. 

What little geology Sedgwick knew, when he became a 
professor of the science, seems to have been of a decidedly 
Wemerian kind. He began his geological writings with 
an account of the primitive ridge and its associated rocks in 
Devon and CornwalL His earliest paper might have been 
appropriately printed in the first volume of the Memoirs of 
the Wemerian Society. In later years, referring to his 
Neptunist beginnings, he confessed that " for a long while 
I was troubled with water on the brain, but light and heat 
have completely dissipated it," and he spoke of "the Wer- 
nerian nonsense I learnt in my youth." ^ It was by his 
own diligent work in the field that he came to a true per- 
ception of geological principles. His excursions carried 
him all over England, and enabled him to bring back each 
season a quantity of specimens for his museum, and a 
multitude of notes from which he regaled the Cambridge 
Philosophical Society with an account of his doings. 
Eventually he joined the Geological Society of London, 

^ Life and Letters of Adam Sedgtvickj by J. W. Clark and T. M'K. 
Hughes, vol. i. p. 284. 




258 The Founders of Geology lect. 

and found there a wider field of action. After a time 
Murchison also became a fellow of the Society, and he and 
Sedgwick soon formed a close intimacy. This friendship 
proved to be of signal service to the cause of geological 
progress. The two associates were drawn towards the 
•*.. same departments of investigation. They began their 
co-operation in the year 1827 by a journey through the 
west and north of Scotland, and from that time onward for 
many years they were constantly working together in 
Britain and on the Continent of Europe. 

It would be interesting, but out of place here, to linger 
over the various conjoint labours of these two great 
pioneers in Palaeozoic geology. We are only concerned 
with what they did, separately and in conjunction, towards 
the enlargement of the geological record and the definite 
establishment of the Palaeozoic systems. Sedgwick began 
his work among the older fossiliferous formations by 
attacking the rugged and complicated region of Cumber- 
land and Westmoreland, commonly known as the Lake 
District, and in a series of papers communicated to the 
Geological Society he worked out the general structure of 
that difficult tract of country. Though fossils had been 
found in the rocks, he did not at first make use of 
them for purposes of stratigraphical classification. He 
ascertained the succession of the great groups of strata by 
noting their lithological characters. One of the most 
remarkable features of his investigation was the recogni- 
tion of volcanic rocks intercalated among the ancient 
marine sediments of the Lake District. These rocks, since 
so fully worked out, and now known as the " Borrowdale 
Volcanic Series," of Lower Silurian age, were first assigned 

VI Sedgwick and Murchison 259 

to their true origin by Sedgwick, who thus made an 
/important contribution to the progress of volcanic 
' geology. 

By a curious coincidence, Sedgwick and Murchison 
broke ground in Wales during the same summer of 1831. 
But while Murchison determined to work his way down- 
ward, from the known horizons of the Old Eed Sandstone 
of South Wales into the grey wacke below, Sedgwick, with 
characteristic dash, made straight for the highest, ruggedest 
and most complicated tract of North Wales. Eetuming 
to the same ground the following year, he plunged into 
the intricacies of the older Palaeozoic rocks, and succeeded- 
in disentangling their structure, tracing out their flexures 
and dislocations, and ascertaining the general sequence of 
their principal subdivisions. It was a splendid achieve- 
ment, which probably no other man in England at that 
time could have accomplished. 

But valuable as this work was, as a contribution to the 
elucidation of the tectonic geology of a part of Britain, 
it had not yet acquired importance in general stratigraphy. 
In the first place, Sedgwick's groups of strata were mere 
lithological aggregates. They possessed as yet no distinc- 
tive characters that would allow of their being adopted 
in the interpretation of other countries, or even of 
distant parts of Britain. They contained fossils, but these 
had not been made use of in defining the subdivisions. 
There was thus neither a basis for comparison with other 
regions, nor for the ascertainment of the true position of 
the North Welsh rocks in the great territory of Grey wacke. 
In the second place, there was no clue to the connection 
of these rocks with any known formation, for they were 

26o The Founders of Geology lect. 

separated from everything younger than themselves by a 
strong unconformability. The Carboniferous and Old 
Eed Sandstone strata were found to lie on the upturned 
edges of the older masses, and it was impossible to say how 
many intervening formations were missing. 

Murchison's researches brought to light the actual 
transition from the base of the Old Bed Sandstone into an 
older series of fossiUferous formations underneath. There 
could, therefore, be no doubt that part at least of his 
Silurian system was younger than Sedgwick's series in 
North Wales. And as he found what appeared to be 
older strata emerging from underneath his system, and 
seeming to stretch indefinitely into the heart of Wales, he 
naturally believed these strata to be part of his friend's 
domain, and at first left them alone. Such, too, was Sedg- 
wick's original impression. The two fellow-workers had 
not drawn a definite boundary between their respective 
territories, but they agreed that the Silurian series was 
less ancient than the rocks of North Wales. 

As a distinct name had been given to the younger 
series, Murchison urged his associate to choose an ap- 
propriate designation for the older, and in the summer of 
1835 the term "Cambrian" was selected.^ By this time 
Murchison had learnt that no hard and fast line was to 
to be drawn between the bottom of the Silurian and the 
top of the Cambrian series. *'In South Wales he had 
traced many distinct passages from the lowest member of 
the * Silurian system ' into the underlying slaty rocks now 

^ Brit. Assoc. August 1835, PM. Mag, voL vii. (December 1836), p. 
483, ''On the Silurian and Cambrian Systems " by A. Sedgwick and K. 
I. Murchison. 

vr Sedgwick s Cambrian System 261 

named by Professor Sedgwick the Upper Cambrian." 
Sedgwick, on the other hand, confessed that neither in the 
Lake District nor in North Wales was the stratigraphical 
succession unbroken, and that in these regions it was im- 
possible to tell " how many terms are wanting to complete 
the series to the Old Eed Sandstone and Carboniferous 
Limestone."-^ He adopted a threefold subdivision into 
Lower, Middle, and Upper Cambrian, but this classification 
rested merely on mineral characters, no attempt having 
yet been made by Sedgwick to determine how far each of 
his subdivisions was defined by distinctive fossils. 

Eventually it was ascertained that the organic remains 
in the upper part of the Cambrian system were the same 
as those found in the Lower Silurian formations as defined 
by Murchison. It was obvious that the one series was 
really the equivalent of the other, and that they ought not 
to be classed under separate names. The ofiQcers of the 
Geological Survey, working from the clearly defined 
Silurian formations, could draw no line between these and 
those of North Wales, which Sedgwick had classed as 
Cambrian. Finding the same fossils in both, they felt 
themselves constrained to class them all under the same 
designation of Silurian. Murchison, of course, had no 
objection to the indefinite extension of his system. Sedg- 
wick, however, after some delay, protested against what 
he considered to be an unjustifiable appropriation of terri- 
tory which he had himself conquered. And thus arose a 
misunderstanding between these two old comrades, which 
deepened ere long into a permanent estrangement. 

It is not my intention to enter here into the details of 

262 The Founders of Geology lect. 

this unhappy controversy.^ My only object in referring 
to it is to point out how far we are indebted to Sedg- 
wick for the establishment of the Cambrian system. He 
eventually traced through a part of the Welsh border a 
marked unconformability between the Upper Silurian for- 
mations and everything below them, and he proposed that 
his Cambrian system should be carried up to that physical 
break and thus include Murchison's Lower Silurian forma- 
tions. But as these formations had been defined strati- 
graphically and palseontologically before he had been 
able to get his fossils from North Wales examined, they 
obviously had the right of priority. And the general 
verdict of geologists went in favour of Murchison. 

While this dispute was in progress in Britain, a re- 
markable series of investigations by Joachim Barrande 
had made known the extraordinary abundance and variety 
of Silurian fossils in Bohemia. This distinguished observer 
not only recognized the equivalents of Murchison's Upper 
and Lower Silurian series, but foimd below that series 
a still older group of strata, characterized by a different 
assemblage of fossils, which he termed the first or prim- 
ordial fauna. It was ascertained that representatives of 
this fauna occurred in Wales among some of the divisions 
of Sedgwick's Cambrian system, far below the Llandeilo 
group which formed the original base of the Silurian series. 
Eventually, therefore, since the death of the two great 
disputants, there has been a general consensus of opinion 
that the top of the Cambrian system should be drawn at 
the upper limit of the primordial fauna.^ 

^ I liave already given a full and, I believe, impartial account of it in 
my Life of Mwrchison, 

^ It has been proposed by Ftofessor Lapworth that tbe strata named 

VI The Cambrian and Silurian Systems 263 

By this arrangement, Sedgwick's name is retained for 
an enormously thick and varied succession of strata which 
possess the deepest interest, because they contain the 
earliest records yet discovered of organized existence on the 
surface of our globe. It was Sedgwick who first arranged 
the successive groups of strata in North Wales, from the 
Bala and Arenig rocks down into the depths of the Har- 
lech anticline. His classification, though it has undergone 
some slight modification,remains to this day essentially as he 
left it. And thus the name which he selected for his system, 
and which has become one of the household words in geo- 
logical literature, remains with us a memorial of one of the 
most fearless, strenuous, gentle and lovable of all the master 
minds who have shaped our science into its present form. 

By the establishment of the Cambrian and Silurian 
^Z. a V- ,tride w., m^e in tl„ procea. o£ educing 
the chaos of greywacke into settled order. But there still 
remained a series of rocks in that chaos which could not 
be claimed as either Cambrian or Silurian and did not 
yield fossils which would show them to be Carboniferous. 
Before any dispute arose between Sedgwick and Murchison 
as to the respective limits of their domains in Wales, 
they were led to undertake a conjoint investigation which 
resulted in the creation of the Devonian system. The 
story of the addition of this third chapter to early 
Palaeozoic history may be briefly told. 

by Murchison Lower Silurian and claimed by Sedgwick as Upper Cam- 
brian, should be taken from both and be given a new name, * * Ordovician." 
But this proposal is fair to neither disputant. By all the laws that 
regulate scientific priority the strata which were first separated by 
Murchison and distinguished by their fossils, should retain the name of 
Lower Silurian which he gave them. 

264 The Founders of Geology lect. 

It had long been known that grey wacke or Transition 
rocks covered most of the counties of Devon and Cornwall. 
Closer examination of that region had shown that a con- 
siderable tract of greywacke, now known as Culm-measures, 
contained abundant carbonaceous material and even 
yielded fossU plants that appeared to be identical mth 
some of those in the Carboniferous system. It was at first 
supposed by De la Beche that these plant-bearing rocks 
lay below the rest of the greywacke of that part of the 
country. Murchison, however, from the evidence of his 
clear sections in the Silurian territory, felt convinced that 
there must be some mistake in regard to the supposed 
position of these rocks, for he had traversed all the upper 
greywacke along the Welsh border, and had found it to 
contain no land-plants at all, but to be full of marine 
shells. He induced Sedgwick to join him in an expedition 
into Devonshire. The two associates, in the course of the 
year 1836, completely succeeded in proving that the Culm- 
measures, or Carboniferous series, lay not below but above 
the rest of the greywacke of the south-west of England. 
But what was that greywacke and what relation did it bear 
to the rocks which had been reduced to system in Wales ? 

The structure of the ground in the south-west of Eng- 
land is by no means simple, and, indeed, is not completely 
understood even now. The rocks have been much folded, 
cleaved and crushed. But besides these subsequent changes, 
they present a great contrast in their lithological characters 
to the Old Eed Sandstone on the opposite side of the 
Bristol Channel Neither Sedgwick nor Murchison could 
find any analogy between the Devonshire greywacke and 
the red sandstones, conglomerates and marls which expand 

VI Establishment of the Devonian System 265 

into the Old Eed Sandstone of South Wales, and lie so 
clearly between the Carboniferous Limestone above and 
the Upper Silurian formations below. Nor could Murchi- 
son see a resemblance between that grey wacke, or its fossils, 
and any of his Silurian rocks. With their twisted and 
indurated aspect, the Devonshire rocks looked so much 
older than the gently inclined Silurian groups by the banks 
of the Wye, that both he and Sedgwick thought they more 
resembled the crumpled and broken rocks of North Wales, 
and they accordingly first placed them in the upper and 
middle parts of the Cambrian system.^ 

This correlation, however, was made mainly on litho^ 
logical grounds. The Devonshire rocks were not without 
fossils, and considerable collections of these had already 
been gathered by different residents in the county, but no 
one had yet endeavoured to make a comparison between 
them and those of known stratigraphical horizons else- 
where. This task was undertaken at last by William 
Lonsdale, who towards the end of the year 1837 came to 
the conclusion that the greywacke and limestone of 
South Devonshire, judged by their fossil contents, must be 
intermediate between the Silurian and the Carboniferous 
formations, that is, on the parallel of the Old Bed Sandstone 
of other parts of Britain. 

Such a decision from a skilled palaeontologist raised up 
some serious difficulties, which completely nonplussed the 
two able geologists who the year before had gone so gaily 
down to the south-west of England to set matters right 
there. It seemed to them as if Lonsdale's opinion was 
opposed to what had been regarded as definitely settled in 

1 Vroc. Gaol. Soc, ii. (1837), p. 560. 

266 The Founders of Geology lect. 

the stratigraphy of the older stratified rocks. For two 
years they continued in complete uncertainty as to the 
solution of the problem. But at last after the examination 
of mnumerable specimens, endless discussion, and inter- 
minable correspondence, they came to adopt Lonsdale's 
"^ views. They saw that the abundantly fossiliferous rocks 
of South Devon contained, in their lower members, fossils 
that reminded them of SUurian types, whUe in their 
upper members, they yielded species that were common 
also to the Carboniferous Limestone. The two geologists 
therefore recognized in these rocks an intermediate series 
of strata, containing a fauna which must have flourished 
between the Silurian and the Carboniferous periods. That 
fauna was not represented in the Old Eed Sandstone, 
which, with its traces of land - plants and remains of 
ganoid fishes, appeared to have been accumulated under 
other geographical conditions. To distinguish the series 
of rocks containing this well-marked facies of marine 
organisms, they chose the name "Devonian,'* from the 
county where they were originaUy studied and where 
their true position was first ascertained.^ The authors 
claimed that the establishment of the Devonian system 
was "undoubtedly the greatest change which has ever 
been attempted at one time in the classification of British 
rocks." But it was far more than that. It was the 
determination of a new geological series of world-wide 
significance, the unfolding of a new chapter in the geo- 
logical annals of our globe, v Soon after Sedgwick and 
Murchison had finally announced to the Geological 
Society their reform of the geology of Devonshire, they 

1 Trwm, Oeol, Soc,, 2nd ser. voL v. pp. 688, 701 (April 1889). 

VI Personal Traits of Murchison 267 

started for Ehineland, the Harz and Fichtelgebirge, and 
succeeded in demonstrating that the Devonian system is 
more extensively and completely developed there than in 
its original Devonshire home. 

I have dwelt on the labours of Sedgwick and 
Murchison which more especially place their names 
among those of the founders of geology. But besides 
these exploits they each accomplished a vast amount 
of admirable work, and helped thereby to widen the 
bounds and strengthen the foundations of the science to 
which they devoted their lives. To enter upon the 
consideration of these further achievements, however, 
would lead us far beyond the limits of our time. 

Murchison succeeded De la Beche as Director-General 
of the Geological Survey of Great^Britain, and held that 
ofi&ce until his death in IS^l./To the last, he retained 
the erect military bearing of his youth, and even under 
the weight of threescore years and ten could walk a dozen 
of miles and keep a keen eye on all the topographical and 
geological features of the surrounding hills. Tall and 
digniiSed in manner, with much of the formal courtesy of 
an older time, he might seem to those who only casually 
met him to be proud or even haughty. But under this outer 
crust, which soon dropped away in friendly intercourse, 
there lay a friendly and helpful nature. Indomitable in 
his power of work, restless in his eager energy in the 
pursuit of his favourite science, full of sympathies for 
realms of knowledge outside of his own domain, wielding 
wide influence from his social position, he did what no 
other man of his time could do so well for the advance of 
science in England. And his death at the ripe age of 


268 The Founders of Geology lect. 

seventy-nine left a blank in that country which has never 
^ since been filled. 

Sedgwick was in many respects a contrast to Murchison. 
His powerful frame reminded one of the race of dalesmen 
from which he sprang. His eagle eyes seemed as if they 
could pierce into the very heart of the stiffest geological 
problem. In his prime, he always made straight for the 
roughest ground, the steepest slopes, or the highest summits, 
and his bodUy strength bore him bravely through incredible 
exertion. Unfortunately his health, always uncertain, 
would react on his spirits, and times of depression and 
lethargy would come to interrupt and retard his work, 
whether with hammer or pen. But even his gloomiest 
fits he could turn into merriment, and he would laugh at 
them and at himself, as he described his condition to some 
friend. His gaiety of spirit made him the centre and 
life of every company of which he formed part. His 
frank manKness, his kindliness of heart, his transparent 
childlike simplicity, his unwearied helpfulness and his 
gentle tenderness, combined to form a character altogether 
apart. He was admired for his intellectual grasp, his 
versatility, and his eloquence, and he was beloved, almost 
worshipped, for the overflowing goodness of his char- 

When in the early part of this century, one discovery 
after another was made which showed that Werner's so- 
caUed Primitive rocks reappeared among his Transition 
and Floetz formations, a doubt began to arise whether 
there were any primitive rocks at all.^ We have traced 

^ Thus D'Aubuisson wrote in 1819 — "Geology no longer possesses a 
single rock essentially primitive" [TraiUde GA>gno8ie, tome ii. p. 197). 

VI William Edmond Logan 269 

how Murchison and Sedgwick cleared up the confusion of 
the Transition series and created the Devonian, Silurian 
and Cambrian systems. In Wales certain schists had 
been detected by Sedgwick below his Cambrian rocks, but 
they did not greatly interest him, and he never tried to 
make out their structure and history. Afterwards A. C. 
Bamsay and his associates claimed these schists as meta- 
morphosed parts of the Cambrian system. To this day 
their true position has not been settled further than that 
they are known to be pre-Cambrian. 

The vast and varied sftries of rocks, which have now 
been ascertained to underlie the oldest Cambrian strata, 
have undergone much scrutiny during the last quarter of 
a century, and their true nature and sequence are begin- 
ning to be understood. The first memorable onward step 
in this investigation was taken in North America by 
William Edmond Logan (1798-1875). Many years before 
his time, the existence of ancient gneisses and schists had 
been recognized both in the United States and in Canada. 
At the very beginning of the century, the wide extent of 
these rocks had been noted by W. Maclure, the father 
of American geology, who was the first to produce a 
general geological sketch-map of a large part of the 
United States. In 1824 and afterwards, Bigsby spent 
much time among these rocks to the north of Lake 
Superior. Subsequently the gneisses of the Adirondack 
Hills were described by Eaton. At the very beginning of 
his connection with the Geological Survey of Canada in 
1843, Logan confirmed the observation that the oldest 
fossiliferous formations of North America lie unconform- 
ably on a vast series of gneisses and other crystalline 

2 70 The Founders of Geology lect. 

rocks, to which he continued at first to apply the old term 
Primary. By degrees, as he saw more evidence of parallel 
structures in these masses, he thought that they were 
probably altered sediments, and he referred to them as 
Metamorphic. That portion of the series which includes 
thick bands of limestone he proposed to consider as a 
separate and overlying group. In the course of years, 
working with his associates Alexander Murray and Sterry 
Hunt, he was able to show the enormous extent of these 
primary rocks, covering as they do several hundred 
thousand square miles of the North American continent 
and stretching northwards to the borders of the Arctic 
Ocean. He proposed "for these most ancient mineral 
masses the general appellation of Laurentian, .from their 
development amolig the Laurentide mountains. After- 
wards he thought it' possible to subdivide them into three 
separate groups, which he designated Upper, Middle and 
Lower. In the course of his progress, he came upon a 
series of hard slates and conglomerates, containing pebbles " 
and boulders of the gneiss, and evidently of more recent 
origin, yet nowhere, so far as he could see, separable by 
an undoubted unconformability. These rocks, being ex- 
tensively displayed along the northern shores of Lake 
Huron, he named Huronian. He afterwards described a 
second series of copper-bearing rocks lying unconformably ' 
on the Huronian rocks of Lake Superior. He thus recog- 
nized the existence of at least three vast systems older 
than the oldest fossiliferous formations. He may be said 
to have inaugurated the detailed study of Pre-Cambrian 
rocks. Subsequent investigation has shown the structure 
of the regions which he explored to be even more compli- 


VI Rise of Glacial Geology 271 

cated and difficult than he believed it to be, and various 
modifications have been proposed in his work and termin- 
ology. But he will ever stand forward as one of the 
pioneers of geology who in the face of incredible diffi- 
culties first opened the way towards a comprehension of 
the oldest rocks of the crust of the earth. 

If a geologist were asked to point out what departments 
of his science had made the most signal progress during 
the present century, he would undoubtedly place first the 
extraordinary development of stratigraphy and its palae- 
ontological accompaniments. But were he to continue 
his selection, he would probably point to glaciation and 
petrography as the two sections which display the most 
remarkable advance, the former created within the life- 
time of many geologists still living, the latter, though not 
actually founded, yet vivified with a new life within the 
-memory of most of us, and by a man whom we can count 
among our living associates. 

The original suggestion of Playfair that the erratic 
blocks of Switzerland had been transported by glaciers, 
during a former vast extension of the ice o'f the Alps, had 
passed out of mind. Venetz and Charpentier were the first 
to take up anew this interesting department of geology, 
and to trace the dispersal of the crystalline rocks of the 
Central Alps outward across the great Swiss plain to the 
flanks of the Jura mountains.^ It was reserved, however, 
for Agassiz to perceive the wide significance of the facts 
observed, and to start the investigations which culminated 
in the recognition of an Ice Age that involved the whole 

^ Schweiaer, Gesell. Verhandl. 1834, p. 23 ; Ann, des Minest viii. (1835) 
p. 219 ; Leonhard und Bronn, Neuea Jahrh, 1837, p. 472. 

272 The Founders of Geology lect. 

of the northern part of our hemisphere, and in the volumin- 
ous literature which has recorded the rapid progress of 
this department of geology. 

Jean Louis Eodolphe Agassiz (1807-1873) was bom in 
Switzerland, and rose to distinction by his scientific work 
in Europe, but he went to the United States when he was 
still only forty-two years of age, and spentvthe last twenty- 
seven years of his life as an energetic and/successful leader 
of science in his adopted home. His fame is thus both 
European and American, and the geologists of New England, 
not less than those of Switzerland, may claim him as one 
of their most distinguished worthies. 

We must pass over the brilliant researches into the his- 
tory of fossil fishes which placed the name of Agassiz high 
among the palaeontologists of Europe when he was still a 
young man. What we are more particularly concerned 
with here is the share he had in founding the modern 
school of glacial geology. As far back as the summer of 
1837, when he was only thirty-three years of age, Agassiz, 
as President of the Helvetian Society of Natural Science, 
struck, with the hand of a master, the keynote of all his 
future research in glaciation. Tracing the distribution of 
the erratic blocks above the present level of the glaciers, 
and far beyond their existing limits, he connected these 
transported masses with the polished and striated rock- 
surfaces which were known to extend even to the summits 
of the southern slopes of the Jureu He showed, from the 
nature of these smoothed surfaces, that they could not 
have been worn into their characteristic forms by any 
current of water. The fine striae, engraven on them as 
with a diamond-point, he proved to be precisely similar 


Agassiz 273 

to those now being scratched on the rocky floors of the 
modem glaciers, and he inferred that the poHshed and 
striated rocks of the Jura, even though now many leagues 
from the nearest glacier, must have acquired their peculiar 
surface from the action of ice moving over them, as modem 
glaciers slide upon their beds. He was thus led to con- 
clude that the Alpine ice, now restricted to the higher 
valleys, once extended into the central plain, crossed it, and 
even mounted to the southern summits of the Jura chain. 

Before Agassiz took up the question, there were two 
prevalent opinions regarding the transport of the erratics. 
One of these called in the action of powerful floods of 
water, the other invoked the assistance of floating ice. 
Agassiz combated these views with great skill. His 
reasoning ought to have convinced his contemporaries 
that his explanation was the true one. But the conclu- 
sions to which he was led seemed to most men of the day 
extravagant and incredible. Even a cautious thinker like 
Lyell saw less difficulty in sinking the whole of Central 
Europe under the sea, and covering the waters with floating 
icebergs, than in conceiving that the Swiss glaciers were 
once large enough to reach to the Jura. Men shut their 
eyes to the meaning of the unquestionable fact that, while 
there was absolutely no evidence for a marine submergence, 
the former track of the glaciers could be followed mile 
after mile, by the rocks they had scored and the blocks 
they had dropped, all the way from their present ends to 
the far-distant crests of the Jura. 

Agassiz felt that the question was connected with large 
problems in geology. The former vast extension of the 
Swiss glaciers could be no mere accidental or local pheno- 


2 74 ^'^^ Founders of Geology lect. 

menon, but must have resulted from some general lowering 
of temperature. He coupled with this deduction certain 
theoretical statements regarding former climates and £Etunas, 
which have not been supported by subsequent research. 

The main conclusions which the Swiss naturalist drew, 
so greatly interested him that he spent part of five suc- 
cessive summers investigating the vestiges of the old 
glaciers, and the operations of those of the present time. 
He convinced himself that the great extension of the ice 
was connected with the last great geological changes on 
the surface of the globe, and with the extinction of the 
large pachyderms, whose remains are so abundant in 
Siberia. He believed that the glaciers did not advance 
from the Alps into the plains, but rather that ice once 
covered all the lower grounds, and finally retreated into 
the mountains. 

Having arrived at these conclusions from studies in his 
native country, Agassiz was naturaUy desirous to see how 
far his views could be tested or confirmed in a region far 
removed from any existing glaciers. Accordingly, in the 
year 1840, three years after his address at Neufch&tel, he 
had an opportunity of visiting Britain, and took advantage 
of it to examine a considerable part of Scotland, the north 
of England, and the north, centre, west, and south-west of 
Ireland. The results of this investigation were of remark- 
able influence in the progress of glacial geology. Agassiz 
demonstrated the identity of the phenomena in Britain 
with those in Switzerland, and claimed "that not only 
glaciers once existed in the British Islands, but that large 
sheets (nappes) of ice covered all the surface." ^ 

1 Froc. OeoL Soc, vol. iii. (1840), p. 331. 

VI Rise of Petrography 275 

These researches started the study of ancient glaciation. 
Buckland, Lyell, Darwin, Chambers and others took up 
the question, and added to the evidence adduced by 
Agassiz from his rapid traverses. At first the existence 
of former glaciers in the valleys of Britain was the con- 
clusion chiefly sought to be established. British geologists, 
and indeed geologists generally, were for many years 
unwilling to admit that not only the mountain-valleys, 
but even the lowlands of the northern hemisphere were 
at a late geological period buried under sheets of ice. 
They preferred to call in the action of floating ice, without 
perceiving that in so doing they involved themselves in 
far more serious physical difficulties than those which 
they sought to avoid. But for many years past the 
teaching of Agassiz in all its essential elements has been 
generally accepted, and his name is now enshrined in the 
records of our science as that of the true founder of 
glacial geology. 

I turn now to the petrographical department of 
geological inquiry, as exhibiting the last great forward 
stride which our science has taken. We have seen how 
greatly geology and mineralogy were indebted to Werner 
for his careful and precise definitions. The impulse which 
he gave to the study of Petrography continued to show its 
effects long after his time, more particularly in Germany. 
Methods of examination were improved, chemical analysis 
was more resorted to, and the rocks of the earth's crust, 
so far as related to their ultimate chemical constitution, 
were fairly well known and classified. Their internal 
structure, however, was very imperfectly imderstood. 
Where they were coarsely crystalline, their component 

276 The Founders of Geology lect. 

minerals might be readily determined ; but where they 
became fine-grained, nothing more could be said about the 
nature and association of their constituents than might be 
painfully deciphered with the help of a hand-lens. Hence 
though not actually at a standstill, petrography continued 
to make but slow progress. In some countries indeed, 
notably in Britain, it was almost entirely neglected in 
favour of the superior attractions of fossils and strati- 
graphy. But at last there came a time of awakening and 
rapid advance. 

In order to trace the history of this petrographical 
resuscitation, I must ask you to accompany me to the 
workshop of an ingenious . and inventive mechanician, 
William Mcol, who was a lecturer on Natural Philosophy 
at Edinburgh in the early part of this century. Among 
his inventions was the famous prism of Iceland spar that 
bears his name.^ Every petrographer will acknowledge 
how indispensable this little piece of apparatus is in his 
microscopic investigations. He may not be aware, how- 
ever, that it was the same skilful hands that devised the 
process of making thin slices of minerals and rocks 
whereby the microscopic examination of these substances 
has become possible. 

In the course of his experiments, Nicol hit upon the 
plan of cutting sections of fossil wood, so as to reveal 
their minutest vegetable structures. He took a slice from 
the specimen to be studied, ground it perfectly flat, poUshed 
it, and then cemented it by means of Canada balsam to a 
piece of plate-glass. The exposed surface of the slice was 

^ See Nicors original account of his prism in EAini. New Phil, Joum, 
vol. vi. (1829), p. 83. 

VI Inventions of William Nicol 277 

then ground down, until the piece of stone was reduced to 
a thin pellicle adhering to the glass, and the requisite 
degree of transparency was obtained. Mcol himself pre- 
1 pared a large number of slices of fossil and recent woods. 
Many of these were described by Henry Witham in his 
Observations on Fossil Vegetables (1831), to which Nicol 
supplied the first published account of his process. 

Here then geologists were provided with a method of 
investigating the minutest structures of rocks and minerals. 
It was now possible to subject any part of the earth's crust 
to investigation with the microscope. It might have been 
thought that those who devoted themselves to the study of 
that crust, especially those who were more particularly 
interested in the structure, composition and history of 
rocks, would have hastened to avail themselves of the new 
facilities for research thus offered to them. 

It must be confessed, I am afraid, that geologists are 
about as difficult to move as their own erratic blocks. 
They took no notice of the possibilities put in their way 
by William NicoL And so for a quarter of a century the 
matter went to sleep. When Nicol died, his instruments 
and preparations passed into the hands of the late Mr. 
Alexander Bryson of Edinburgh who, having considerable 
dexterity as a manipulator, and being much interested in 
the process, made many additions to the collections which 
he had acquired. In particular, he made numerous thin 
slices of minerals and rocks for the purpose of exhibiting 
the cavities containing fluid, which had been described 
long before by Brewster^ and by NicoL^ In my boy- 

^ Trwns, Boy, Soc Edin, voL x. (1824), p. 1. 
2 Edin, New, Phil, Jour, vol. v. (1828), p. 94. 


278 The Founders of Geology lect. 

hood I had frequent opportunities of seeing these and 
the other specimens in Mr. Biyson's cabinet, as weU 
as the fine series of fossil woods sUced so long before by 

At last Mr. Henry Sorby came to Edinburgh, and had 
an opportunity of looking over the Bryson collection. He 
was particularly struck with the series of slices illustrating 
" fluid-cavities," and at once saw that the subject was one 
of which the further prosecution could not fail to " lead to 
important conclusions in geological theory."^ He soon 
began to put the method of thin slices into practice, made 
sections of mica-schist,^ and found so much that was new 
and important, with a promise of such a rich harvest of 
results, that he threw his whole energy into the investiga- 
tion for several years, and produced at last in 1858 the well- 
known memoir. On the Microscopical Structure of Crystals,^ 
which marks one of the most prominent epochs of modem 
geology. I have always felt a peculiar satisfaction in the 
reflection that though the work of William Nicol was 
never adequately recognized in his lifetime, nor for 

by his own hands, that eventually started Mr. Sorby 
on his successful and distinguished career, and thus 
opened out a new and vast field for petrographical in- 

It is not necessary here to recapitulate the achieve- 
ments which have placed Mr. Sorbys name at the head of 
modem petrographers. He, for the first time, showed how, 

^ QtmrL Jour, Oeol. Soc, vol. xiv. (1858), p. 454. 

2 Brit, Assoc. Reports^ 1856, sections, p. 78. 

^ Quart, Joum, Oeol, Soc, vol. xiv. (1858), p. 453. 


VI Mr. Henry Clifton Sorby 279 

by means of the microscope, it was possible to discover 
the minute structure and composition of rocks, and to learn 
much regarding their mode of origin. He took us, as it 
were, into the depths of a volcanic focus, and revealed the 
manner in which lavas acquire their characters. He 
carried us still deeper into the terrestrial crust, and laid 
open the secrets of those profound abysses in which granitic 
rocks have been prepared. His methods were so simple, 
and his deductions so startling, that they did not instantly 
carry conviction to the minds of geologists, more par- 
ticularly to those of his own countrymen. The reproach 
that it was impossible to look at a mountain through a 
microscope was brought forward in opposition to the new 
departure which he advocated. Well did he reply by 
anticipation to this objection. "Some geologists, only 
accustomed to examine large masses in the field, may 
perhaps be disposed to question the value of the facts I 
have described, and to think the objects so minute as to 
be quite beneath their notice, and that all attempts at 
accurate calculations from such small data are quite 
inadmissible. What other science, however, has prospered 
by adopting such a creed? What physiologist would 
think of ignoring all the invaluable discoveries that 
have been made in his science with the microscope merely 
because the objects are minute ? . . . With such striking 
examples before us, shaU we physical geologists maintaiu 
that only rough and imperfect methods of research are 
applicable to our own science ? Against such an opinion 
I certainly must protest ; and I argue that there is no 
necessary connection between the size of an object and the 
value of a fact, and that, though the objects I have 

28o The Founders of Geology lect. 

described are minute, the conclusions to be derived from 
the facts are great." ^ 

Professor Zirkel was the first geologist of note who 
took up with zeal the method of investigation so auspi- 
ciously inaugurated by Mr. Sorby. But some five years 
had elapsed before he made his communication on the 
subject to the Academy of Sciences of Vienna.^ From 
that date (1863) he devoted himself with much zeal and 
success to the investigation, and produced a series of papers 
and volumes which gave a powerful impetus to the study 
of petrography. This department of geology was indeed 
entirely reconstituted. The most exact methods of optical 
research were introduced into it by Professor Eosenbusch, 
Professor Fouqu^, M. Michel L^vy and others, and the 
study of rocks once more competed with that of fossils in 
attractiveness. We have only to look at the voluminous 
literature which ha« sprung up in the last thirty years 
devoted to the investigation of rocks, to see how great a 
revolution has been effected by the introduction of the 
microscope into the equipment of the geologist For this 
transformation we are, in the first instance, indebted to 
William Nicol and Henry Clifton Sorby. 

In bringing to a close my outline of the work of those 
who deserve to be remembered as the founders of geology, I 

^ Qusart, J<Mm, Oeol, Soc, xiv. (1858), p. 497. See also Mr. Sorby's 
Presidential Addresses to the Geological Society for 1879 and 1880. 

2 SitzuTigsber Math, Naturwiss, vol. xlviL 1st part (1863), p. 226. In 
this paper the author refers to previous occasional use of the microscope 
for determining the mineralogical composition of rocks by Gustav Rose, 
G. vom Rath, G. Jenzsch, M. Deiters and others. In England the first 
geologist who published the results of his microscopical examination of 
rocks was David Forbes, Popular Science JReviev) (October 1867), vol. vi. 
p. 355. 



Lyell 281 

am conscious that many names which I have omitted might 
fitly have found a place in my list. But there are still 
two which I must not pass over, and with these I shall 
conclude. They are Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin — 
two illustrious men who were linked together in their lives 
by many ties of sympathy, and whom it is a gratification 
to place side by side on the bede-roll of geological fame. 

Charles Lyell (1797-1875) exercised a profound influ- 
ence on the geology of his time in all English-speaking 
countries. Adopting the principles of the Huttonian 
theory, he developed them until the original enunciator 
of them was nearly lost sight of. Lyell, with unwearied 
industry, marshalled in admirable order aU the observa- 
tions that he could collect in support of the doctrine that 
the present is the key to the past. With inimitable 
lucidity, he traced the operation of existing causes, and 
held them up as the measure of those which have acted 
in bygone time. He carried Hutton's doctrine to its 
logical conclusion, for not only did he refuse to allow the 
introduction of any process which could not be shown to 
be a part of the present system of nature, he would not 
even admit that there was any reason to suppose the 
degree of activity of the geological agents to have ever 
seriously differed from what it has been within human 
experience. He became the great high priest of Uni- 
formitarianism — a creed which grew to be almost uni- 
versal in England during his life, but which never made 
much way in the rest of Europe, and which in its extreme 
form is probably now held by few geologists in any country. 
Lyell's Principles of Geology will, however, always rank as 
one of the classics of geology, and must form an early part 

282 The Founders of Geology lect. 

of the reading of every man who would wish to make 
himseK an accomplished geologist 

Lyell's work was mainly that of a critic and exponent of 
the researches of his contemporaries, and of a philosophical 
writer thereon, with a rare faculty of perceiving the con- 
nection of scattered facts with each other, and with the 
general principles of science. As Eamsay once remarked 
to me, " We collect the data, and Lyell teaches us to com- 
prehend the meaning of them." But Lyell, though he did 
not, like Sedgwick and Murchison, add new chapters to 
geological history, nevertheless left his mark upon the 
nomenclature and classification of the geological record. 
Conceiving, as far back as 1828, the idea of arranging the 
whole series of Tertiary formations in four groups, accord- 
ing to their afl&nity to the living fauna, he established, 
in conjunction with Deshayes, who had independently 
formed a similar opinion, the well-known classification 
into Eocene, Miocene, and Pliocene. The first of these terms, 
as we all know, was proposed for strata containing an 
extremely small proportion of living species of shells ; the 
second for those where the percentage of recent species 
was considerable, but still formed the minority of the 
whole assemblage, while the third embraced the formations 
in which living forms were predominant. The scheme 
was a somewhat artificial one, and the original percent- 
ages have had to be modified from time to time, but the 
terms have kept their place, and are now firmly planted in 
the geological language of all comers of the globe. 

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) contributed many valuable 
works to the literature of geology. But it is not for these 
that I cite his name on the present occasion. His two 



Darwin 283 

geological chapters in the Origin of Species produced the 
greatest revolution in geological thought which has occurred 
in my time. Younger students, who are familiar with the 
ideas there promulgated, can hardly realize the effect of 
them on an older generation. They seem now so obvious 
and so well-established, that it may be diflBcult to conceive 
a philosophical science without them. 

To most of the geologists of his day, Darwin's conten- 
tion for the imperfection of the geological record, and his 
demonstration of it, came as a kind of surprise and 
awakening. They had never realized that the record was 
so fragmentary. And yet when Darwin pointed this out 
to them they were compelled, sometimes rather reluctantly, 
to admit that he was right. Some of them at once adopted 
the idea, as Eamsay did, and carried it much further.^ 

Until Darwin took up the question, the necessity for 
vast periods of time, in order to explain the characters of 
the geological record, was very inadequately realized. Of 
course, in a general sense, the great antiquity of the crust 
of the earth was everywhere admitted. But no one before 
his day had perceived how enormous must have been the 
periods required for the deposition of even some thin con- 
tinuous groups of strata. He supplied a criterion by 
which, to some degree, the relative duration of formations 
might perhaps be apportioned. When he declared that 
the intervals that elapsed between consecutive formations 
may sometimes have been of far longer duration than the 
formations themselves, contemporary geologists could only 
smile incredulously in their bewilderment, but in a few 

"^ See his two Presidential Addresses to the Geological Society, Quart, 
Joum, Oeol, Soc, vols. xix. (1863), xx. (1864). 

284 The Founders of Geology lect. 

years Eamsay showed by a detailed examination of the 
distribution of fossils in the sedimentary strata that 
Darwin's suggestion must be accepted as an axiom in geo- 
logical theory. Again, the great naturalist surmised that, 
before the deposition of the oldest known fossiliferous 
strata, there may^have been antecedent periods, collectively 
far longer than from the date of these strata up to the 
present day, and that, during these vast, yet quite unknown, 
periods, the world may have swarmed with living crea- 
tures. But his contemporaries could only shrug their 
shoulders anew, and wonder at the extravagant notions of 
a biologist. But who nowadays is unwilling to grant the 
possibility, nay l)robability, of Darwin's surmise ? Who 
can look upon the earliest Cambrian fauna without the 
strongest conviction that life must have existed on this 
earth for countless ages before that comparatively well- 
developed fauna came into existence ? For this expansion 
of our geological vision, and for the flood of light which 
has been thrown upon geological history by the theory 
of evolution, we stand indebted to Charles Darwin. 

In the account which I have now placed before you of the 
work of some of the more notable men who have created 
the science of geology, one or two leading facts stand out 
prominently before us. In the first place, even in the re- 
stricted list of names which we have considered, it is 
remarkable how varied have been the employments of 
these men, and how comparatively few of them could be 
called professional geologists. The majority of them have 
been men engaged in other pursuits, who have devoted 
their leisure to the cultivation of science. Guettard, 


Conclusion 285 

Pallas, and Fuchsel were physicians, led by their medical 
trai^.om.e^th«J,iinn..„Mjeo„. Gi^ud- 
Soulavie and Michell were clergymeii. Murchison was a 
retired soldier. Alexander Brongniart was at first engaged 
in superintending the porcelain manufactory of Sevres. 
Desmarest was a hard-worked civil servant who snatched 
his intervals for geology from the toils of incessant official 
occupation. William Smith found time for his researches 
in the midst of all the cares and anxieties of his profession 
as an engineer and surveyor, Hutton, Hall, De Saussure, 
Von Buch, Lyell and Darwin were men of means, who 
scorned a life of slothful ease and dedicated themselves 
and their fortune to the study of the history of the earth. 
Playfair and Cuvier were both teachers of other branches 
of science, irresistibly drawn into the sphere of geological 
inquiry and speculation. Of the whole gallery of worthies 
that have passed before us there are only three that can 
strictly be considered as professional geologists — Werner, 
Sedgwick and Logan. Were we to step outside of that 
gallery, and select as many names of hardly inferior lustre, 
we should find the proportions not to be seriously different. 
From the beginning of its career, geology has owed its 
foundation and its advance to no select and privileged 
class of experts. It has been open to all who cared to 
undergo the trial which its successful prosecution demands. 
And what it has been in the past, it remains to-day. No 
branch of natural knowledge lies more invitingly open to 
every student who, loving the fresh face of Nature, is 
willing to train his faculty of observation in the field, and 
to discipline his mind by the patient correlation of facts 
and the fearless dissection of theories. To such an inquirer 

286 The Founders of Geology lect. 

no limit can be set. He may be enabled to rebuild parts 
of the temple of science, or to add new towers and pinnacles 
to its superstructure. But even if he should never venture 
into such ambitious undertakings, he will gain, in the 
cultivation of geological pursuits, a solace and enjoyment 
amid the cares of life, which will become to him a source 
of the purest joy. 

In the second place, the history of our science presents 
some conspicuous examples of the length of time that 
may elapse before a fecund idea comes to germinate and 
bear fruit. Consider for a- moment how many years 
passed before the stratigraphical conceptions of Fuchsel and 
Giraud-Soulavie took more definite shape in the detailed 
investigations of Cuvier, Brongniart and Smith, and how 
many more years were needed before the Secondary and 
Tertiary formations were definitely arranged and sub- 
divided. Eemember too that even after the principles of 
stratigraphy had been settled, a quarter of a century had 
slipped away before they were successfully applied to the 
Transition rocks. Mark the history of physiographical 
geology, and note that though the principles of this branch 
of science were firmly grasped by Desmarest and Hutton 
in last century, their work was neglected and forgotten 
until the whole subject has been revived and marvellously 
extended in our own day. Again let me recall how 
slowly the key that unlocks the innermost mysteries of 
rock-structure was made use of. Five-and-twenty years 
elapsed after William Mcol had shown how stony sub- 
stances could be investigated by means of the microscope, 
before Mr. Sorby called the attention of geologists to the 
enormous value of the method thus put into their hands. 


Conclusion 287 

Other five years had to pass before the method began to 
be taken up in Germany, and a still longer time before it 
came into general use all over the world. 

Such instances as these lead to two reflections. On 
the one hand, they assure us of the permanent vitality 
of truth. The seed may be long in showing signs of 
life, but these signs come at last. On the other hand, 
we are warned to be on the outlook for unrecognized 
meanings and applications in the work of our own day 
and in that of older date. We are taught the necessity 
not only of keeping ourselves abreast of the progress of 
science at the present time, but also of making ourselves 
acquainted as far as we possibly can with the labours of 
our predecessors. It is not enough to toil in our little 
corner of the field. We must keep ourselves in touch 
with what is going on now, and what has been done 
during the past in that and surrounding parts of the 
domain of science. Many a time we may find that the 
results obtained by some fellow-labourer, though they may 
have had but little significance for him, flash a flood of 
light on what we have been doing ourselves. 

I am only too painfully aware how increasingly difficult 
it is to keep pace with the ever-rising tide of geological 
literature. The science itself has so widened, and the 
avenues to publication have so prodigiously multiplied, 
that one is almost driven in despair to become a specialist, 
and confine one's reading to that portion of the literature 
which deals with one's own more particular branch of the 
science. But this narrowing of our range has a markedly 
prejudicial effect on the character of our work. The only 
consolation we can find is the conviction, borne in upon 

288 The Founders of Geology lect. 

us by ample and painful experience, that a very large 
mass of the geological writing of the present time is utterly 
worthless for any of the higher purposes of the science, 
and that it may quite safely and profitably, both as regards 
time and temper, be left unread. If geologists, and 
especially young geologists, could only be brought to 
realize that the addition of another paper to the swollen 
flood of our scientific literature involves a serious respon- 
sibility ; that no man should publish what is not of real 
consequence, and that his statements when published 
should be as clear and condensed as he can make them, 
what a blessed change would come over the faces of their 
readers, and how greatly would they conduce to the real 
advance of the science which they wish to serve. 

In the third and last place, it seems to me that one 
important lesson to be learnt from a review of the early 
history of geology is the absolute necessity of avoiding 
dogmatism. Let us remember how often geological theory 
has altered. The Catastrophists had it all their own way 
until the Uniformitarians got the upper hand, only to be in 
turn displaced by the Evolutionists. The Wemerians were 
as certain of the origin and sequence of rocks as if they 
had been present at the formation of the earth's crust. 
Yet in a few years their notions and overweening con- 
fidence became a laughing-stock. From the very nature 
of its subject, as I have already remarked, geology does 
not generally admit of the mathematical demonstration of 
its conclusions. They rest upon a balance of probabilities. 
But this balance is liable to alteration, as facts^ accumulate 
or are better understood. Hence what seems to be a well- 
established deduction in one age may be seen to be 


Conclusion 289 

entirely erroneous in the next. Every year, however, the 
data on which these inferences are based are more 
thoroughly comprehended and more rigidly tested. Geo- 
logy now possesses a large and ever-growing body of well- 
attested fact which will be destroyed by no discovery of 
the future, though it will doubtless be vastly augmented, 
whHe new light may be cast on many parts of it now 
supposed to be thoroughly known. 

Each of us has it in his power to add to this accumula- 
tion of knowledge. Careful and accurate observation is 
always welcome, and may eventually prove of signal 
importance. We must be on our guard, however, against 
premature speculation and theory. Let us do our utmost 
to eliminate hypothesis from our gathering of facts, or at 
least clearly to distinguish between what is fact and what 
may be our own gloss or interpretation of it. And, above 
all, let us preserve the modesty of the true student, face to 
face with the mysteries of nature. Proving all things and 
holding fast that which we believe to be true, let us look 
back with gratitude and pride to what has been achieved 
by our forerunners in the race, and while we labour to 
emulate their devotion, let us hold high the torch of 
science, and pass it on bright and burning to those who 
shall receive it from our hands. 

I . 




AOADBMY of Sciences, Parifl, 17, 18, 

22, 39, 44, 60, 77 
Agassiz, L., researches of, in glacia- 

tion, 271 ; discovers traces of former 

glaciers in Britain, 274 
Agricola, 52, 53, 120 
Alluvial series of Werner, 114 
Alps, 85 
America, North, Pre-Cambrian rocks 

of, 269 
Amygdaloids, Button's view of, 174 
Angers, trilobites of, recognized by 

Guettard, 24 
Antrim, basalt of, 53, 54, 58, 194 
Anville, Duchesse d*, 76 
Archiac, A. d', 15, 23, 207 
Aubuisson, J. F. d', cited, 118, 130, 

137, 193, 268; his birth and 
education, 138 ; his work on the 
basalts of Saxony, 138 ; visits 
Auvergne and recants the Wemer- 
ian doctrine of basalt, 139 

Auvergne,volcanoes of, first discovered 
by Guettard, 34 ; visited by Des- 
marest, 52, 56, 60, 63, 66 ; Desma- 
rest's map of, 59, 65, 74 ; visited 
by D* Aubuisson, 139 ; visited by 
L. vdn Buch, 142 ; described by 
Dolomieu, 198 

Banks, Sir Joseph, 55, 221 

Barrande, J., 262 

Basalt, controversy regarding the 
origin of, 42, 43, 48, 52, 55, 56, 
57, 61, 62, 78, 91, 103, 120-126, 

138, 142-146, 193, 198, 202, 207 
supposed fossiliferous nature of, 

Berne, basalt war at, 122 
Bertrand's views on fossils, 27 

Bigsby, Dr. J. J., 269 

Black, Dr. Joseph, 154, 158, 183 

Blode, K. A., 104 

Boate's Irdand^s Naiurall Historie^ 
cited, 20 

Bohemia, basalt of, 65, 121 ; Bar- 
rande's researches in, 262 

Bory de St. Vincent, J. B. G. M., 

Bottiger, C. A., 108 

Bou6, A., 143, 197, 266 

Breislak, S., 78, 188, 199 

Brewster, D., 277 

Brongniart, A., 218, 285, 286 

Bryson, A., 277 

Buch, L. von, 137, 193, 285 ; birth 
and education, 141 ; hisWemerian 
views on basalt, 142 ; visit to 
Auvergne and conversion to a 
belief in the volcanic origin of the 
basalt there, 142 ; travels in Nor- 
way, 146 ; on the mountain-system 
of Germany, 147 ; number and 
character of his writings, 148 ; per- 
sonal traits of, 148 ; death, 149 

Buckland, W., 248, 251, 275 

Buflfon, 8, 47, 49 

Burnet, cosmogony of, 9 

Calcairb Grossier, 216 

Oalcite, cited as a proof of the igneous 

origin of amygdaloids, 174 ; fusible 

under pressure, 190 
Cambrian, adoption of the term, 

Canada, pre-Cambrian rocks of, 269 
Cantal, 60 

Cassel, basalt of, 53, 62 
Catastrophists, 288 
Catherine II. of Russia, 79 


The Founders of Geology 

Chambers, R., 275 

Charpentier, J. de, 271 

J, F. W., publishes an early 

geological map in colours, 22 

Chaulnes, Due de, 49 

Childrey's Britannia Baconica, cited, 

Clerk, John, of Eldin, 155, 158, 183 

Clermont-Ferrand, 37, 56 

Columnar structure of basalt, 55, 56, 

Condorcet, cited, 12, 17, 44 

Conybeare, W., 16 

Cook, Captain J., 76, 79 

Cosmogonists, 7, 167 

Coup^, J. M., 211 

Cretaceous rocks, classification of, 

Crystallite, a name given by Hall to 
the product resulting from the slow 
cooling of artificially fused whin- 
stone, 187 

Cuvier, cited, 15, 48, 49, 75, 76, 85, 
104, 107, 134, 137, 175, 285, 286 ; 
birth and education, 211 ; devotes 
himself to science, 211 ; early 
palseontological discoveries, 212 ; 
enters the field of geology, 212, 213 ; 
perpetual Secretary of the Institute 
of France, 220 ; his Wemerianism, 
175, 220 

D'Albmbbrt, 15, 50, 73 

Darwin, C, 275, 282 ; influence of 
his Origin of Species on modem 
geology, 283 

Daubeny, C, 16 

Defrance, J. L. M., 215 

Deiters, M., 280 

De la Beche, H., 247, 264 

De Luc, J. A., 88, 165, 195 

Dfescartes, 7 

Desmarest, cited, 15, 39, 41, 56, 193, 
208, 209, 285, 282; birth and 
education of, 48 ; first scientific 
essay of, 49 ; employed by the State 
in industrial missions, 51 ; becomes 
Inspector-General of the Manufac- 
tures of France, 51 ; visits Auvergne, 
52 ; his views on basalt, 57, 58, 61, 
91, 121 ; on volcanic action, 62 ; 
on the origin of valleys, 64 ; on 
volcanic history, 67, 96 ; his 
Oiographie Physique, 73, 78 ; 

personal traits of, 76 ; his death, 
77 ; his opinion of Hutton, 164 

Devonian system, first establishment 
of, 263, 266 

Diderot, 15, 73 

Doin, M., 74 

Dolomieu, D. de, 78, 187, 198 

Dufirenoy, P. A., 255 

Dykes, 174, 187 

Eabthquaees, Fuchsel on influence 
of, 100 

Eaton, A., 269 

Edinburgh, intellectual society of, in 
the second half of last century, 
154 ; favourable geological position 
of, 157, 194 ; foundation of Royal 
Society of, 158 ; a school of geology 
established at, 191 ; the Wer- 
nerian Society established at, 193 

Edinburgh Review, 116, 131, 132, 

Elephant, fossil, 81, 212 

^lie de Beaumont, L., 255 

EncycLopidie of Diderot and D'Alem- 
bert, 15, 73 

England, early mineralogical mapping 
of, by Guettard, 20 

and France once united, 50 

rise of stratigraphical geology 

in, 204, 222 

Erzgebirge, 97 

Escher von der Linth, A., 92 

Etna, lavas of, compared with the 
whinstones of Scotland, 187 

Evolutionists, 288 

Farby, J., 237 

Faujas de St. Fond, B., 78, 193, 198 

Favre, A., 92 

Featherstonhaugh, G. W., 256 

Ferguson, Adam, 155 

Ferry, M., 74 

Fingal's Cave, 55 

Fitton, W. H., 132, 194, 236, 239 

Fleming, John, 196 

Flotz-gebirge, term proposed by Leh- 

mann, 97 ; adopted by Werner, 

114, 121, 125, 129, 130, 245 ; 

disuse of the term, 244 
Foley, S., 54 
Forbes, D., 280 
Formations, geological, first recognized 

by Fuchsel, 100 ; arranged by Wer- 




ner, 112 ; imiversal, of Werner, 
113 ; recognized by Cuvier and 
Brongniart, 218 

Fortis, Abb^, on basalt, 78 

Fossil, use of the term,i240 

Fossils, popular misconceptions of, 
26, 27 ; possible use of in fixing 
age of rocks, suggested by De 
Saussure, 90 ; Fuchsel on, 101 ; as 
chronological monuments, 208, 217, 
219, 228, 238 ; recognition of the 
true geological value, 240, 253 

Fouqu6, F., 280 

France, old volcanoes of, 34, 48, 52, 
66, 60, 63, 66, 74, 137, 139, 142, 
145, 198, 204, 249 

and England once connected, 


Secondary and Tertiary forma- 
tions 0% in the history of strati- 
graphical geology, 204, 208 ; Palaeo- 
zoic rocks of, 255 

Freiberg, Mining Academy o1^ 105, 

Freiesleben, J. C, 137 
Freshwater strata, recognition of, 

209 218 
Fuchsel, G. C, 98, 128, 131, 203, 

285, 286 
Fusion, De Saussure*s experiments 

in, 91 ; Hall's researches in, 186, 


Generblli, 5, 34 

Geognosy, term used by Werner, 111 

Geological maps, earliest, 18, 65 

succession, development of ideas 

regarding, 83, 94, 131, 146, 201, 
204, 208, 211, 221, 222, 226 
Survey of Great Britain, 232, 


nomenclature, origin of, 243 

Geology, historical method in, 2 

palseontological, 26 

physiographical, 28, 64, 286 

volcanic, 34, 41, 62, 123, 172, 


— first adoption of the term Geo- 
logy, 88 

first beginnings of experimental, 


rise of stratigraphical, 201 
chronology of, determined by 

oi^ganic remains, 203, 219 

Geology, influence of fossils on the 
progress of, 240 

lies open to every one, 286 

increasing literature o^ 287 

Giant's Causeway, 63, 64 

Giraud-Soulavie, I'Abb^, 204, 285, 

Glaciation, rise and progress of the 
study of, 271 

Glaciers, Playfair's opinion regard- 
ing, 181 

Glass, Hall's experiments on, 186 

Granite, naturtJ fasion of, 61 ; ex- 
periments in the fasion of, 91 ; 
supposed primitive origin of, 114, 
129, 201 

intercalated among fossiliferous 

strata, 146 

intrusive character of, 146, 159« 


Greenough, G. B., 235 

Greywacke, 245, 249 

Guettard, J. E., his birth, 12 ; early 
devotion to botany, 14 ; first miner- 
alogical observations, 14 ; makes 
the earliest geological maps, 18 ; 
his palseontologicsd work, 24 ; his 
contributions to physiographical 
geology, 28 ; on the action of the 
sea, 31 ; on the old volcanoes of 
Auvergne, 34, 47, 63 ; on volcanic 
action, 41 ; on the origin of basalt, 
42, 55, 122 ; personal traits of, 
43 ; his position in science, 45, 96, 

Haidinger, W. von, 148 

Hall, Sir James, 181, 193, 194, 285 ; 
his scientific career, 184 ; founds 
experimental geology, 186 ; im- 
portant observation of dykes, 187 ; 
experiments on the effects of pres- 
sure, 189 ; experiments in illus- 
tration of the curvature of rocks, 

Harz, 97 

Hauer, Bitter von, 149 

Hatiy, R. J., 138, 221 

Hermann, B. F. J. von, 137 

Historical method, 1 

Hoffmann's Oeschichte der Oeognosie 

Hooke, R., 5 

Hope, Dr. T. C, 194 



The Founders of Geology 

Homes, M., 149 

Humboldt, A. von, 137, 141, 142 

Hunt, T. Sterry, 270 

Huot, J. J. N., 74 

Huronian, origin of term, 270 

Hutton, James, cited, 65, 93, 186, 
187, 189, 190, 193, 285, 286; 
birth and education, 150 ; takes 
the degree of M.D., 152 ; be- 
comes a farmer, 152 ; devotes him- 
self to a scientific life, 1 54 ; first pub- 
lication of his Theory of the JEoHh, 
158, 163 ; views on granite, 159 ; 
personal traits, 162 ; death, 163 ; 
<}riticised by Desmarest, 164 ; his 
doctrines, 167 ; proclaims that the 
past must be interpreted by the 
present, 167 ; on the origin of 
stratified rocks, 168 ; on the con- 
solidation of sediments, 169 ; on 
the influence of compression, 170 ; 
on disturbance of the earth's crust, 
170 ; on the earth's internal tem- 
perature, 172 ; on unstratified 
rocks, 173 ; on dykes and vol- 
canoes, 176 ; on veins, 176 ; fore- 
shadows Lyell's doctrine of meta- 
morphism, 178 ; on the degradation 
of the land, 179, 202 ; insists that 
every principle adopted must be 
based on observation, 182 ; repug- 
nance to experiment in geological 
inquiry, 185 ; views regarding 
geological succession, 202 

Italy, volcanic geology of, 60, 142, 
187, 198, 199 

Jameson, R, cited, 111, 113, 117, 
118, 124, 125, 126, 132, 245; 
Professor in the University of 
Edinburgh, 192 ; founds the Wer- 
nerian Society, 193 

Jenzsch, G., 280 

Jukes, J. B., 181 

Jussieu, the brothers, 13 

Karstbn, D. L. G., 137 
Keferstein, C, 101, 121, 244 
Kennedy, R., 189 
Kirwan, R., 165, 195 

Lamanon, p., 209, 218 

Laurentian, origin of term, 270 

Lava, Hall's experiments on the 
fasion of, 189 

Lavoisier, early mineralogical surveys 
by, 23 ; his stratigraphical work 
in the Paris basin, 210 

Lecoq's jSpoqttes Oiologiqws de 
VAtvoergney 16 

Lehmann, J. G., 96, 128, 131, 203 

Leibnitz, cosmogony of, 7, 118 

Lhuyd on trilobites, 25 

Linnaeus, 91 

Lister, M., 5, 19 

Logan, W. E., 269, 285 

Lonsdale, W., 265 

Lyell, Charles, cited, 5, 16, 66, 181, 
246, 273, 285 ; his influence on 
the progress of geology, 281 ; his 
Principles, 281 ; his classification 
of the Tertiary formations, 282 

Maclurb, W., 269 

Malesherbes, 35, 51 

Maps, earliest geological, 18-23, 65 ; 
Smith's, of England, 233 ; Green- 
ough's, of England, 235 

Merian, P., 92 

Metamorphism, doctrine of, first in- 
dicated by Hutton, 178 j 

Michel L6vy, M. A., 280 

MicheU, J., 222, 285 
v^icroscope, application of, in petro- 
graphy, 276-280 

Mineralogy, Werner's infiuence on, 
106, 110 

Moljmeux, T„ 54 

Monnet and Guettard's early minera- 
logical maps, 23 

Mont Dore, volcanic geology of, 38, 

Montlosier, F. D. R. de, 65, 78, 

Moro, L., 6, 34, 120 

Mountains, Pallas on formation of, 
82 ; rise of the appreciation o^ 
84 ; Lehmann on, 97 ; Werner on, 
115 ; von Buch on, 147 ; Michell 
on, 223 

Murchison, R. I., 25, 65, 285 ; birth 
and education, 247 ; begins his 
geological career, 248 ; lays the 
foundation of his Silurian System, 
251 ; disagreement with Se<^wick, 
261 ; becomes Director-General of 




the G^eological Survey, 267 ; per- 
sonal traits, 267 
Murray, A., 270 

Nbptunists, 117, 201 

Nicol, W., his prism, 276 ; invents 
the process of cutting thin slices 
of rocks for microscopic examina- 
tion, 276, 286 

Nomenclature, origin of geological, 

Norway, von Buch's travels in, 146 

Ocean, Werner's doctrine of an 

original universal, 114, 116, 117 
OmaUus d'HaUoy, J. J. d', 221 

PALfflONTOLOGT, early beginnings of, 
24-28, 220 ; rapid development o^ 

Palassou, Abbe, early geological map 
by, 23 

Palissy*s views regarding fossil shells, 

Pallas, P. S., career and work of, 80, 
285 ; Cuvier's Moge 0% 221 

Paris basin, Guettard's early obser- 
vations in the, 19, 24 ; influence 
of, on the rise of stratigraphical 
geology, 208, 221 

Pascal, 37 

Pasumot, 59 

Pennant's T(mr in Scotlandy 55 

Petrography, early condition of, 91 ; 
rapid growth of, in the latter half 
of the nineteenth century, 271, 275, 

PhiUips, John, 224 

W., 16 

Physical geography, early writings 
on, 73 

Physiographical geology, early obser- 
vations in, 28, 64 ; slow progress 
of, 286 

Playfair, J., cited, 65, 151, 156, 159, 
164, 183, 192, 193, 285; his 
lUustrations of the HiUtonian 
The&n/, 159, 166 ; on veins, 177 ; 
on the origin of valleys, 180 ; on 
glaciers, 181, 271 ; disproves the 
alleged fossiliferous character of 
basalt in Antrim, 194 ; on geo- 
logical succession, 202 

Plutonists, 176 

Pocock, B., 54 

Pre-Cambrian rocks, 269 

Primitive rocks, 114, 121, 129, 130, 

245, 268 
Puy de Ddme, 37, 57 

Rain, action of, 28 

Bamond, 138 

Ramsay, A. C, 181, 269, 282, 283,284 

Raspe on basalt, 78 

Rath, G. vom, 280 

Ray, John, 5, 34 

Rhineland, basalt of, 53, 54, 65 

Rhinoceros, fossil, of Siberia, 82 

Richardson, B., 230, 232 

W., 194 

Rivers, action 0^ 28 

Rochefoucault, Due de, 50, 51 

Rogers, H. D., 256 

Rom^ de Lisle, 55 

Rose, Gustav, 280 

Rosenbusch, Prof. H., 280 

Rouelle, 208 

Russia, exploration of, by Pallas, 79 

SAiNTE-CiiAmE Deville, C. J., 16 
Saussure, H. B. de, 65 ; his career 
and work, 84 ; his love of flowers, 
85 ; his enthusiasm for the Alps, 
85 ; his ideas of geological struc- 
ture, 87, 89, 90 ; first uses the term 
Geology, 88 ; on the use of fossils 
in ascertaining the age of rocks, 90 ; 
his experiments in the fusion of 
rocks, 91 ; his views on granite, 
175 ; Cuvier's J^loge of, 85, 221 ; 
referred to, 285 
Saxony, basalt of, 53, 62, 65, 120, 

138, 145 
Scandinavia, von Buch on elevation 

of, 146 
Scotland, basalt of, 54, 198 
Scrope, G. P., 16 
Sea, action of the, 28, 30 
Sea-bottom, nature of the, 31 
Sedgwick, A., cited, 230, 237, 247, 
285 ; birth and education, 256 
elected Woodwardian Professor 
256 ; his early Wemerianism, 257 
conjoint work with Murchison, 258 
labours in the Lake District, 258 
in Wales, 259 ; estrangement from 
Murchison, 261 ; personal traits, 


The Founders of Geology 

Severinus, Petrus, cited, 6 
Siberia, fossil elephants o^ 81 
Silesia, basalt of, 53, 65, 145 
Silurian, origin of the term, 253 
SUv/rian System^ publication of, 255 
Smith, William, 285, 286 ; birth and 
early career, 224 ; becomes land- 
surveyor, 225 ; his early geological 
observations, 226 ; discovers the 
stratigraphical value of fossils, 228 ; 
his card of the English strata, 230 ; 
establishes himself in London and 
begins the preparation of his map 
of England, 232 ; character of his 
map, 233 ; his pecuniary difficul- 
ties, 236 ; his death, 237 ; personal 
traits, 237 
Soland, Aim^ de, 16 
Somma, Monte, dykes of, 187 
Sorbonne, action of, regarding early 

geological speculation, 12 
Sorby, Mr. H. C, importance of his 
researches in modern petrography, 
278, 286 
Spallanzani, L., 199 
Staffa, 55 
Steno, 5, 118, 120 
Stolpen, basalt of, 53, 120 
Stratigraphy, rise of, 201, 219, 244 ; 

rapid advance of, 241, 271 
Studer, B., 92 

Theologians, influence of, on geo- 
logical progress, 7, 12 

Thuringer Wald, 98 

Townsend, J., 230 

Transition rocks, 114, 129, 245, 251 

Travel, rise of the spirit of scientific, 

Trembly, A., 54 

Trilobites, recognized as crustacean by 
Guettard, 24 ; figured by Lhuyd, 
25 ; described by A. Brongniart, 

Trudaine, 51 

Uniformitarianism, 281, 288 
United States, progress of the doc- 
trine of valley-erosion in, 181 ; pre- 
Cambrian rocks of, 269 
Ural Mountains, 84 

Vausnbri, 5 

Valleys, origin of, 64, 179 

Veins, Werner on, 127, 176, 177 ; 

Hutton on, 176 
Velay, 198 
Venetz, 271 

Venus, transit of, in 1769, 79 
Vemeuil, E. de, 256 
Vivarais, 198, 204 
Voigt, J. K. W., 122 
Volcanic action, early ideas [of, 41, 

62 ; Werner's views regarding, 123 ; 

Button's opinion respecting, 172 ; 

HaU's observations on, 187 ; Mur- 

chison on ancient, 255 ; Sedgwick 

on, 258 
Vulcanists, 117, 176, 201, 243 

Wales, Palaeozoic geology of, 249, 

Wallerius* MinercUogiaf 56, 91 

Webster, T., 239 

Werner, A. G., adopts Guettard's 
volcanic theory, 41, 62, 123 ; his 
ideas on basalt, 78 ; his infiuence, 
102, 136, 137, 197, 199; his 
connection with the basalt-contro- 
versy, 103, 120, 124 ; birth and 
education, 104 ; his first work, 106; 
appointed to the Mining Academy 
of Freiberg, 106,; personal traits of, 
107, 134, 136; characteristics of 
his teaching, 109 ; his sense of 
method, 109 ; his relation to 
mineralogy, 110, 275 ; his classifi- 
cation of rocks, 113, 128 ; on 
granite, 114, 129, 175 ; his dogma- 
tism, 115, 288 ; his doctrine of a 
former universal ocean, 114, 116, 
117, 131 ; his views on supposed 
disturbances of the earth's crust, 
120, 127 ; his theory of veins, 127, 
176, 177 ; compelled by the pro- 
gress of discovery to modify his 
system, 130 ; his relation to the 
doctrine of geological succession, 
131, 201; his doctrines influenced 
by|mining experience, 131 ; paucity 
of his writings, 133 ; his lectures, 
133, 134 ; dislike of correspond- 
ence, 134 ; death, 135, 197 ; per- 
manent effects of his teaching, 

Wemerian school, its explanation of 
basalt, 43, 78 ; its doctrines, 109, 



242 ; its relation to igneous rocks, 
125 ; reliance upon mining experi- 
ence, 131 ; obstructiveness of, 132 ; 
decay of, 136, 196, 257; first 
serious checks to, 137, 144-146, 
147, 243 
Wemerian Society, 193, 196 
Western Isles of Scotland, 64 

WMnstone, Hutton on, 173 ; Hall's 

experiments on, 187 
Wideumann, J. F. W., 122 
Wiedemann, 137 
Witham, H., 277 
Woodward, J., 5 

ZiRKBL, Dr. F., 280 


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