Jul 252016
 

Mr Wood's Fossils5 Cowgatehead, Edinburgh EH1 1JY

This shop was established in 1987 by the professional fossil hunter Stanley Wood, who, although he never held an academic post, made some important palaeontological discoveries. Perhaps his most significant finds were a series of fossil tetrapods, the ancestors of all terrestrial vertebrates including humans, in East Kirkton Quarry in West Lothian. These helped to fill Romer’s Gap, a mysterious era from around 360 to 345 million years ago in the Lower Carboniferous period from which tetrapod fossils had previously been thought absent.

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Jul 252016
 

Robertson's Tavern.Robertson’s Tavern, Milne ‘s Close, 232 Cannongate EH8 8DQ

Alexander Rose was a wood and ivory turner and keen amateur geologist. He went on to become a dealer in minerals and lectured at Queen’s College, Edinburgh, in geology and mineralogy. On 4 December 1834 eleven of his students met in Robertson’s Tavern to found the Geological Society of Edinburgh. Subsequent meeting were held at the house of Rose, who became its second president later that year. He was to hold the post until 1846. At their first meeting they argued that Arthur’s Seat was  of volcanic origin. The Society is still active today.

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Jul 252016
 

Robert Jameson's house21 Royal Circus, Edinburgh EH3 6TL

Robert Jameson was Edinburgh’s professor of natural history from 1804 to 1854. He was, like his predecessor John Walker, a mineralogist by training, having studied with the great German mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner in Freiberg. On his return to Edinburgh he became the most important champion of Werner’s neptunist theories in Britain. It was also through his edition of Georges Cuvier’s Theory of the Earth that the English-speaking world first became aware of the great French geologist’s catastrophist theories. Some scholars believe that he was also an early convert to the evolutionary interpretation of the history of life.

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Portrait of Robert Jameson (1774–1854).

Portrait of Robert Jameson (1774–1854).

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Jul 252016
 

Site of the Theatre Royal2 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh EH1 3EG

The site of the old Edinburgh Theatre Royal was in the other side of North Bridge from where the Balmoral Hotel now stands. The aptly named Shakespeare Square, where it was located, was redeveloped in the late 19th century. In 1812, this theatre was the scene of an unusual incident in the history of geology. Sir George Mackenzie, an enthusiastic supporter of James Hutton’s geological theories, had been inspired by a  trip to Iceland to write a play entitled Helga or the Rival Minstrels, inspired by an Icelandic saga. On the opening night, the theatre was packed by followers of the rival Wernerian school of geology, who caused such a rumpus that the play closed after its first night.

 

The Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, before 1830.

The Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, before 1830.

 

Map of Edinburgh from 1807 showing the Theatre Royal.

Map of Edinburgh from 1807 showing the Theatre Royal.

 

Portrait of Sir George Mackenzie (1780-1848) by Henry Raeburn

Portrait of Sir George Mackenzie (1780-1848) by Henry Raeburn.

 

A geyser in Iceland, by J. Clark, 1811. After a sketch made by Sir George Mackenzie on his trip to Iceland.

A geyser in Iceland, by J. Clark, 1811. After a sketch made by Sir George Mackenzie on his trip to Iceland.

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Jul 252016
 

SIr James Hall's house128 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 4JZ

Sir James Hall was a important champion of the theories of James Hutton. He was with Hutton when he discovered his famous unconformity at Siccar Point in the Scottish Borders. Hall played a major role in the debate between the disciples of Hutton (Plutonists) and those of the German geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner (Neptunians). Starting in 1798, he conducted a series of experiments to prove the Huttonian principle that the earth’s internal heat played an vital role in rock formation. These involved making artificial marble by subjecting powdered chalk to intense heat and pressure.

The ground floor Sir James Hall’s house is now a Wetherspoon pub.

Hutton's famous unconformity, Jedburgh.

Hutton’s famous unconformity, Jedburgh. Two layers of rocks can be seen lying at different angles one on top of the other.

 

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Jul 252016
 

Archibald Geikie's houseRamsay Gardens, Castle Hill, Edinburgh EH1 2NA

Collaborating with Roderick Murchison, Archibald Geikie produced the first geological map of Scotland in 1862 while working for the Geological Survey of Great Britain. He went on to become the first professor of geology and mineralogy at the University of Edinburgh from 1871 to 1881 and then head of the Geological Survey in 1881. He published widely on subjects as diverse as glacial drift (1863), the scenery of Scotland (1865) and the extinct volcanoes of Britain (1897). In 1976 he had a ridge on the Moon, Dorsa Geikie, named after him.

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Portrait of Sir Archibald Geikie (1835-1924), 1913.

Portrait of Sir Archibald Geikie (1835-1924), 1913.

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Jul 252016
 

Memorial to John Playfair, Calton Hill.38 Calton Hill, Edinburgh, EH7 5AA

Mathematician, physicist and geologist, John Playfair is perhaps best known as James Hutton’s most influential disciple. His Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802) probably did more to popularise his theory than Hutton’s own notoriously impenetrable writings.  In his career he was consecutively professor of mathematics and professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He enthusiastically supported the construction of Edinburgh’s observatory on Calton Hill, which his monument stands beside, but sadly died before its completion.

 

Portrait of John Playfair (1748-1819) by Henry Raeburn.

Portrait of John Playfair (1748-1819) by Henry Raeburn.

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Jul 252016
 

John Walker's grave.Canongate Kirkyard, 153 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN

John Walker was the University of Edinburgh’s second professor of natural history from 1779 to 1803, but the first to take his teaching responsibilities seriously. Walker was primarily a mineralogist and had little time for speculative theories of the earth. He was also an enemy of evolutionary speculation and described the transmutation of species in his lectures as ‘a vulgar error’. He took his students on regular field trips and held tutorials in the University’s natural history museum, of which he was also the keeper.  In both of these practices he was followed by his successor, Robert Jameson.

The Rev. Dr John Walker (1731-1803), from the frontispiece from a volume of the Naturalists Library (1842).

The Rev. Dr John Walker (1731-1803), from the frontispiece from a volume of the Naturalists Library (1842).

 

Inscription on John Walker's gravestone.

Inscription on John Walker’s gravestone.

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Jul 252016
 

Hutton's sectionRadical Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AL

At this site James Hutton found proof for his theory that heat plays an essential role in rock formation.  He believed that a band of molten rock had been injected into older strata long after the formation of the surrounding rock. During Charles Darwin’s time as a medical student in Edinburgh in 1825-7 he accompanied the professor of natural history, Robert Jameson, on a field trips to Salisbury Crags. Darwin later recalled being deeply unimpressed by Jameson’s explanation that these intrusive rocks had been deposited from above by precipitation from the sea rather than injected as magma from below.

A plaque at the site give some interesting information on its history and significance.

Caricature of James Hutton (1726-97).

Caricature of James Hutton (1726-97).

Plaque at Hutton's Section.

Plaque at Hutton’s Section.

Charles Darwin (1809–82).

Charles Darwin (1809–82).

 

Portrait of Robert Jameson (1774–1854) by one of his students, c.1831.

Portrait of Robert Jameson (1774–1854) by one of his students, c.1831.

 

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Jul 252016
 

Offices of the Witness newspaper.297 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1YJ

Hugh Miller was one of the most remarkable figures in 19th-century Scotland. At this address between 1840 and 1856,  Miller edited the Witness, the newspaper of the Free Church of Scotland. It was in the Witness that he first serialised many of his geological works, including The Old Red Sandstone (1841). Having started his working life as a stonemason, this self-educated geologist went on the make important contributions to palaeontology. In particular, he was a pioneer of paleoecology. A fierce opponent of evolution on religious grounds, and plagued by mental-health problems, he tragically took his own life in 1856.

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Hugh Miller (1802-56), by Robert Adamson and Octavius Hill, 1843

Hugh Miller (1802-56), by Robert Adamson and Octavius Hill, 1843.

 

Hugh Miller Plaque at the former offices of the Witness newspaper.

Hugh Miller Plaque at the former offices of the Witness newspaper.

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The Friends of Hugh Miller

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