Sep 192017
 

Statue of David HumeThe Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 1RN

David Hume (1711–76), incongruously portrayed in this statue as an ancient Greek philosopher rather than a mid-eighteenth-century man of letters, is perhaps the best known figure of the Scottish Enlightenment. In the eighteenth century Edinburgh witnessed an unprecedented flowering of science, literature and philosophy. Hume was a contemporary of Adam Smith (1723–90), the great political economist, Adam Ferguson (1721–1816), the social theorist, Joseph Black (1727–99), the pioneering chemist and James Hutton (1726–97), the geologist. These figures all knew each other and socialised together in the convivial atmosphere of Edinburgh’s many clubs and hostelries. Together they helped develop many of the ideas and theories that made the modern world.

Portrait of David Hume (1711–1776) by Allan Ramsay.

Portrait of David Hume (1711–1776) by Allan Ramsay.

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Sep 192017
 

The MeadowsMelville Dr, Edinburgh EH9 9EX

This large public park used to be a lake known as the South Loch until the early eighteenth century. The loch provided much of the city’s drinking water until 1621, when the first piped water supply was established. Its draining and conversion into a park by Sir Thomas Hope in 1722 is a good example of the Enlightenment enthusiasm for ‘improvement’. Later in the century it became a favourite place for James Hutton, the geologist, Adam Smith, the economist, and Joseph Black, the chemist, to take a stroll and discuss the latest ideas in science and philosophy.

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Friends of the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links – History and Archaeology

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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
 

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
 

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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Apr 172016
 

St John’s Hill, 10 Viewcraig Gardens, Edinburgh EH8 9UQ

The James Hutton Memorial Garden

Hidden away just off the Pleasance is the Hutton Memorial Garden, on the site of the house where James Hutton lived till his death in 1797. it incorporates stones from localities that were important in the development of Hutton’s geological theories. Hutton believed that the continents were being slowly ground down and carried to the sea to be deposited as sand and mud. The internal heat of the earth then consolidated these deposits and raised them up to form new land. Hutton believed this cycle  continued indefinitely, leaving ‘no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end’.

James Hutton (1726–97).

James Hutton (1726–97).

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.

Plaque in the Hutton Memorial Garden.

Plaque in the Hutton Memorial Garden.

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Apr 172016
 

8-12 Niddry Street South, Edinburgh, EH1 1NS

The Oyster Club This weekly dining club for scientists and philosophers met regularly throughout the 1770s. It had been established by the great economist and political philosopher Adam Smith, the chemist Joseph Black and the geologist James Hutton. The club was attended by a veritable constellation of Edinburgh’s most brilliant thinkers, including John Playfair, Adam Ferguson, David Hume and Sir James Hall. It also payed host to a wide variety of visiting international scientists, including the French geologist Barthélémy Faujas de Saint Fond, James Watt the engineer and inventor from Glasgow, and Benjamin Franklin the American scientist and inventor.

Now a private venue – no free public access.

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Mar 082016
 

13 Sylvan Place, Edinburgh EH9 1LH

Joseph Black's house

Up an alleyway here you will find the house where the great chemist Joseph Black lived in around 1740. To get to the university from here Black only had to walk across the Meadows, where he often took a stroll with his friends the economist and political philosopher Adam Smith and the geologist James Hutton. Among his important contributions to chemistry were the discovery of carbon dioxide and latent heat. He discovered the latter principle when he observed that applying heat to boiling water produces more steam, but does not raise its temperature above its boiling point.

No public access.

 

Portrait of Joseph Black (1728–99).

Commemorative plaque on Joseph Black’s house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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